Supreme Court strains public sector unions in Janus decision

A 32BJ rally in New York City earlier this year.
A 32BJ rally in New York City earlier this year.
Mike Groll/Office of the Governor
A 32BJ rally in New York City earlier this year.

Supreme Court strains public sector unions in Janus decision

New York's Legislature passed several measures aimed at diminishing the effects of the ruling in the state.
June 27, 2018

In a historic blow to labor union power, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Wednesday that public sector employees cannot be forced to pay union dues.

Under Illinois law, public employees are forced to pay an “agency fee” to unions that covers the collective bargaining that a union does on behalf of all employees. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the court’s opinion, concluding “that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of non-members by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”

The ruling will make it more difficult for unions to attract members and could choke off a significant source of funding as a result. The effects in New York, which has the highest union in density the country, have the potential to be severe because 67 percent of the state’s union membership is in the public sector. The decision was widely expected by Supreme Court observers, as the ruling, follows the usual conservative-liberal split. In anticipation of it, in May, the state Legislature passed, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed, several measures aimed at diminishing the effects of the ruling in the state.

The case, Janus vs. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, was brought by Illinois state employee Mark Janus, a non-union member who objected to the deduction from his paycheck to the AFSCME union. Janus said that having to pay a union fee violates his First Amendment rights by forcing him to support a union that engages in political activities that he does not support.

Max Parrott
is an editorial intern at City & State.
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