In the winter of 2016, I posted an article warning about the possibility of a Supreme Court case that would greatly affect MMA's ability to financially support itself, by eliminating the ability to charge non-members of the bargaining group a fair-share of the costs of their representation. This case was argued in front of the Supreme Court, but because of the unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the decision was a tied vote, which essentially preserved the status quo.
Now, here we are, a year and a half later and back in essentially the same situation. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new case on the same subject, with a replacement for Justice Scalia in place. The new case is from Illinois. An AFSCME member, Mark Janus, is claiming that paying money to a union so that the union can represent him for discipline purposes and argue for reasonable wage increases, is an unconstitutional limit on his free speech, because he might not want the Government to spend more money on his wages. If you are asking yourself, 'What government employee wouldn't want a reasonable wage increase?', you are asking the right question. This fight, this case, last year's case, and the war on unions, is not about what is fair for union members, it is about political power.
AFSCME is properly arguing that, as previous court cases have held, any possible effect on his constitutional rights, is greatly outweighed by the "free rider" problem, that results when a union is forced to represent for discipline and wages all members of the bargaining unit, but then cannot charge for the cost of such services. This will slowly drain the financial resources of unions and thus their ability to represent members, greatly harming the core ability of collective bargaining statutes that were designed to promote labor peace.
Although you can never predict 100% what the outcome of any fight will be, especially Supreme Court cases, we can make a pretty good guess. Based on the make up of the court and subtle signs in recent decisions, most experts in this area predict that Unions will lose this case. If that is the case, this spring when the decision is released, the ability to charge bargaining unit members for fair-share fees will go away.
So now is the time to support your union.
Support MMA by:
- Reading this article.
- Joining MMA if you haven't, and educating your peers on the issue.
- Getting involved. Reading emails, going to MMA meetings, and voting!