Supreme Court justices hear challenge to mandatory union fees, appear split

Alicia Cross
March 2, 2018

Union members protested a current Supreme Court case in front of Powell Library on Monday that will decide whether nonunion members should pay fees to unions.

The Supreme County was deadlocked 4-4 two years ago on the same issue. Now those compulsory union payments are squarely before the Supreme Court, with the First Amendment rights of over five million teachers, firefighters, police officers and other government workers like Mark Janus at stake.

Supporters and opponents of mandatory fees that some government employees must pay their unions voiced their arguments Monday outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices prepared to hear the case. The high court will hear oral arguments in Janus v.

A case that was heard Monday in the US Supreme Court and to be decided later on this year could have a big impact on public worker unions in NY.

The court's conservatives, however, signaled they were poised to overturn a 1977 ruling that said states can let public-sector unions demand so-called agency fees from non-members, as long as the money covers representational work like collective bargaining and not ideological or political activities like lobbying. However, Justice Antonin Scalia's death just weeks before the case was to be decided left the remaining justices split 4-4.

But the elevation of conservative Neil Gorsuch to the court by President Donald Trump past year is likely to prove a decisive factor this time around. They typically back Democratic candidates over Republicans.

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Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's appointee to fill Scalia's seat, has been seen as providing the fifth vote for the conservatives, but he was uncharacteristically quiet during Monday's argument.

Justices heard arguments in a challenge to an IL law that requires government employees who choose not to join a union to pay fair share fees for collective bargaining purposes. "What they are trying to do with the dues is they're not trying to pay it fully, but still they are trying to get the same benefits, but it doesn't work for the people that are paying fully". Many states passed laws that encouraged or required collective bargaining in the public sector, while also imposing compulsory union fees.

"Today we rise up against Janus which is part of a well-funded campaign by the rich and powerful to divide us, us from our co-workers and limit our power in numbers we have together in our union". Full union dues include money spent on political advocacy.

Local 150 President James M. Sweeney said it is "absurd" for state law to compel unions to provide representation to "free riders".

"I truly believe that working people understand the benefit of unions and why unions matters", he said. In those right-to-work states, unions still represent workers but membership rates are lower.

Pamela Rall-Johnston, Assistant District Leader for 32BJ SEIU, called the lawsuit an "attack on working-class people and [their] lifestyle". He said he opposes his union's fight for wage and benefit increases when the state is "in pretty awful financial condition right now".

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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