December 19, 2017

SCOTUSblog symposium on Janus v. AFSCME

By Deborah J. La Fetra Senior Attorney

Today begins SCOTUSblog‘s online symposium discussing Janus v. AFSCME, the case that could free government workers nationwide from being coerced to support public employee unions. My submission, “Overrule Abood to protect individual rights (at long last)”, discusses how the Supreme Court is poised to overrule the 40-year old decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which grants public employee unions the extraordinary ability to garnish workers’ wages for the inherently political act of collective bargaining for taxpayer-funded wages and benefits. A taste:

Government employees work for the public and are paid by the public, and at the same time are also taxpaying members of the public. For the state to force them to subsidize one side of important political questions about the spending of taxpayer dollars — a side with which many of them for good reason disagree — is unfair, disrespectful, dangerous, and unconstitutional.

As PLF has consistently argued, the First Amendment prohibits such compulsion to subsidize union politicking. In Janus, the Court has the ability – and, one hopes, the will – to reverse Abood‘s decades-long injustice.

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Janus v. American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Council 31

The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act authorized public employee unions to collect “fair share” or “agency shop” fees from nonmember employees. Allowed under the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Illinois law allowed the AFSCME union to steal $535 per year from Mark Janus and every nonunion employee. Janus sued, arguing the law violates the First Amendment. PLF and an array of allies filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Janus at the U.S. Supreme Court. And in a 5—4 decision announced June 27, 2018, the High Court overruled Abood, agreeing with Janus that the 1977 ruling is incompatible with the First Amendment.

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