Supreme Court Holds Public Sector Employees Not Required to Pay “Fair Share Fees”

We previously discussed that there was one big labor case pending on the Supreme Court docket this term – Janus v. AFSCME.

Janus is an employee of the State of Illinois, and is represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (“AFSCME”).  While he is not a member of the union, Illinois and AFSCME relied upon a 40 year old Supreme Court precedent to require him to pay a “fair share fee” to cover the union’s cost of collective bargaining on his behalf.Supeme Court Building - Northbrook, Illinois Employment Lawyers

On June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court reversed course, departing from its ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, and held that the requirement to pay a fair share fee to the union violated Janus’ rights under the First Amendment.  Justice Alito, writing for the majority, stated “In simple terms, the First Amendment does not permit the government to compel a person to pay for another party’s speech just because the government thinks that the speech furthers the interests of the person who does not want to pay.”

There are currently 22 states (and the District of Columbia) that allow fair share fees.  And the Illinois Economic Policy Institute anticipates that hundreds of thousands of public-sector employees would opt out of paying union dues or fair share fees if they had the choice.  The common-sense rationale behind this projection is that those employees will continue to be represented by the union in the collective bargaining process, whether they pay their dues or not.   By opting out of paying union dues, employees are effectively giving themselves a raise.  The impact of this decision will play out over the months and years to come.  But the Supreme Court unquestionably dealt a blow to organized labor this term.


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