The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday dealt a blow to worker rights, ruling 5-4 that public sector unions cannot collect so-called "fair share" fees that help unions represent all workers, including non-unionized ones. The Janus decision could lead to weaker unions, lower wages for government workers, and poorer public services. The case takes its name for Mark Janus, the federal employee who argues that, as a non-member, being forced to pay the “fair share” dues (less than what a member pays) of the union that negotiates his contract violates his free speech rights because he disagrees with the political positions his union takes. This is despite the fact that fair share dues cannot be spent on a union’s political activity. The Janus decision has nothing to do with protecting the free speech rights of individual employees. Existing law already had safeguards protecting the rights of non-members, and non-members can and do opt-out of contributing to the cost of political activities of public-sector unions (which are largely lobbying efforts to secure greater funding for popular public services). The sole intention of the shadowy right-wing groups behind the Janus case is to further weaken unions.
The Trump administration frequently claims to be on the side of the little guy, but it is building a strong track record of harming workers and working families. The Trump administration has aggressively rolled back a 2016 rule strengthening overtime protections for low- and middle-income workers, and took steps to gut regulations that protect restaurant workers from having their tips taken by their employers. The real beneficiaries of the Janus decision are far-right, anti-union groups and their billionaire paymasters. We desperately need stronger public- and private-sector unions in the US, not weaker ones.
Among the labor leaders criticizing the decision was Lily Eskelsen García, president of teh National Education Association (NEA), who called it "a blatant slap in the face for educators, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and all public servants who make our communities strong and safe. We are living in a system that is rigged to benefit special interests and billionaires, all at the expense of working people. Those behind this case know that unions amplify workers' voices and transform their words into powerful and collective action....“We are living in a system that is rigged to benefit special interests and billionaires, all at the expense of working people. Today’s radical decision by the Supreme Court is a blatant slap in the face for educators, nurses, firefighters, police officers and all public servants who make our communities strong and safe… Unions will continue to be the best vehicle on the path to the middle class.”
According to Celine McNicholas, director of labor law and policy at the Economic Policy Institute, the impact of the ruling is that "workers who wish to join in union will be forced to operate with fewer and fewer resources. This will lead to reduced power—at the bargaining table and in the political process. It will have profound implications for not just the 6.8 million state and local government workers covered by a union contract, but all 17.3 million state and local government workers and indeed for every working person throughout the country."