Supreme Court Kills Public Sector Union Fees

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By Hassan A. Kanu

The U.S. Supreme Court today shot down forced union fees for public sector workers, a 5-4 decision that could threaten some labor groups’ future and spur state governments into action.

The justices said the “fair share” fees imposed on government workers in a collective bargaining unit who choose not to join the union representing them violate those workers’ free speech rights. The money goes toward representational work that the union must perform for both members and nonmembers, such as collective bargaining over labor contracts.

The court said in Janus v. AFSCME that a union’s bargaining over pay and work conditions with a local or other government is inherently political activity, which workers can’t be forced to fund.

The ruling is likely to put a dent in public unions’ finances. Labor officials and worker advocates who have been bracing for the decision say the pressure on unions—and the Democratic and progressive politicians they often support—may result in new models for worker organizing, both in the workplace and in the political arena.

Unions represent about 34 percent of government workers, compared with about 6 percent of private sector employees.

The case is Janus v. AFSCME, U.S., No. 16-1466, 6/27/18.

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