Supreme Court To Hear Case On Public Employee Unions

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The Supreme Court is poised to hear a case on mandatory fees for public employee unions that could shape the future of the labor rights movement in the United States.

The court agreed Sept. 28 to review Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. Mark Janus, who works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, brought the case against the public employee union that represents his position, attempting to abolish the union’s right to collect “fair share” fees from him even if he declines to join its ranks, according to the National Review.

The filing requests that the Supreme Court overturn the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which ruled that unions had a right to charge an agency fee to all employees who benefit from their negotiations, even if they don’t join the union.

Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, called the lawsuit a “blatantly political and well-funded plot” to rig the legal system against labor unions, according to the Washington Post.

In a statement, Mark Mix, president of the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, said the court’s move to hear the case brings the country “one step closer to freeing over 5 million public sector teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other employees from the injustice of being forced to subsidize a union as a condition of working for their own government,” according to the Washington Post.

Opponents of public employee union fees say it stifles the free speech rights of employees by forcing them to participate in inherently political government negotiations including those that allow them to monitor employee computer systems. Supporters say the fees prevent people from declining to sign up for union membership while still benefitting from the union’s negotiation efforts for salary and workplace improvements.

This is the third case on public employee unions in five years that will reach the Supreme Court, according to The Atlantic.

A previous case that was heard in January 2016 looked as though it would strike down the fees with a conservative majority. However, Justice Antonin Scalia’s death interrupted proceedings and left the court tied at 4-4. With conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, many believe the case will have the potential to successfully strike down the fees. Approximately 20 states with fair share fees in the United States would be affected by the ruling.