Print this Article

U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus Decision Criticized by Unions

June 29, 2018

On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in the much-watched Janus v. AFSCME case that was widely seen as a blow to unions, and to public sector unions in particular. The decision means that public employees will not have to pay agency fees (or “fair share” fees) to unions that represent them in collective bargaining, which could lead to a significant decline in both union membership and dues. Agency fees are distinct from regular union dues, and make up a significant share of union budgets.

The statements from the justices regarding the decision reflected a deep split among the nine Supreme Court justices.

“We conclude that public-sector agency-shop arrangements violate the First Amendment,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the majority opinion. He emphasized that employees must also affirmatively opt in to union membership, potentially making unions’ efforts to keep members even more challenging.

Taking a very different view was Justice Elena Kagan, who warned in a sharply worded dissent, “Across the country, the relationships of public employees and employers will alter in both predictable and wholly unexpected ways,” adding “Judicial disruption does not get any greater than what the Court does today.”

School districts will be impacted in a number of ways, since the Supreme Court ruling will almost certainly lead to changes in the way payroll involving union-related fees are handled.

The court’s Janus ruling was not unexpected, given the lineup of conservative justices on the Supreme Court. The ruling was greeted by “right to work” advocacy groups, as well as President Trump and a number of conservative elected officials.

And the ruling was immediately criticized by leaders of teachers unions. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said “Don’t count us out. While today the thirst for power trumped the aspirations and needs of communities and the people who serve them, workers are sticking with the union because unions are still the best vehicle working people have to get ahead. ... The teacher walkouts this spring, with educators fighting for the funding children need, were an example of how we will continue to make that case-in the halls of statehouses and the court of public opinion, in our workplaces and communities, and at the ballot box in November-through organizing, activism and members recommitting to their union.”

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, said “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. ... Even though the Supreme Court sided with corporate CEOs and billionaires over working Americans, unions will continue to be the best vehicle on the path to the middle class.”

At the state level, Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association, said “Today’s ruling is an attack on working people that attempts to further rig the economy and that reverses four decades of precedent. The decision is the result of a well-funded and nationally orchestrated effort to weaken the ability of working men and women to come together as unions and to speak with one, united voice. For educators, this an attempt to weaken our ability to stand up on behalf of our students and on behalf of quality public schools.”

“Today’s decision doesn’t change our history and it doesn’t predict our future. We look forward to our future with optimism and will continue our important work to ensure that all California students get the quality public education they need and deserve,” Heins added.

Source: EdBrief staff

A Total School Solutions publication.