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After the Supreme Court dealt a blow to unions in the Janus vs. AFSCME case this June, teacher’s unions are reeling.
In Janus v. AFSCME, a 5-4 court majority overturned precedent, saying that public sector unions, like those that represent law enforcement, state employees, and, of course, teachers, can no longer collect what are known as agency fees from nonmembers.
Until now, in nearly half of states (22), public employees who chose not to join the union still had to pay it something, because they’re still covered by unions’ collective-bargaining agreements. But some workers who oppose their unions’ politics, such as plaintiff Mark Janus, a state child-support specialist in Illinois, say that any payment infringes on their free speech rights.
This was the court’s reasoning, according to Vox:
The logic is that unions are political actors, and by allowing unions to charge agency fees, state governments are effectively compelling employees to financially support a political organization that they may or may not agree with. That, the plaintiffs claim, is compelled speech and thus unconstitutional.
Twenty-eight states already have “right to work” laws banning agency fees. Such laws create a free-rider problem: People don’t have to join unions or pay agency fees to get the unions’ benefits, so the unions lose members and political influence.
The 22 states that don’t have these laws include heavily populated ones like California, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio; those five states on their own account for nearly half of America’s total union members.
So the labor movement has been working at the state level. We’re unpacking proposals about collective bargaining and union trends for the latest edition of our series, “The State We’re In.”
Produced by James Morrison. Text by Gabrielle Healy.
- Sarah Duncan Candidate, West Virginia House of Delegates, 11th District. K-8 Visual Arts Teacher.@MtnMamasWV
- Scott Greenberger Executive editor, Stateline, a journalism project of the Pew Charitable Trusts; @sgreenberger
- Vincent Vernuccio Senior Fellow, Mackinac Center for Public Policy @vinnievernuccio
- Randi Weingarten President, American Federation of Teachers; @rweingarten
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