Supreme Court Could Free Gov’t Workers from Forced Union Dues

(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Thursday to consider whether government employees should be free to withhold dues from unions to which they don’t belong.

NATELSON: How the NYTimes Distorts View of Supreme Court

PHOTO: Phil Roeder/Creative Commons

Until now, many government workers have been forced to pay dues for “collective bargaining” by union bosses even if the workers choose not to belong to the union. The Supreme Court considered overturning this state of affairs in the 2016 case of Friedrichs v. CTA, but with a court seat vacant due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the justices split 4-4 and thus left the issue unanswered.

The new case the Supreme Court agreed to consider, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), involves Mark Janus, a child support specialist in the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family. He is not a member of AFSCME, but Illinois nonetheless deducts a fee from his paycheck in order to cover what the union says is Janus’s share of the union’s expenses for collective bargaining and related administrative efforts.

Janus does not agree with the union’s bargaining position with regard to what at heart is a political dispute concerning how, and how much, Illinois pays its public employees. Presumably, he believes he can get a better deal under the policies pushed by Republican governor Bruce Rauner than under the one-size-fits-all system favored by the union bosses.

Among the reforms pushed by Rauner is a system of “merit pay,” through which employees who meet certain attendance benchmarks might earn extra money. Janus, in effect, argues that the union’s “negotiations” to the contrary deny him the chance to earn this merit pay, and that he should not be forced to pay dues to an organization to which he not only does not belong but which also does not represent his interests as he perceives them.

Leaving aside those practical issues, Janus argues that the regime of forced union dues violates the Constitution’s First Amendment protections for free speech. It is long established that government may not compel its workers to support political advocacy with which it does not agree. Janus argues, in effect, that negotiations over compensation for public employees, which involves a choice among public policy options, amount to political advocacy. If he disagrees with what is being advocated, then if he is forced to pay for those negotiations he will be denied his First Amendment rights to avoid participation in unwanted speech.

PREVIOUSLY: Senator Wants Taxpayer-Funded Union Activities Exposed

It already has been established that no mandatory dues can be funneled to the coffers of a political party. Janus’ legal brief thus argues this:

“There is … little distinction between forcing Illinois public employees to directly support the Democratic Party… and requiring Illinois public employees to financially support advocacy groups with agendas closely aligned with that political party.”

In reply, the union bosses first argue that the current arrangement was ratified by the Supreme Court in the 1977 case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, and that it should not be changed. Second, they argue that “collection of the fees is justified by States’ strong interest in promoting labor peace through collective bargaining and in avoiding the ‘free rider’ incentive that would arise if non-member employees could avoid paying any dues while nevertheless retaining the benefits of representation by an informed and expert negotiator.”

But the union bosses clearly are playing defense right now, with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation – which supports the “worker freedom” position of Mr. Janus – showing clear enthusiasm for the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case.

“We are now 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,” said Mark Mix, president of the organization.

For the union bosses, this could be a do-or-die case. As the Washington Examiner reported, “An internal survey the union did in 2015 found only one-third of its members would voluntarily pay dues no matter what, and half of its membership couldn’t be counted upon to do that. A minority of 15 percent would be certain to opt-out of paying dues.”

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  • Kirk Kahler

    I think it is only right that if you are not in the union you should not have to pay ! this is just a cash cow for the democrats and all ways has been it is not far or right and I hope that it is ended !

  • NukeWaste

    I hate forced union participation! As a teacher, I was forced to accept the contract that the union agreed to in closed contract talks. We were not allowed to be told anything about the bargaining or what was offered by each side. As a hard core science and math teacher, I should not have been given the same contract as a gym teacher. I was constantly told that I should have been happy that they were making a good living. Why? My pay was significantly less than it would have been in the private sector. Can Art, History, or gym teachers make the same claim? Now I am retired and make more than I did as a teacher. Looking back, I wonder if I wasted my time.

    • You made a difference if you, positively, influenced any student. Even if, only, one of them.
      I’ve heard, quite a few, successful people say that they were, strongly, affected by one of their teachers, which led to their success.

      • NukeWaste

        Out of 100 I usually reached about 10 a year. I have watched too many of these get sucked back into the morass. Most flunked out of Community College, got pregnant and welfare, or, took a job that was deadend because they never learned how to be a student. The wise ones enlisted. Those kids as rare as they were do decently.

        • See, you did NOT waste your time.

  • brtw

    Hopefully the Sup. Ct. will find forced union dues which all goes to the Demo. party is unconstitutional. I wish all employees of all co. who force union dues would be unconstitutional, not just government employees l! No one should be forced to support the damned demos. if they don’t choose to.

