Free Speech Implodes Forced Union Fees

Jun 27, 2018

In another major victory for free speech, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today in Janus v. AFSCME that nonunion workers cannot be forced to pay fees to public sector unions. Those fees, approved by the court in the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, cover collective bargaining costs, such as contract negotiations for better wages, but are meant to exclude political advocacy. However, the unions were also using them to support political activity, and employees were forced to support ideologies that were against their sincerely held beliefs. Today, the Court reversed the Abood case and struck down forced union fees for public sector unions. 

The plaintiff, Mark Janus, an employee at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Human Services, argued that having to pay the fees violates the First Amendment and asked the Court to overrule the 40-year-old Supreme Court decision. He argued that there was little distinction, for instance, between requiring employees to fund unions that engage in political lobbying and requiring them to fund political groups such as the Democratic Party. In 22 states, including Illinois, government workers can opt out of joining a union. However, they must pay a “fair share” fee to cover costs for representing them, excluding union political or lobbying expenses.

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