Free speech: Supreme Court ends mandatory fees levied by unions

The U.S. Supreme Court weakened unions in ruling 5-4 that workers cannot be forced to pay fees for the costs of collective bargaining of public sector unions. An Illinois government employee objected to paying fees to his union arguing that that would violate his First Amendment rights by forcing him to support the union’s other stances. Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority, “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.” In dissent Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the decision prevents the public from participating in workplace decisions “by weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy.” (CNBC, June 27, 2018, by Tucker Higgins)

Alito wrote that the 1977 Abood decision upholding agency fees was wrong for a number of reasons, including for addressing conditions that no longer exist and for requiring an entire group of people to subsidize speech it may not subscribe to, citing the example that AARP  should not expect all elders to pay membership fees even if AARP lobbies for them. “In simple terms, the First Amendment does not permit the government to compel a person to pay for another party’s speech just because the government thinks that the speech furthers the interests of the person who does not want to pay.” (SCOTUSblog, June 27, 2018, by Amy Howe)

In Canada, the Supreme Court determined that workers’ freedom of association included the right to act collectively as in collective bargaining, but the Janus decision continues the U.S. Supreme Court’s history of restricting workers’ rights. A 1976 decision held that workers’ free speech rights were secondary to employers’ property rights, and a 2014 ruling allowing home care employees to avoid paying union fees foreshadowed the Janus decision. (The Washington Post, June 27, 2018, by Barry Eidlin and Charles W. Smith)

For prior FAC coverage on the issue, click here and here.

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