Commentary: Public schools teachers, state social workers and other government employees should not be forced to pay money to a union just so they can keep their jobs. That’s why Rio Grande Foundation is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Janus v. AFSCME.
Janus v. AFSCME has the potential to finally end the decades-old requirement of forcing government employees to pay mandatory union fees regardless of whether they want to be represented by a union. This case was brought by the Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of Mark Janus, a child support specialist from Illinois. On Tuesday, Janus petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case.
As Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing explains, “Government unions should not be able to take money out of workers’ paychecks before workers themselves. For too long union executives have forced government employees to pay fees to fund their political activity and special interests. This case has the power to free government workers across the country and restore their freedom to choose what political causes they want to support.”
In 22 states across the U.S., government including New Mexico, workers are required to be represented by and pay money to a union as a condition of employment. Janus v. AFSCME argues that forcing workers to financially support a union against their will violates the First Amendment.
The request for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case follows a March ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which upheld forced dues, citing the Supreme Court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. The plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME argue that Abood was wrongly decided and should be overturned, especially in light of subsequent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have applied strict scrutiny to mandatory union fees.
Last year, it appeared that the U.S. Supreme Court was ready to strike down forced union fees for public sector workers for good in theFriedrichs v. California Teachers Association case. The plaintiff in that case was Rebecca Friedrichs, who, together with eight other teachers, argued that Abood should be overturned because the forced collection of union fees is a violation of the First Amendment.
Most legal observers agreed that Scalia was set to cast the deciding fifth vote in favor of the plaintiffs. However, his death just weeks before the case was to be decided resulted in a deadlocked court and left Abood in place for the time being. Now, Janus provides another vehicle for the Supreme Court to revisit the constitutionality of compelled union fees for public employees.