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Report: Supreme Court Janus Case Could Stop Forced Union Dues, But States Need Change to Members-Only Unions

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As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral argument in a lawsuit challenging forced union dues for public-sector workers, Janus v AFSCME Council 31, a new Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) report recommends a shift to members-only labor unions to bolster worker freedom and protect First Amendment rights.

“Teachers, librarians, firefighters, and other public-sector workers should have the right decide for themselves whether to join a union and pay dues,” said Trey Kovacs, CEI labor policy expert and author of the report. “In the Janus case, the Supreme Court should protect public employees’ right to free speech and strike down laws that force workers to fund political activities and candidates they disagree with.”

Though even if the Court rules against forced union dues, workers and unions may not be completely satisfied with the outcome. Non-members will still work under a union-negotiated agreement they may not want, and unions must still represent employees who do not pay dues. A policy of members-only unions would resolve this—empowering workers and making unions more accountable to the people they represent.

“In a system of voluntary union membership, a union would only represent, negotiate on behalf of, and collect dues from its own members, freeing non-members to negotiate a contract with a public employer that’s better tailored to their needs,” said Kovacs.

On February 26, the Supreme Court will hear the argument brought by Illinois state child support specialist Mark Janus, who is challenging his state’s law on agency fees for public-sector workers.

>> Read the full report: “Supreme Court Can Strike a Victory for Worker Freedom