Supreme Court Issues Anti-union Decision
By John Roche, Attorney - Monday, July 9, 2018
As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with anti-union activists and overturned 40 years of precedent to hold that public sector bargaining unit members who do not want to belong to a union can choose to pay nothing for the costs of bargaining a collective bargaining agreement but must still be provided all the benefits of that collective bargaining agreement. Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, No. 16-1466. This case was originally started by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner in his unrelenting effort to break public sector unions (including law enforcement unions). Rauner was early on dismissed out of the suit because he lacked standing and was replaced by anti-union activist Mark Janus. Public Sector employees were never required to belong to a union if they chose not to. Before Janus, however, bargaining unit employees who chose not to belong to the union were required to pay a portion of the union dues, their “fair share,” for the costs of bargaining and administering the collective bargaining agreement. The Janus Court found that requiring non-members to pay any money for the costs of collective bargaining violated their First Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution. Now, under the Janus decision, non-union members pay nothing and their fellow employees, who are union members, will shoulder all the expense of bargaining those benefits. Governor Rauner aimed to undercut the unions’ ability to fund collective bargaining, thus giving him free rein to massively cut employee benefits. This will not happen if employees stay together and continue to support the idea of collective bargaining and maintain their union membership. If union membership is maintained, the Janus case will have very little impact.
In overturning Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (which previously required employees to pay their fair share for the costs of collective bargaining), the Janus Court indicated that unions going forward could charge non-bargaining unit employees the costs of processing, for example, discipline cases. This would include the costs of legal representation during department interrogations, challenging discipline through the grievance arbitration procedure, and the costs of a court reporter and a portion of the arbitrator’s fee. Such cases typically cost thousands of dollars. For union members, these fees are covered by the member’s monthly union dues. While employees who choose not to belong to a union will be entitled to the negotiated benefits available to union members, such as wages and insurance, they can be expected to be charged for certain costs should they decide, for instance, that they need representation in a disciplinary matter or otherwise wish to challenge discipline.
Law enforcement employees understand the importance of belonging to and supporting their union. The unions protect their backs in a generally hostile world of employment relations. For bargaining units that simply maintain their union membership, the Janus case will have very little impact and the unions will continue to fight for their rights and to secure better wages and working conditions.