Organized labor is closely watching a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could weaken unions by removing eliminating the requirement that nonmembers pay dues to receive the benefits of the contract.
The court on Monday heard oral arguments in the case of Janus vs. AFSCME. The case was brought by an Illinois child support-specialist, a public employee, who claimed that forcing him to pay dues violates his First Amendment rights. The plaintiffs argued that mandatory fees violate the free speech of members who disagree with the political positions and policies of unions.
The justices were split 4-4 when they took up the case in March 2016 following the death of Antonin Scalia the previous month. That meant a lower court’s ruling in favor of the fees stood.
Unions that represent government workers say eliminating the fees requirement would gut unions.
“Janus v. AFSCME is a sham, a thinly veiled plot to subjugate workers and destroy the unions that fight for fair wages, benefits and dignified retirements for working families,” said UUP President Frederick E. Kowal in a news release.
“The billionaire corporate elites behind this suit understand — and fear — the power of workers united. These unscrupulous, greedy fat cats realize the real threat organized labor poses to their insatiable desire for money and power. The want to take rob us of our voice,” Kowal added.
New York State United Teachers also weighed in on the case, calling it a threat to the economic well-being of working people. The union said it was the latest in a series of attacks on unions.
“The wealthy elite and corporate interests bankrolling this case want to erode the good wages, health benefits, job security and secure retirements won over decades by workers through their own labor and perseverance,” the union said in a news release.
A decision on the case is expected in June.