U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Illinois Mandatory Union Dues Case

In 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court cast doubt on the legality of mandatory union fees for non-union members. The opinion of the high court did not strike the fee as being a constitutional violation; instead, they commented that the precedent validating the fees “appeared questionable on several grounds.”

That case decision, Pamela Harris v. Pat Quinn, encouraged those who oppose mandatory union fees; thus it is another Illinois case that is poised to be heard and decided by the high court. This new case is Mark Janus v. American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which was filed in 2015. Gov. Bruce Rauner was originally a party plaintiff in the case, but he was dismissed. Other state workers argued that part of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Acts, which allows for the dues, violates the First Amendment because they help pay for unions’ political activity.

The plaintiffs in this case claim that nonmembers are still forced to pay 79 and 98 percent, respectively, of what full members of AFSCME and the Teamsters/Professional & Technical Employees Local Union are required to pay.

Proponents of the mandatory payment of union dues argue that since unions negotiate for all public workers, not just the ones who officially join their ranks, those nonmembers who benefit from the negotiations should be forced to pay their “fair share.”

The mandatory dues narrowly escaped a legal challenge last year in California v. Friedrichs. But after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the eight remaining Supreme Court justices were dead-locked on the issue and fees were left intact.

Because the Republicans refused to even hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, for the vacant seat left by the death of Justice Scalia, the new Congress and the new president were able to force in the new conservative justice, Neil Gorsuch. That means that now the court is made up of five justices who are the most conservative on most issues.

In September 2016 U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman dismissed the Janus lawsuit, which occurred several months after the deadlocked decision in Friedrichs. On the appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Richard Posner held on to the long-standing legal precedent set in 1977 by the case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education writing that, “neither the district court nor this court can overrule Abood, and it is Abood that stands in the way of [the] claim.”

AFSCME’s president, Lee Saunders, called the appeal “yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor.”

On the plaintiff’s side of this case is the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Janus, who is not the only plaintiff in the case, claims that he shouldn’t be forced to give money to an organization whose political advocacy he doesn’t want to support. AFSCME says it is supported by 40 years of Supreme Court precedent. It is unclear when this case may be heard by the high court.

Kreisman Law Offices has been representing individuals and families for more than 40 years and firmly supports labor unions and workers whose legal rights have been fought for and protected by organized labor for more than 100 years.

Related blog posts:

U.S. Court of Appeals Rules that First Amendment Did Not Require the State to Keep Collective Bargaining Rights for Public Employee Unions

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