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Nonmember union dues case heads back to Supreme Court

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Now that the United States Supreme Court again has a full complement of nine justices, it has taken up a new legal challenge to union “fair-share” agreements.

The court had dismissed another such case following the 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia because it was hopelessly deadlocked 4-4. With Justice Neil Gorsuch now seated for his first full term, the court is ready to tackle fair-share agreements again.

Fair-share agreements require all workers in a union shop to pay union dues even if they don’t belong to the union. Dues for nonmembers are somewhat lower than what full members pay.

Nonmember dues cover their “fair-share” of the services the union provides to everyone, whether or not they belong to the union—services such as negotiating a collective bargaining agreement, administering the union contract and conducting grievance hearings.

Without fair-share dues, many unions would feel a real budget sting.

The case the court just accepted—Janus v. AFSCME—is virtually identical to the one it dismissed a year ago. It involves a child support specialist in Illinois, Mark Janus, who objects to paying about $44 per month in fair-share dues to the union that represents workers in his government office.

Janus argues that the collective bargaining process is, at its core, a political activity. He asserts that being compelled to support it with his fair-share dues violates his First Amendment free speech rights.

The court will soon hear oral arguments in the case. Before Justice Scalia’s death, it appeared the court was ready to rule against fair-share fees by a 5-4 vote. That may be the likely outcome this round.

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