THE U.S. SUPREME Court will hear a case this term that could deliver a death blow to the legal privileges enjoyed by public sector unions.
The case is Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. At issue is whether it is constitutional for state governments to require government workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment, even when those workers are not themselves union members.
The case was brought by Mark Janus, a state employee in Illinois who objects to paying mandatory fees to a union that he refused to join. Janus argues that this violates his First Amendment rights by forcing him to financially support political speech and activity he does not agree with.
Janus' over arching goal is to overturn the Supreme Court's 1977 precedent in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the Court approved mandatory public sector union fees on the grounds that non-union "free riders" should have to contribute something toward collective bargaining activities that benefit them. Over the past four decades, that ruling has provided a major boon to the treasuries of public employees unions. (A separate area of jurisprudence covers private sector unions.) The petition filed by Janus and his lawyers calls on the Supreme Court to "overrule Abood and declare [mandatory public sector union] fees unconstitutional."