    • Garrett Auman

      YOU ARE CORRECT, brtw !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • just care

    How about no employees money can go for political purposes.

  • comanchewill

    unions are dead

  • George Ledford

    I didn’t know they could do that……Down right thievery .

  • Gregg Parker

    ..Ey! Jimmy! Joey! git ova here… I wants youz guys to pay dem supremes a little visit.. you know badda bing! …ain’t no wise guys in a black dresess takin’ dough off my table, nawImean?!

  • sasquatch1313

    Federal employees are not forced to join or pay their union. It is and has been voluntary. So the title of the article is misleading. It should say state and local government.

    • Fred_K

      That does not stop the union from taking money from the non union employees.

      • sasquatch1313

        Non AFGE members pay nothing to the union.

    • Herb1949

      That is mostly a lie.

      While they are not forced to join unions, they are forced to pay “costs for the collective bargaining that they benefit from.”

  • Mike

    this would be a huge blow to the middle class. why do people believe they would be better off without unions? go back to the beginning of the century or to th its world countries if you want to work for peanuts with no benefits.

    • NukeWaste

      Nice rant. I heard it at least twice a year every year that I taught. Data, please! Unions are to protect the uneducated. Every honest function of the unions is now done by a governmental agency. If you have useful skills, you should not be shackled to a lower paying contract just so worthless classes can be put in place so that everybody will graduate even if they cannot read their own diploma.

    • Fred_K

      If someone want to be in a union in the private sector, they should be allowed to do so. The government unions support the politicians that they negotiate with. It is called a conflict of interest. That is illegal.

      • Mike

        you are worried about corruption? you must be very upset then at president truno and his myriad of conflicts as presidential since he chose not to divest from his businesses.

    • independent thinker

      I worked under a union for a time. I quit that job and took a non union job with better pay and much better benefits. On the union job I was told several times to slow down I was working too hard. At the non union job my hard work was appreciated and my compensation reflected that.

      • Mike

        there are exceptions to every rule, but unions were and are hugely responsible for bringing millions of Americans into the middle class. they are not perfect but their elimination will absolutely hurt the middle class.

        • independent thinker

          The unions time has come and gone. They are now nothing more than a cash cow for the democrat party and a means for those in the upper echelons of the union to get rich off the rank and file members. Oh, and I forgot the means for a bunch of lazy bums to keep a job even though they do very little.
          6.5% of the workers in the private sector are in unions. Hardly enough to make any significant difference to the middle class either way.

          • Mike

            and as unions have declined income inequality has grown and the middle class has shrunk. a major cause of those items is the decline of unions and the benefits they give their workers.

          • independent thinker

            Apparently millions of workers disagree with you. If not then they would be flocking to the unions in drove instead of fleeing them.

  • Lorie Rassouli

    Local SICU 2000, in California, a state union for government employee’s, used $60,000.00 for Governor Brown. They did not ask if they could use union money for political candidate, that was pro union, according to Gov. Brown. Union dues are also used for cell phones, lunches, parties, travel to outside of California (why)? When you look at the WASTE of money,used in their Budget, no one would want to pay into it, but you have too. It’s really a forced issue!

  • Bo

    NO government worker should be allowed to have a union in the first place.
    Government unions are the reason these people CAN NOT BE FIRED. Even if they are lousy workers they get paid for doing NOTHING because they will not be FIRED. That is what is wrong with the government. The swamp will never be drained as long as they are allowed to have a union. ELIMINATE ALL GOVERNMENT UNIONS, NOW.

  • carpkiller


  • Bill

    The overwhelming majority of Americans are with you Paul!!! Good luck

  • Fred_K

    Government employee unions have a conflict of interest. They negotiate their pay with the people they elect. The unions support the people they want elected, and expect favors from them. Government unions should be made illegal.

  • 9400budlang8406

    Another of those “well duh” moments. It shouldn’t have had to go to the supreme’s when common sense would have taken care of the problem a long time ago. Sorry , I forgot that common sense and leftist thinking don’t go together. And here lately it seems the Rinos are having the same problem. Simple straight forward solutions are abandoned as political correctness takes priority.

  • 0not_nostradamus0

    There’s one union that acts like it owns the world and there are only 50 members, hope you all destroy that one too as it would please one man to no end and i don’t mean the russian potus but rather his patron, rasPutin … so do any of you know which union i’m talking about … yes that’s right keep it up as you’re making Vlad very glad that he chose to ‘back’ the right one !?! “Rome” will fall again and as before from within also … damn ijjits, one and all !!!