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Supreme Court

Mark Janus v. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that seeks to starve public-sector unions of the funding they need to provide services to members.

Under current law, public employees covered by union contracts can opt out of paying for the political activities of their unions. In fact, people can choose not to join the union at all. But because unions do so much more than political work, including negotiating contracts for pay raises, benefits, job protections and more that benefit all workers, states may pass collective bargaining laws that require all public employees at unionized workplaces to contribute their fair share toward those costs. Those who choose not to join the union must pay so-called “agency fees.”

The Janus case threatens this 40-year-old legal precedent. A ruling barring the collection of agency fees would be the culmination of a decades-long, coordinated campaign by conservative groups to debilitate unions, one of the few remaining strong advocates for workers in the political arena.

Read a Q&A on the issues »


The Janus case and its implications for UFT members

This Supreme Court Case Could Deliver a Major Blow to Public-Service Unions Mother Jones, Feb. 23, 2018

On Feb. 26, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case that boils down to the question of whether public-sector unions have a right to collect dues from workers they bargain on behalf of, even if they are not union members. If the court’s conservative majority rules in the plaintff’s favor, it could choke off a critical source of union funding.

NYC teachers union braces for Supreme Court ruling that could drain money and members Chalkbeat, Feb. 22, 2018

If the court rules that teachers are not required to pay for its services, the union is likely to shed members and money — a war chest that has allowed the UFT to be a major player in New York politics and to secure robust benefits for its members. “This is dangerous stuff we’re getting into now,” Mulgrew told Chalkbeat. “They’re trying to take away people’s ability to come together, to stand up and have a voice.”

Union fees at risk as justices review Detroit precedent The Detroit News, Feb. 22, 2018

The court challenge endangers tens of thousands of union contracts in nearly half of the states that are organized around the framework established in Abood. Tossing it would impose a nationwide “right-to-work” policy across the public sector, which employs roughly half of the nation’s 14.8 million union workers.

Will the Supreme Court Deal Public-Sector Unionism a Death Blow? The Nation, Feb. 23, 2018

While anti-labor libertarians will argue that all union activity is inherently “political activism,” unions maintain, with 40 years of evidence to back them up, that agency fees simply help them carry out critical duties as workers’ representatives, and that all who benefit have a responsibility to pay.

"Unions will face a tough challenge when the Supreme Court says 'yes!' to freeloaders," Chicago Tribune, Oct. 5, 2017

But whatever nomenclature you prefer and whatever reason workers have for not contributing — ideological conviction or thrift — those who accept the benefits of organized labor but don’t chip in to earn and maintain them are parasites.

"Huge Stakes for Teachers as Fees Case Reaches High Court," Education Week, Sept. 29, 2017

Various members of the court's conservative bloc have been signaling in several decisions since 2012 that they would like to overrule Abood.

"12 Things You Should Know About Janus vs. AFSCME," Inside Sources, Oct. 19, 2017

Janus v. AFSCME could become one of the most influential labor-related lawsuits in the country’s history. It touches upon fundamental federal laws that have shaped how Americans have worked throughout modern history.

"Trump administration opposes unions in key Supreme Court case," Politico, Dec. 6, 2017

For the Trump administration, the court brief is the latest in a series of moves to roll back union power.

"Supreme Court's conservatives appear set to strike down union fees on free-speech grounds," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 8, 2018

Conservatives also believe the attack on mandatory union fees has the potential to weaken the public sector unions that are strong supporters of the Democratic Party.

Behold The Orwellian Right Wing Propaganda Behind the Supreme Court's New Anti-Labor Case Splinter, Feb. 13, 2018

Read the deceptive right-wing talking points on this case.


What happens when unions grow weak

"Here's what happened to teachers after Wisconsin gutted its unions," CNN Money, Nov. 17, 2017

Along with diminished leverage with school boards, teachers have seen lower pay, reduced pension and health insurance benefits and higher turnover as educators hop from one district to another in search of raises, a new report finds.

"'I hope I can quit working in a few years': A preview of the U.S. without pensions," Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2017

The way major U.S. companies provide for retiring workers has been shifting for about three decades, with more dropping traditional pensions every year. The first full generation of workers to retire since this turn offers a sobering preview of a labor force more and more dependent on their own savings for retirement.

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