With Neil Gorsuch now the ninth justice, unions are anxious.
Although Gorsuch was at the arguments, he and Justice Clarence Thomas – who generally asks no questions at oral argument – were the only two silent justices for the hourlong arguments that had four different lawyers making their case for or against the agency fees.
The case challenges a law that allows unions representing government employees in IL to collect fees from workers even if they do not join the union. Should the court end this 40-year-old compromise?
Over the years, Janus estimates, he’s contributed more than $6,000 to the union-all against his will.
At present, SEIU 668 represents 20,000 employees across the state; approximately 3,500 are fee payers.
Right-to-work groups contend that the 1977 ruling, known as Abood, relies on a false distinction between lobbying and collective bargaining. No one should be forced to check their First Amendment rights at the door just because they want to work in a government job.
That’s why I’ve asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the practice of forcing government workers to pay mandatory union fees.
Fair-share provisions have been written into thousands of contracts for teachers, transit workers, municipal employees and others, said Justice Elena Kagan.
“When have we ever done something like that?”
Right-to-work is law in 28 states, not including OH, and Cropper said it allows workers to benefit from union services without paying for them.
Union Business Manager Tony Parrish with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers says the office’s biggest contract is one in the public sector.
Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, the court’s newest justice and the likely deciding vote, did not speak during the argument.
The Janus case reprises the same arguments as the Friedrichs case. Alito was the most vociferous and seemed deeply concerned about the First Amendment implications of requiring employees like Janus to pay the fees.
“When you compel somebody to speak, don’t you infringe that person’s dignity and conscience in a way that you do not when you restrict what the person says?”
Currently, 28 states have right-to-work laws which prohibit mandatory fees. “Doesn’t it blink reality to deny that that’s what’s happening here?” The goal was to prevent those who don’t join the union from becoming “free riders” on the backs of union members. “And to force Mark Janus and others to fund this inherently political activity is wrong”, he said.
More basic, though, is that when a union negotiates on behalf of public workers, everything it does is inherently political. The central issue – a line item in union dues known as “agency” or “fair share” fees, which cover the cost of collective bargaining and can be charged to non-union as well as union members – ought to be dealt with by the states. Full union dues include money spent on political advocacy.
The case at hand, Janus v. AFSCME, is a classic example of an ideological pet peeve posing as a public policy problem.