A case before the Supreme Court next year has big implications for public sector workers and union fees – and that's only half the story.
In 2018, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31. Mark Janus, an employee at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service claims that paying union fees, which are a condition of his employment, force him to speak through his union in ways that violate his First Amendment rights.
If Janus prevails, he and other public-sector workers will be able to choose whether to pay union dues or fees without threat of being fired.
"Even if Mr. Janus wins in court, public sector union members will still have no say regarding which union represents their bargaining unit," says Robert Alt, president and CEO of the Ohio-based Buckeye Institute.
"Most Americans are probably unaware of the fact that 94 percent of union workers in this country have never had the opportunity to vote for the union that's representing them," he responds. "This is a result of the process by which the unions are elected to represent bargaining units. They tend to be sort of 'one-and-done' elections by which they get elected and never have to stand for re-election."
For example, Alt says in Columbus, Ohio, where he lives, the local teachers union was voted in as a representative of the bargaining unit back in the 1960s before many of current teachers were born.
"So he or she has never had the opportunity to actually vote for that union as their representative," Alt continues. "Fundamentally, I think most people can understand this just isn't fair. It deprives those workers of a voice and a choice with regard to their representation."
According to Alt, there is a remedy.
"The law allows states to enact worker voting rights, which provide for holding periodic elections for the unions that represent public sector workers – which is to say those workers that work for state or local government," he explains. "They could be public school teachers; they could be individuals who work for agencies ... and by doing this, this gives them a voice with regards to their representation."
Read Alt's article on this issue