Fact sheet: Janus v. AFSCME Council 31
View AFSCME's video - "Janus v. AFSCME"
View AFSCME's video - "Union Fair Share Fees Explained"
Q: What is Janus v. AFSCME Council 31?A: Janus is a lawsuit bankrolled by a well-known pair of anti-union organizations, the The National Right to Work Foundation , and the right-wing Liberty Justice Center. The suit was filed on behalf of Mark Janus, a union-represented child support specialist in Illinois. The $71,000-per-year Illinois public sector worker doesn't think it's fair that he should have to pay fair share fees to AFSCME - the union that represents his bargaining unit.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case on Feb. 26, 2018. A ruling is expected later this year.
Q: What is the case about?A: The case challenges the right of public sector unions to collect fees - referred to as "agency fees" in New York - from anyone who benefits from collective bargaining. Janus questions the constitutionality of the concept of "fair share" - that everyone who enjoys benefits and protections of a negotiated contract should pay their fair share of the cost for that work.
Sound familiar? Janus is almost identical to 2016's failed Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a union-busting case that ended in a 4-4 deadlock after the unexpected death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.
But things have changed. In April 2017, the Republican-led Congress confirmed the very conservative Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointment, to the Supreme Court.
Just how conservative is Gorsuch? Well, Five Thirty Eight.com, a nationally known and respected website that highlights opinion poll analysis, politics, and economics, found that Gorsuch, during his first term on the court, positioned himself further to the right than Scalia, who many experts belive would have cast the deciding vote for Friedrics.
Q: Is there more to the story?A: So much more. Janus is the latest in a series of attempt by corporate CEOs and wealthy special interest groups aligned with union-busting billionaires - such as the Koch brothers - to break, split, damage and decimate public sector unions nationwide. The intent is to bankrupt unions by blocking their ability to collect agency fees, a major source of revenue. And that could happen if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Janus.
Strengthening and growing membership are the only ways UUP and other public sector unions can ensure they won't be weakened by a ruling for Janus . Joining and becoming active in your union is a sure-fire way to keep UUP vibrant and vital.
The union is for all of us, and it will take all of us to keep this union - and all that it stands for - strong and able to sustain the impact of a Supreme Court ruling for Janus. We can do it together! If you haven't joined, please consider joining now!
Q: I'm still a little confused by the details regarding agency fees and fair share.A: Here's how it works:
Unions negotiate significant benefits for workers; on average, unionized workers' wages are nearly 30 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts, according to the AFL-CIO. Unionized workers are 60 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions, and 80 percent of union workers have jobs with health insurance benefits. Unions also provide job protections and give workers a say in improving their jobs.
But unions are also required by law to bargain for all workers in their collective bargaining units, regardless of whether workers join the union. This creates "free riders" - people who receive the benefits of being in a union without paying for them. They would unfairly benefit from the gains won and services provided by the union - which would be paid for by union members.
With too many free riders, many unions would eventually run out of funds and fold. If that happens, workers would lose all the benefits negotiated by the union.
Agency fees level the playing field. Thanks to Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a landmark 1977 Supreme Court decision, workers who do not join their union must pay their share of collective bargaining costs. Fee payers contribute only toward the services that benefit them - such as higher salaries, health benefits, representation in disciplinary proceedings, job security and job protections.
Not surprisingly, public sector union workers in states like New York, which compels bargaining unit members to pay for union representation, make more their counterparts in so-called "right to work" states where workers can decline to join a union and don't have to pay fair share fees.
Q: I'm still confused about Abood.
In Abood, the court basically said that the government, as an employer, should prohibit free riders and should do so by charging fair share fees.
However, the Trump administration has a far different take. In a December 2017 Department of Justice supporting brief, the DOJ sees free-riders as "compelled riders" who, without choice, subsidize speech about "issues on which they may strongly disagree." They claim that's a First Amendment violation, the crux of the Janus case.
That premise carries many flawed assumptions, including that the First Amendment unequivocally bars the government from forcing Americans to subsidize speech they don't agree with. Yet, this happens all the time. Tax revenue is often used to push messages and expressions that some taxpayers disagree with, yet taxes are constitutional.
Also, the faulty assertion by the DOJ and Janus that all collective bargaining is "inherently political" surmises much. Terms and conditions of employment - from the length of a lunch break to workplace safety - are hardly political. In Janusworld, those that shun the union are forced to accept salary raises, health coverage, representation in grievance and discipline procedures, and many other concessions won by unions during collective bargaining.
In essence, they're saying that these so-called "compelled riders" must accept higher salaries and other benefits secured for them and all bargaining contract members by the big, bad union.
Q: Are fee payers required to join a union?A: Absolutely NOT. The law DOES NOT require fee payers to be union members. NO ONE can be forced to join a union or contribute dues to pay for political activities.
Q: I heard that unions routinely spend dues on political activities. Is this true?A: That is a LIE. Dues cannot be spent on political activities. It is ILLEGAL in New York for unions to collect and use union dues to support candidates or other political activities. Instead, unions collect voluntary donations for political action funds, like NYSUT's VOTE-COPE nonpartisan fund.
Q: So the allegations in Janus that it's unconstitutional for unions to collect agency fees are wrong?A: Correct. Fee payers only pay for services that benefit them - like salary increases, health benefits, job security and job protections. This is how the law protects the free speech and constitutional rights of those who decide not to join the union for political and other reasons.
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