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Supreme Court Could Take a Big Chunk Out of Public Unions

Supreme Court Could Take a Big Chunk Out of Public Unions

There’s a good chance that public employees will no longer be forced to pay union dues. 

The Supreme Court has decided to hear Janus v. AFSCME – the latest in a series of free speech cases in which workers object to paying money to a union they do not support. The case challenges a decision upheld in 1977: that public-sector workers could be forced to join or pay a union as a condition of employment. 

The Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on a similar case in 2016 (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association). Now that President Trump has put Neil Gorsuch on the bench, he is almost certain to give us the fifth vote we need to permanently disable public sector unions. 

“This could financially cripple the Democratic-leaning labor unions that represent government workers,” reports Fox News. 

Unions insist they must collect fees, even from non-members, in order to cover the costs of negotiating contracts for all employees. But unions are very active in politics, and conservatives have long argued that mandatory fees are unconstitutional because they constitute “compelled political speech.”

Janus v. AFSCME comes from Mark Janus, a worker in Illinois who disagrees with the Illinois law that requires him to pay fees to a union he does not support. The case was filed just two months after Neil Gorsuch received his robe.


The stakes are high. If SCOTUS sides with Janus, public sector unions (i.e. teachers and government employees) will no longer be able to require people to join. These organizations would lose membership and power. As a result, they will become far less influential in American politics. This may actually give rise to other unions who better represent small factions of workers.

As of last year, less than 11% of America’s workforce belonged to a union. About half of these people work for federal, state, and local governments – many in states like New York that are largely Democratic and therefore kind towards unions.

*It’s important to note that Janus v. AFSCME only applies to public-sector unions, not to private-sector unions.

Editor’s note: When Trump was elected a great many pundits noted how important it is to put conservative judges on the Supreme Court. The addition of Judge Gorsuch means, in this case, a major change in way of life for public employees. They are no longer locked into the public sector unions and no longer will have to lobby as a political block.

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