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Will SCOTUS Finally Kill Union Dues for Non-Member Public Employees?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

It seems that the U.S. Supreme Court is not shying away from difficult questions. This term, the High Court has agreed to take up the Janus v. American Federation case which dismissed a constitutional challenge to a requirement for non-union members to pay "fair share" dues.

As the law stands now, under Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, non-members can legally be required to pay "fair share" dues because the non-member employees also benefit from the union's collective bargaining. The question being presented to the Court is whether these non-member dues violate the First Amendment, particularly given that unions can often be rather political.

Are Unions in Danger?

The Abood case was decided back in 1977. However, in 2014, the Harris v. Quinn matter held that non-union health care workers that served in a "quasi-public" employment position (hired by private company, but paid by the state), could not be forced to pay union dues. In the opinion, it was strongly suggested that Abood could potentially be overturned.

In 2015, SCOTUS accepted review of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which could have potentially reversed Abood. But, before the Court could rule, Justice Scalia passed. The Court split 4-4, leaving Abood intact. But now that Justice Neil Gorsuch has taken Scalia's place, public employee unions could be in real danger of losing their non-member dues.

Justice Gorsuch "The Union Killer"

The fact that SCOTUS has chosen to take up Janus could spell trouble for unions. Justice Gorsuch is not expected to side with the unions. That means if the justices rule similarly as they did in Friedrichs, Justice Gorsuch will likely tip the scales and deliver a crushing blow to unions.

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