June 27, 2018
Decided June 27, 2018
Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31,
Today, the Supreme Court held 5-4 that the First Amendment does not permit public-sector unions to collect mandatory fees from non-members to cover the costs of collective bargaining.
Mark Janus, a non-union State employee, brought a First Amendment challenge to mandatory “agency fees” that public-sector labor unions collect from non-members ostensibly to cover the costs of collective bargaining with government employers. Janus argued that the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education—which upheld agency fees because they avoid labor strife and prevent non-members from benefiting from collective bargaining without paying for union membership—should be overruled because agency fees compel non-members to subsidize union speech intended to influence governmental policies on matters of public importance, such as education, healthcare, and climate change, that frequently arise in collective bargaining between public-sector unions and government employers.
Whether Abood should be overruled and compulsory public-sector agency fees invalidated under the First Amendment.
Yes. Public-sector agency fees violate the First Amendment because they compel non-members to subsidize union speech on matters of public concern. Abood is overruled.
“Because the compelled subsidization of private speech seriously impinges on First Amendment rights, it cannot be casually allowed.”
Justice Alito, writing for the 5-4 Court
What It Means:
The Court’s holding applies “when a State requires its employees to pay agency fees,” and thus does not reach private-sector unions. The Court deemed it “questionable” whether the First Amendment would be implicated when a State merely authorizes—yet does not require—private parties to enter into an agency-fee agreement, but left the question open.
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