A legal group is confident the U.S. Supreme Court will take up a case involving union dues.
Attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center have asked the Supreme Court to take up a case known as Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
"The Janus case is a very important step in our efforts to end the forced payment of fees to a union as a condition of employment," says Mark Mix of National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation. "The Janus case specifically deals with government employees. Interestingly enough, if we win at the Supreme Court, which we fully intend to do, it would protect every government employee in America from being fired for failure to tender dues or fees to a labor union."
In 1977, the Supreme Court established that union officials could have workers fired if they didn't pay dues or fees to a union. Since that time, Mix and other attorneys have been trying to find a case to get back to the Supreme Court. They argue that unions representing government employees violate the free-speech rights of workers by collecting money from people who don't want to join.
"The case, Janus v. AFSCME, has the potential to overturn a 40-year-old Supreme Court precedent and free every government worker in America from forced-dues unionism," Mix continues. "Janus is following in the footsteps of last year's high-profile Supreme Court case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association."
Like Friedrichs, Janus argues that being forced to pay dues to a union violates the First Amendment rights of government employees. Oral arguments were held just before Justice Antonin Scalia died.
"While Friedrichs deadlocked 4-4 after Justice Scalia's death, the confirmation of Justice [Neil] Gorsuch offers a new opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule public-sector forced dues unconstitutional," says Mix. "In fact, because the high court split 4-4 in Friedrichs, Gorsuch is likely to be the decisive vote on this issue."
Even Associated Press reports that the "Supreme Court seemed all but certain to rule against the unions" in the Friedrichs case.
Regardless, a federal appeals court in Chicago rejected Janus' claim in March, ruling that the fees were constitutional under the 1977 case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.
AFSCME president Lee Saunders called the case an effort to chip away at the power of unions "to negotiate a fair return on our work, provide for our families, and lift up the concerns of all working families."
"Saunders would obviously say that because he's got a pretty sweet deal," responds Mix. "The business model for AFSCME and the union officials that run it is, they can compel people to pay them as a condition of keeping their jobs."
The Supreme Court will not take up Janus v. AFSCME until September, at the earliest.