The Supreme Court, led by the conservative majority, leveled a historic blow to the labor movement Wednesday. They ruled that public sector workers who are represented by unions cannot be required to pay any union dues.
The 5-4 decision in the case, Janus v. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, practically makes the entire U.S. public sector a “right-to-work” zone. Now millions of public employees will have the choice to no longer support unions that must keep bargaining on their behalf.
The case has been referred to as “Janus.” It was widely seen as the biggest judicial threat to organized labor in years, if not decades. The ruling has the potential to squeeze some of the largest and most powerful unions in the country and reduce their influence in the workplace as well as in national and local politics.
The case focused on what are known as “fair share” or “agency” fees. In the United States, a union must represent all the workers in a particular bargaining unit, even those who don’t want a union. No one can be required to be a union member, but many states have allowed for contracts stipulating that all workers in the bargaining unit must help pay the costs of bargaining and representation. These agency fees amount to normal union dues minus the portion that the union would devote to politics.
Janus claimed that having to pay agency fees to AFSCME still amounted to “compelled speech,” even if the money wasn’t going directly to political ends.
Even though the Supreme Court had previously upheld the constitutionality of agency fees, in the landmark 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the court’s conservatives upended that precedent with the Janus decision.
The 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia led to a deadlock on the courtCon, buying unions more time. But the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, led to the conservative majority needed to assure a ruling against union.
President Trump had this to say about the ruling on Twitter: “Supreme Court rules in favor of non-union workers who are now, as an example, able to support a candidate of his or her choice without having those who control the Union deciding for them. Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!”
Supreme Court rules in favor of non-union workers who are now, as an example, able to support a candidate of his or her choice without having those who control the Union deciding for them. Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2018