May 20, 2018
In February of 2018, the United States Supreme Court considered a case which could have nation-wide repercussions for workers and their families. The matter is Janus v. American Federation of State, Municipal, and County Employees and the central issue is whether employees are required to pay for the services unions provide or if unions will be required to work for free.
When a union is formed, individual employees may chose whether or not to pay membership dues and join the union. The union, on the other hand, is required to work on behalf of all, regardless of if they paid membership dues. If employees chose not to pay it membership dues to the union, the union still had to work on their behalf. This intolerable situation was resolved in a case called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, where the United States Supreme Court permitted unions to charge an “agency fee” to individuals who chose not to be members of the union. This fee covers bargaining and representational costs, but not political activity or lobbying. This decision balanced individual employees’ right not to fund speech that they do not like, without forcing unions to work for free.
Business interests, ironically, believe unions should be forced to work for free (although they would never tolerate being forced to work for free themselves). They see this as an opportunity to finally defeat the middle classes’ last bulwark; labor unions. They have created organizations that fund lawsuits challenging the Supreme Court’s Abood decision. Janus is just such a case and challenges the constitutionality of the “agency fee.” Should they succeed, unions will be forced to work for free and several will cease to exist.
Unions need to be prepared for this decision and plan accordingly. The Hurm Law Firm can guide you through the legal uncertainty left in Janus’ wake.