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SCOTUS to Decide Fate of Fair Share Fees, Possibly Unions

The addition of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court could tip the scales in Janus v. AFSCME. (Getty Images)
The addition of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court could tip the scales in Janus v. AFSCME. (Getty Images)
February 26, 2018

DENVER – The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Monday in Janus v. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a case many say could determine the fate of the nation's unions.

Justices will decide whether or not Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois, should be required to pay so-called fair share fees to the union that represents all public workers regardless of their union status.

Dennis Dougherty, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, says unions provide substantial services representing workers.

"When I say representation I mean collective bargaining that includes negotiating and administering, contract administration, and the grievance and arbitration procedure," he explains.

A ruling in favor of Janus could kill fair share fees in 22 states.

Dougherty says regardless of the court's decision, unions will continue to work on behalf of all workers.

Janus' supporters argue that fair share fees amount to forced subsidization of unions, and violate workers' First Amendment rights.

In a 2016 Chicago Tribune opinion piece, Janus wrote, "The union voice is not my voice."

Dougherty says the same court that ruled in its Citizens United decision that money was equal to speech for corporations should not bar unions from resources critical to helping working people strengthen their voice at the bargaining table and in the workplace.

"The First Amendment's both the protection of free speech and the freedom of association,” he stresses. “In attacking our freedom to stand together in union, it is an assault on the First Amendment.

“And it's disappointing to see groups that claim to be champions of the First Amendment thinking they can only apply to their wealthy funders."

In 2016, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court reached a 4-to-4 stalemate in a similar case, Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association.

Scalia's replacement, Justice Neil Gorsuch, is expected to side with Janus.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO