Category Archives: Future of Unions

Nevada’s unions show how organized labor can flourish even after an adverse Supreme Court ruling

Source: Ruben J. Garcia, The Conversation, June 28, 2018

American labor unions have long been bracing for a “post-Janus” future in which collecting dues would be harder than ever.

The Janus case has been moving through the courts for two years and addresses the question of whether a public employee can be forced to pay dues to a union that represents him or her.

On June 27, the Supreme Court said no, which means the much-feared poorer future is now upon organized labor. While some pundits argue that this may “cripple” certain unions across the country, my research in Nevada suggests it doesn’t have to be that way.

Nevada unions have been operating under this very constraint for 65 years and yet have managed to thrive. As such, I believe they offer three important lessons for labor unions in other states as they grapple with an indisputably bleak legal environment…..

Janus v. Democracy

Source: Joseph A. McCartin, Dissent, June 27, 2018

The Janus decision is a significant setback for democracy. What should public-sector workers do now? …. By squelching democracy both at the polls and in the workplace, the Court has sown a bitter wind. Recent uprisings by teachers in states like Oklahoma and West Virginia, which already banned union fees, suggest that it might one day reap a whirlwind…..

6 excerpts that explain the Supreme Court’s big anti-union ruling

Source: Dylan Matthews, Vox, June 27, 2018

Janus v. AFSCME is a very, very big deal. ….

…. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued what is probably its single most consequential ruling of the year. Janus v. AFSCME is a devastating blow against public sector unions, barring them from charging “agency fees” to the public employees for whom they negotiate pay increases and benefit bumps if those employees decline to join the union as full members.

Now, teachers unions, police unions, and more will be forced to lobby public employees to pay full union dues, even though those employees will get the same benefits from the union if they pay nothing at all.

You can read our full explainer on the case here, but it’s worth diving into the actual language of Justice Samuel Alito’s 5-4 majority opinion and Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent in more detail to understand exactly why the Court decided to make the whole United States adopt a “right-to-work” policy when it comes to public employees.

1) The Court has overruled a decision it made in 1977 ….
2) The Court’s conservatives view making public employees pay agency fees as an unacceptable First Amendment violation ….
3) Alito doubts that this decision will hurt public-sector unions as much as they fear ….
4) Alito is deeply worried about the political economy effects of public unions ….
5) Public employee union membership has to be opt-in now, not opt-out ….
6) Kagan argues this ruling throws stare decisis out the window ….

Court Rules Against Unions in Janus

Source: Jeff Hirsch, Workplace Prof blog, June 27, 2018

The Supreme Court has just released its decision in Janus v. AFSCME. I’m not typically the best predictor of what the Court will do, but even I had this one called from the moment Justice Gorsuch was confirmed. The Court, in a 5-4 decision by Justice Alito, overruled its own Abood decision to hold that public-sector union fees are unconstitutional. I won’t repeat how we got to this point (although you can start at my earlier post on the Janus oral argument, which has links on the aborted Friedrichs case, as well as our coverage of 2014’s Harris v. Quinn, in which Alito made clear where he wanted to go on this issue), but the upshot is that public-sector unions nationwide must now operate on an opt-in basis for all union contributions—even contributions that go to core collective-representation services. In other words, the free rider issue that exists for the private sector in right-to-work states now exists for all public-sector workplaces.

The basis for the decision is that dissenting employees’ have a 1st Amendment right not to pay any funds to the union representing them—even for collective bargaining and other work that goes to the benefit of all unit employees. This follows the dicta in Harris, but is a clear departure from the Court’s public-sector employment jurisprudence, which does not look favorably on individual employees’ 1st Amendment claims. In particular, if this case didn’t involve unions, you would expect the Court to hold that concerns about dues paid to a third party are not matters of public concern. This result, to my mind, is the culmination of several related factors: in addition to the strong pro-business bent of this Court, we’ve seen public-sector unions becoming more powerful than their private-sector counterparts, while also becoming strongly aligned with one political party. This has occurred during a period of time in which political antagonism is on the rise and we’ve more jurists appear willing to join that battle. As a result, unions as a whole, but public-sector ones in particular, have been targeted both politically and legally. And they just took a massive loss at the Court today.

Janus, of course, is not the end (although some unions may feel like it right now). Here are some questions I have after the decision—please add more (or responses) in the comments: …..

The Face Behind the Case: Janus v. AFSCME, Dark Money, and the Future of Labor

Source: Mansoor Khan, Los Angeles Review of Books blog, June 3, 2018

…. For those of us in the labor movement, the claims made in Janus are not novel. They are the same ones the right has deployed for years as part of a well-orchestrated campaign to destroy the political clout of unions. All you have to do is follow the money and you will see that the National Right to Work Committee, which is bankrolling the Janus case, has deep connections to a network of right-wing organizations funded by the Koch Brothers and other aspiring corporate oligarchs. This network of right-wing non-profit organizations, which include the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council and State Policy Network, has been dedicated to legally and legislatively stymieing the political work of labor unions for years. ….

After Janus: The Impending Effects on Public Sector Workers from a Decision Against Fair Share

Source: Frank Manzo IV, Robert Bruno, Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class, Labor Education Program School of Labor and Employment Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, May 2018

The U.S. labor movement is bracing for a decision by the Supreme Court that could dramatically weaken public sector unions. The case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al., is expected to be decided in a vote against “fair share” fees in the public sector. The ruling would strike down a 41-year precedent (Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 1977) that requires public sector workers represented by a labor union to pay for the collective bargaining work that the union performs on their behalf.

If the Court strikes down Abood, workers would be able to “free ride” and receive services, benefits, and representation from unions without paying for them in the form of fair share fees or membership dues. This would impact at least 5 million state and local government employees represented by collective bargaining agreements in 23 collective bargaining states and the District of Columbia.

This report examines the economic impact of effectively instituting so-called “right-to-work” conditions in the public sector across America.

After Janus: A new era of teachers union activism

Source: Bradley D. Marianno and Katharine Strunk, Education Next, Vol. 18 no. 4, Fall 2018

…. Speculation about what a Janus ruling in favor of the plaintiffs will mean for teachers unions has been rampant. Many, if not most, of the analysts who follow education policy and organized labor believe that the ruling will result in decreased power for teachers unions. The logic behind this assumption is simple: teachers unions will lose dues revenue because membership will decrease and former agency-fee payers will cease paying fees for union services. With fewer resources, teachers unions will have less ability to exert their influence in local, state, and federal elections and at the bargaining table. Fewer members, less money, less power. Right?

Not necessarily. Agency fees have been challenged at the state level over the past decade, and two states recently stopped allowing unions to collect them: Wisconsin and Michigan. The passage of those Right-to-Work laws may have caught state affiliates by surprise, unlike the widely anticipated Janus ruling. Even so, a close look at Wisconsin and Michigan may provide important clues about the future of teachers unions in a post-Janus world. ….

Could Originalism Save Public Sector Unions?

Source: Maddy Joseph, On Labor blog, June 7, 2018

Justice Gorsuch’s silence during the Janus oral argument generated considerable buzz. Wishful (yet tentative) commentators hoped the silence was a sign that the new Justice’s originalism would lead him to uphold Abood. To be sure, Justice Thomas, the Court’s other steadfast originalist, voted with the majority in Harris. And commentators have largely assumed that both Justices will vote with Janus here. But winning over either Justice Gorsuch or Justice Thomas could be Abood’s best hope for survival. ….