US Supreme Court Takes Up Case from IL on Fair Share Fees

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The other 28 states that have "right-to-work" laws that make all union dues voluntary have lower participation rates, according to research by a group of social scientists who support labor unions and filed an amicus brief against another "right-to-work" case a year ago. Lead plaintiff Mark Janus filed the lawsuit alongside two other IL state workers. "This significantly impinges on the First Amendment rights of each and every employee who did not choose to subsidize the union's advocacy".

The case the justices will examine in the coming months concerns Mark Janus, who works for the IL state government and sued the union, claiming he should not be forced to pay its fees as he disagreed with its positions.

An Illinois case could mean huge changes for how public employee unions across the country operate. Unions tend to support Democrats in elections, although agency fees are not used for political activities. The lawsuit argues public-sector collective bargaining and political lobbying are indistinguishable.

The state Supreme Court has issued what the plaintiffs call a landmark ruling in a case that challenges the way Pennsylvania schools are funded.

But National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation president Mark Mix said the court was poised to protect employees' rights.

Justices granted plaintiffs' request for a hearing in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31-a challenge of an IL law requiring public sector employees to pay agency fees that fund collective bargaining. People shouldn't have to pay unions if they don't want to, but unions shouldn't have to represent people who don't pay, either.

Union supporters regard non-union workers tho benefit from the union's labor contracts to be freeloaders.

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The administration is no longer defending the NLRB's position that employment agreements in which businesses require workers to waive their rights to bring class-action claims are invalid. In that case, the court ruled public sector employees who refuse to join a union could still be forced to pay union dues if the fees covered bargaining costs, but do not go toward "political purposes". They will have to compete for the loyalty of non union workers by convincing them that paying the fees will benefit them directly. The infamous 1977 case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education ensured that state laws permitting mandatory payments are legal. The decision also established the exception for political spending.

Friedrichs and other nonmembers were paying about $650 a year in agency fees. The downside is they lose monopoly rights which block other labor groups from trying to organize established bargaining units.

The Supreme Court deadlocked on the issue a year ago, 4-4, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. A tied decision defaults to the lower courts, which ruled against the lawsuit. With conservative Neil Gorsuch now on the gavel, it's expected the ruling won't favor the unions. A brief in the current case from the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, for instance, notes that unions are allowed to use agency fees to fund their national conventions, which are hotbeds of openly partisan activism.

It is also worth noting that in a world without Abood, it wouldn't have to be the case that unions would be forced to represent free-riders who don't pay dues.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has vetoed legislation he says would restrict workers in deciding whether to join a union. Labor experts have predicted a significant percentage of employees would stop supporting their union if given a choice.

The decision, due by next June, could prove a costly setback for public-sector unions in 22 states, where such fees are authorized by law.

A federal judge tossed out the governor's suit and said he had no standing to sue because he did not pay the fees.