Supreme Court Declares Public Sector Employees Cannot Be Forced To Pay Union Fees

By Peter Moser   June 27, 2018

On June 27, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued its much anticipated ruling in the case Janus v. AFSCME. As expected, the Court, in a 5-4 decision, held that non-union employees in the public sector cannot be forced to pay union fees. The decision overturned a contrary 40-year-old Supreme Court decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Before the Janus decision, in a number of states, a public sector employee in a bargaining-unit position who declined union membership could still be required to pay the equivalent of union dues in the form of an agency fee. Labor unions considered these payments to be “fair share” payments, because the union was compelled to bargain for everyone in the unit, both union members and non-union members alike. But now the Supreme Court has declared that such forced payments by non-union members to a union are an unconstitutional infringement on employee free speech rights, essentially “compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable.”

The Janus decision only affects public sector unions and employees, but it is widely regarded as one of the most significant labor decisions to come out of the Supreme Court in decades. Public sector unions have been bracing for the anticipated fallout from this decision for years. It can reasonably be expected that many more public sector employees will opt-out of union membership and withhold monetary contributions to the union, resulting in reduced funding for unions and a “free rider” phenomenon long decried by organized labor. Dissenting Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the Court’s decision “will have large-scale consequences.”

For more information, please contact one of HRW’s labor attorneys.

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