US Supreme Court Rules on Union Fees in Janus v. AFSCME
The United States Supreme Court today ruled 5 to 4 against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in a significant decision regarding union fees.
Under the Janus v. AFSCME ruling, a worker would not be required to pay union fees or register for the union to subsidize collective bargaining efforts. The decision impacts approximately five million government workers nationwide.
Those in support of the ruling, meantime, say it adds more accountability to unions and protects the First Amendment rights of employees. The ruling prohibits states from giving public employee unions the ability to dock the wages of non-union members to support collective bargaining and other political activities, without those workers’ consent.
Justice Alito delivered the following opinion of the Court saying, “Under Illinois law, public employees are forced to subsidize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities. We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”
Hawaiʻi Attorney General Doug Chin spoke out against the ruling saying, “Our working men and women form the bedrock of Hawai‘i’s struggling middle class. Today’s utterly-misguided and disturbing decision only strengthens my resolve to continue fighting for Hawai‘i working families.”
US Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaiʻi said that under the ruling, governments “have the green light to try and weaken the bargaining power of public employee unions.” He said that could mean smaller payckecks and fewer benefits for teachers, fire fighters, police officers and others.
Senator Mazie K. Hirono also released a statement saying, “America’s public sector workers teach and nurture our children, keep us safe, and care for our families. As union members, they are empowered through collective action to fight for fair wages and work conditions.”
She continued saying, “This partisan, political decision from the Supreme Court will undermine public sector unions’ ability to fight for these basic protections for the 17.3 million public employees they represent.”
Sen. Hirono said she will be introducing the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act along with Representative Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.) to ensure that public sector employees are able to form and join a union and enter into a written contract with employers. Sen. Hirono said the bill also reaffirms that it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining.