September 20, 2018
The United States Supreme Court altered over forty years of precedent in its decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. Prior to this travesty, the Supreme Court’s decision in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., 431 U. S. 209 (1977) was the law of the land. Under Abood, employees had a right to deny its union the power to use their dues for political use. They could instead opt to pay an “agency fee” which could only cover the costs the union incurred representing the employee, but not for any political activity. In Janus, the court reversed Abood and found that agency fees violate an employee’s First Amendment rights. Now, labor unions, unlike any other entity in this country, will be forced to provide services to individuals for free.
What is important now is that labor unions and working families adapt to this new reality. More than ever, labor unions must look to show the value membership can provide. Smart unions can creatively show that value by providing free perks to members such as coupon books for union businesses or discounted legal services. When a labor union can easily show the value it provides its members, more employees will voluntarily maintain their membership.
Lastly, if you work for a labor union, you should be aware of the breadth of the Supreme Court’s decision. Labor unions may now find it more difficult to enforce their maintenance of membership or dues check-off clauses in public-sector environments. Before enforcing either provision in your collective bargaining agreement, be sure to speak with legal counsel. This firm is happy to help.