September 29, 2017
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider whether public sector unions can require non-union members to pay union fees, potentially affecting a significant source of funding for union political activities. Unions representing public sector employees—most notably AFSCME and the SEIU—exercise considerable political clout as a result of fees collected in states that allow them to be charged to all represented employees even if they are not union members. The pending case—Janus v. AFSCME Council 31—raises the issue of whether such requirements violate employees' First Amendment rights. The issue applies only to public sector employees since the First Amendment generally does not apply to private sector employment. Prior to the death of Justice Scalia, the Court was expected to rule against the unions in a previous case, but then deadlocked 4 to 4, leaving a Ninth Circuit decision allowing the mandatory fees intact. With Justice Neil Gorsuch filling the vacancy, the unions' prospects for another victory have dimmed.