Supreme Court Rules on Union Dues

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31.

The case pertains to “public sector unions’ authority to collect ‘agency fees’ from non-member employees,’ according to Government Executive. The Court invalidated the unions’ ability to collect the fees, dealing a significant blow to one of the organizations’ streams of funding.

The Janus decision applies only to state and local public unions, but to those well-versed on the issue, the decision is nonetheless likely to add fuel to the fire of the debate raging at the federal level.

“[The ruling] is consistent with recent Trump administration efforts to change bargaining and official time practices, in ways that weaken unions,” said Donald Kettl, author and professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. “The decision will surely embolden the administration to press further.”

Robert Tobias, a former president of the National Treasury Employees Union, believes the development could be an unexpected boon for unions.

“My sense is that this decision is going to re-energize federal sector unions to do the basic organizing needed to increase their membership,” Tobias said. “All of the unions have been reporting a net membership gain since President Trump was elected, and it seems that this decision will only reaffirm the need for these efforts.”

Tobias also said another Supreme Court case – Trump v. Hawaii – may unexpectedly have a larger impact on federal unions in the near-term than the Janus case. In Trump v. Hawaii, the Supreme Court upheld the president’s controversial travel ban.

“After all,” Tobias said, “the orders were an exercise of presidential power, and my guess is that, based on the immigration case, the government will use the immigration case to argue that the president has discretion in this area.”

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