The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn the ruling of the 1977 case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. The 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME denies public-sector unions the right to collect “fair share” fees.
The late June ruling essentially makes state and local government workplaces So Called “Right to Work” sites when present union contracts expire. Some of these workplaces include school, fire departments, police departments, public hospitals and much more.
Under the Abood ruling, workers who were represented by a union, but did not not wish to join that union, did not have to pay union dues because those dues are sometimes used for political expenses. However, many states required these workers to pay “fair share” fees. These fees are used by the union to cover the cost of negotiating contracts and representing members.
In the minority opinion were Associate Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Elena Kagan warned that the court’s ruling will have a lasting impact on public-sector workers.
“Today the Court succeeds in its six-year campaign to reverse Abood, its decision will have large scale consequences. Public employee unions will lose a secure source of financial support,” said Kagan in the dissenting opinion.
In its decision to reverse Abood, the Court stated that “fair share” fee violate the first amendment.
“Under Illinois law, public employees are forced to subsidize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities. We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of non members by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern,” said Justice Alito when delivering the majority opinion.
The ruling is being viewed as a lose-lose situation for public-sector unions. On one hand, unions will no longer be able to collect “fair share” fees from non members who are represented by unions, on the other hand, thousands of members will drop out of the union, no longer paying dues.
Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Dave Wondolowski said he does not feel this decision will lead to an immediate fight over extending So-Called “Right to Work” to all private-sector unions, but he cautioned organized labor must remain unified and vigilant.
“We need to stay together nore, more than ever,” he said. “They are going to continue to throw these punches but that we are punching back, and we will not ever take a step back in this fight!”
Learn more about the Cleveland Building Trades and Construction Council’s opposition to So-Called “Right to Work” legislation by clicking here.