The U.S. Supreme Court issued a highly anticipated decision on June 27, 2018, impacting public sector unions, employers, and employees. In Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, the Court reversed 41 years of labor law that permitted public unions in states such as Minnesota and Illinois to require that non-members pay a fair-share or agency fee. Such fees are supposed to cover a union’s costs in representing employees in collective bargaining and contract administration, and not include union expenditures on political projects and other non-chargeable costs included in the dues of members. 28 states, such as Wisconsin, already have laws prohibiting fair-share or agency fees for non-members, as does the federal government for its employees. Going forward, no such fees may be deducted from a non-member’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such fees, unless the employee affirmatively consents to making such a payment. In Illinois, as in Minnesota, fair-share fees could automatically be taken from non-member’s wages without any form of consent. Unions may continue to require members to pay dues and fees.
The Court found that the Illinois law requiring non-members’ payments to a union violated employee rights under the First Amendment. These fees essentially required that all employees subsidize the speech of the union with which they may not agree. Such union speech covers a variety of subjects such as state budgets, education, child welfare, healthcare, and other political issues throughout the collective bargaining process and other union activities. The Court was not persuaded by arguments of stare decisis (precedent), non-members now becoming "free riders" to services provided by the union, and anticipated chaos in public sector labor relations, advanced by the union. The Court found that the Abood decision of 41 years ago was poorly reasoned and had resulted in a windfall for public unions by compelling non-member payments.
This decision is only the latest blow dealt to organized labor. It is anticipated that many public sector employees will opt out of membership as a result of this decision. Union representation in the private sector has been on a decline (now under 7%) for many years, and the Trump administration appointments to the NLBR and Department of Labor have resulted in many decisions opposed by unions.
MRA will keep continue to review this and other developments in labor relations for our members. If you have any questions please contact the Labor Relations staff at MRA.
Source: Scott Paulsen, Director of Labor Relations, MRA - The Management Association