The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, a case that challenges the constitutionality of agency fees (fair share fees) in the public sector.

The case specifically seeks to overturn the Court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision, which permits employers and unions to negotiate contracts that provide for payment of fair share fees by non-members who receive the benefit of representation. Arguments before the court are expected early next year.

A similar case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Assocation, was argued before the court in 2016, but ended in a 4-4 tie following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Because of the tie, the lower court’s decision upholding fair share fees stood.

With the election of President Donald Trump, he got to appoint the next Supreme Court justice. With the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, the court is back to nine justices with a 5-4 conservative majority.

“It’s no surprise that the Supreme Court has announced it will hear the case of Janus v. AFSCME Council 31,” CSEA President Danny Donohue said. “This case is nothing more than a crusade to weaken unions by people with a lot of money. Their goal remains taking away rights, benefits and pay from hardworking Americans.”

Regardless of the outcome, we will continue to have conversations about what it means to stand together.
If the Supreme Court changes 40 years of its own precedent, we will work harder to ensure working people have the freedom to negotiate so we can continue to provide for our families. Janus aims to take away the freedom of — and opportunity for — working people to join together in strong unions.

“CSEA has played a critical role in building and protecting the working families in New York,” Donohue said. “We are committed to continuing to stand strong on behalf of all working people.”

It is likely that the court will overturn Abood, declaring fair share fees unconstitutional in the public sector. Thus, it will be “right to work” for the public sector in the United States, meaning that bargaining unit members who are not union members will pay nothing but still be covered by the collective bargaining agreement. We expect a decision in Spring 2018.


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