Free Speech Implodes Forced Union Fees (Liberty Counsel)

Jun 27, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In another major victory for free speech, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today in Janus v. AFSCME that nonunion workers cannot be forced to pay fees to public sector unions. Those fees, approved by the court in the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, cover collective bargaining costs, such as contract negotiations for better wages, but are meant to exclude political advocacy. However, the unions were also using them to support political activity, and employees were forced to support ideologies that were against their sincerely held beliefs. Today, the Court reversed the Abood case and struck down forced union fees for public sector unions.

The plaintiff, Mark Janus, an employee at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Human Services, argued that having to pay the fees violates the First Amendment and asked the Court to overrule the 40-year-old Supreme Court decision. He argued that there was little distinction, for instance, between requiring employees to fund unions that engage in political lobbying and requiring them to fund political groups such as the Democratic Party. In 22 states, including Illinois, government workers can opt out of joining a union. However, they must pay a “fair share” fee to cover costs for representing them, excluding union political or lobbying expenses.

Today the Court agreed, ruling for the employee and against the union. Justice Samuel Alito authored the opinion and wrote, “States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees. Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned.”

“Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of free speech for America’s government employees,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Employees should never be forced to support ideologies and groups that are against their sincerely held beliefs. Americans have a great reason to celebrate another Supreme Court decision in favor of free speech this week,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.