On June 27th, after months of deliberation, The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Mark Janus in Janus v. AFSCME. The decision, which overturns the 1977 precedent set by Abood v. Detroit B.O.E., states that the fair-share fees once paid by non-union employees are a violation of their First Amendment rights.
The case began in February of this year. The lead plaintiff, Mark Janus, took issue with the possibility that he may not have agreed with his unions values and was still mandated to pay for them. Although the precedent set by Abood states that these fees cannot be used for any political or ideological purposes, Janus argued that collective bargaining and the basic operations of a union are political in nature. Union employees who are not dues-paying members will now reap union benefits at the expense of full-dues paying members. Because of this, unions fear a dramatic decrease in membership, since they are now required to represent all employees without the support of fair-share fees.
Proponents of Janus called this the protection of workers’ rights and free speech, while dozens of unions and worker advocates urged the importance of unions and the good they do for their employees and members. Opponents of Janus highlighted the voice that unions give the middle and working class due to the public influence that unions have. Many say the ruling will effectively destroy their public influence, and therefore the voice of the workers they employ. In an article from the Times Herald Online, one of the Court’s Justices spoke out: “In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote of the big impact of the decision. “There is no sugarcoating today’s opinion. The majority overthrows a decision entrenched in this Nation’s law — and its economic life — for over 40 years. As a result, it prevents the American people, acting through their state and local officials, from making important choices about workplace governance. And it does so by weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy.”
A majority of U.S. states have banned fair-share fees long before Janus made waves. The 22 states that did not are union powerhouses. As District Council 37 Executive Director Harry Garrido put it, “Today’s decision is appallingly out of sync with both public sentiment and the difficult times now faced by working families”, in a statement on his union’s website. DC 37 is New York’s largest public union, and happens to be a chapter of AFSCME.
New York’s government officials have been staunch supporters of unions and organized labor, and now is no exception. A number of legislative bills added to the 2019 State budget were put in place as safeguards against Janus v. AFSCME, with the aim of narrowing certain services and levels of Union representation to dues-paying members only. Other bills provided further incentives-like making union benefits effective at time of hire and protected benefits during leave-rather than budget safeguards.
This directly effects most of our communities hardest working people-those of who keep our neighborhoods functioning.
Teachers, law enforcement, laborers, healthcare workers, and many more.
MDASR, LLP. stands in full support of New York’s public unions and the labor movement, and has for over 60 years.