Supreme Court Decision on Public Unions Could Rock Political World

by Ben Pena March 2, 2018, 1:16
Supreme Court Decision on Public Unions Could Rock Political World

The court's four liberals seemed to back the unions' position. The Court ruled that agency fees could be separated from the political aspects of a union, but Dewhirst claimed that this distinction has become unworkable.

Amid colorful, occasionally angry comments from his colleagues, Justice Neil Gorsuch asked no questions during the hourlong session.

Janus' attorney said those fees violate free-speech rights because he often disagrees with union action. Should the court end this 40-year-old compromise?

Today, 22 states have laws on the books that allow broad fair share fees for public employees.

"You're basically arguing: Do away with unions", Justice Sonia Sotomayor told a lawyer challenging the fees on behalf of IL government employee Mark Janus.

The money collected from member dues and non-member fees are used to help retain resources for effective bargaining strength for contractual terms including pay, benefits and time off. His First Amendment rights are injured under the current system, he says.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on February 26 in a case that could have major ramifications on the membership and power of government employee unions. "Those contracts probably cover millions, maybe up to over 10 million, workers".

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"When have we ever done something like that?" Members of Teamsters Local 773 and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 956 showed up in numbers, as did activists with Make the Road Pennsylvania, which advocates for Latino communities and progressive causes.

This argument was poised to succeed two years ago with a case out of California involving the teacher's union, but derailed by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

The unions say the Court's decision would affect more than 5 million public sector workers in those states and the District of Columbia.

Jeralee Smith, a retired teacher, came out to support Janus in the case. Alito was the most vociferous and seemed deeply concerned about the First Amendment implications of requiring employees like Janus to pay the fees. "You're bargaining against the people".

But the court also found that everyone, member or not, should kick in for the cost of the bargaining that improves wages and working conditions. "Doesn't it blink reality to deny that that's what's happening here?" It's the Koch Brothers, it's the National Right-To-Work Defense Fund, which is funded by billionaires who have a sole desire to see unions go away. Though he says much is because unions work for people. He was joined by Illinois Solicitor General David L. Franklin, and both of them stressed that Scalia had upheld the principle that public employees could be required to support their unions. "It is only fair to expect, though, that people who benefit from efforts of the union to contribute to those efforts".

There are a number of bills introduced in the New York State legislature, including by Independent Democrats in the Senate, that could mitigate the impact of a Supreme Court decision in favor of Janus.

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