by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Union-friendly lawmakers in several states have been working to make it harder for public-sector employees to opt out of paying union dues, even if the Supreme Court allows them to.
Washington state adopted such a law last month, and similar efforts are under way in New York and New Jersey. In all three cases, the laws appear designed to undermine any additional rights workers could receive as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in a case called Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The court’s ruling is expected in June.
“The state lawmakers are trying to counter the Supreme Court even before they make a decision in the Janus case. They are trying to limit the potential expansion of First Amendment rights the Supreme Court may give workers,” said Vincent Vernuccio, senior fellow with the nonprofit Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
The Janus case involves whether an Illinois state government employee can be forced to a pay his workplace’s union a regular fee even though he declined to become a member. Such fees — dubbed “security clauses” — are a common feature of labor-management contracts. The Janus case could overturn a 1977 Supreme Court precedent that said such fees are legal for government workers. The court is expected to rule narrowly against unions. It split 4-4 on a similar case last year called Friedrichs before Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed.
A decision against AFSCME could be a devastating financial blow to public-sector unions, which often depend on security clauses as a key source of revenue.