Janus v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Council 31
Very powerful public employee unions in Illinois have long relied on their favored status to garnish wages of workers and “represent” them in politically-fraught negotiations over collective bargaining agreements with the state. The unions’ power is so great that state laws allow them to steal wages from workers who are not union members. How is this possible? The Supreme Court in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) held that states may authorize public-employee unions to garnish wages of unconsenting non-member employees for collective bargaining and contract administration, without violating the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court now recognizes that the premises underlying Abood were unsound. Knox v. Service Employees International Union (2012) held that unions must obtain affirmative consent before taking wages to subsidize midyear assessments and the Court suggested that affirmative consent may be required for annual agency shop fees as well and that the Constitution might forbid a state from forcing non-union public employees to pay any union dues. In Harris v. Quinn (2014), the Court struck down compulsory union fees for homecare providers who indirectly receive state subsidies based on their clientele, noting that public-sector unions’ ability to coerce payment of dues was “questionable on several grounds.” The Court seemed poised to overrule Abood and invalidate compulsory funding entirely in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Assn. (2016), but the case ended in a 4-4 tie after Justice Scalia’s death.
The petition for a writ of certiorari filed in this case directly challenges Abood, asking the Court to revisit and overrule that case to hold that the First Amendment requires affirmative consent before one penny of a worker’s wages is deposited into union coffers. PLF, joined by several allies, filed an amicus brief arguing that it is far past time to rid our constitutional jurisprudence of this aberration that permits states to violate individuals’ First Amendment rights for the benefit of public employee unions’ collective politicking.