Friday, December 8, 2017

White House Urges SCOTUS to Prevent Government Employers from Compelling Union Fees

This past Wednesday, the White House urged the Supreme Court of the United States to find that requiring government employees to pay mandatory union dues is a violation of the individual public employees’ First Amendment rights.  The Trump Administration filed a brief conveying that contention in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee, a case on appeal from the Seventh Circuit.

In Illinois, public sector employees who have jobs that are represented by a union but who have declined to join the union, are often required to pay for collective bargaining activities, regardless of whether he or she supports that activity.  Janus involves a non-union Illinois government employee, Mark Janus, who was required to pay a “security fee” as a condition of his employment.  In Janus, the Supreme Court will address whether Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), a case which upheld the constitutionality of these mandatory fees, should be overruled.

In its brief, the White House argued that speech in public sector collective bargaining agreements is speech about public issues, thereby making the language in these agreements a matter of public policy.  The brief stated,
“[I]ssues like tenure for state employees, merit pay, and the size of the state workforce are about more than money: they concern no less than the proper structure and operation of government. To compel a public employee to subsidize his union’s bargaining position on these questions is to force him to support private political and ideological viewpoints with which he may strongly disagree.”
Furthermore, the White House argues that “[p]ublic employees’ strong interest in freedom of speech on such matters outweighs the government’s interest in authorizing public-sector unions to collect agency fees that they do not need to fulfill their responsibilities.”  The full brief can be found here.

The unions are, of course, understandably concerned regarding the outcome of this case.  AFSCME’s President, Lee Saunders, stated, “[t]he entire public sector could be under right to work by next spring thanks to the Supreme Court."  Mark Pocan, Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Wisconsin’s Second District of Wisconsin, stated,
With this brief, it is clear that President Trump has no plans to raise wages, create jobs, or grow and strengthen the middle class. Rather, President Trump is engaging in a coordinated effort with Republicans in Washington to dismantle unions, rig the economy against American workers, and give handouts to the wealthy and corporations. American workers deserve better.
Stay tuned to the Workplace Report for further updates and be sure to subscribe to be kept up to date on the latest labor and employment law news.