Supreme Court to Hear Labor Case that Threatens Unions

Sep 28, 2017

Credit Brittany Hogan / flickr

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to again hear a case that poses a threat to public employee unions across the country and here in Illinois.

For four decades, public sector unions have been allowed to collect so called “fair share fees” from government employees, even if they’re not members. They argue the work of unions, like negotiating contracts and obtaining higher wages, benefit all workers.

But Bill Messenger, the lead attorney for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation says that goes against worker freedom. “It’s for each individual worker to choose whether or not they want to support a particular union’s advocacy," said Messenger. "If each individual worker believes, what a union does is beneficial for him or her, they’ll support that union. If they don’t, the union isn’t doing a good job, then they won’t support it and it will be just like every other voluntary organization in this country.”

The case was originally filed by Governor Bruce Rauner as one of his first acts in office. The Republican governor was dismissed from the case by a federal judge saying he didn't have the legal right to challenge the law. That left Mark Janus, a state employee, to continue moving the case forward.

“No person should be forced to give up a portion of their pay each month to fund public sector union activity against their will,” said Governor Rauner. “It’s a fundamental violation of their First Amendment right to free speech and association. I am hopeful the Court will see it that way in the end.”

Illinois’ largest state worker union, AFSCME, says this is an ongoing attack by large corporations to diminish rights of working people.

“The corporations, the CEOs, the politicians, they want all the power and influence for themselves," said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall. "They’re trying to use this political attack to manipulate the court, overturn settled law, and change the rules in a way that hurts working people.”

Last summer, the Supreme Court deadlocked on this issue after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. With Justice Neil Gorsuch joining the bench, a conservative majority could deal a financial blow to labor unions.