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U.S. Supreme Court Ends Mandatory Public Union Fees

A law in Illinois required all public sector employees to pay some dues to the union negotiating a collective bargaining agreement on behalf of those employees. Employees choosing not to join the union were required to pay a smaller amount. The partial fees, also known as “fair share fees,” paid by non-joining employees could not be used to pay for expenses related to political matters but could be used to cover collective bargaining costs. This requirement was held to be lawful by a U.S. Supreme Court case in 1977.
Mark Janus, a state of Illinois employee, argued that the mandated financial support of the union violated his First Amendment rights. He did not agree with some of the public policy positions taken by the union. By a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled itself and agreed with Mr. Janus. Public sector unions violate the First Amendment by automatically taking fees from “nonconsenting” employees. Calling it the “compelled subsidization of private speech” for entities that are inherently political, the Supreme Court held that a First Amendment violation occurs by forcing all employees via fees to endorse union policy choices that they may find objectionable.
Fair share provisions, still present in 22 states, must now be set aside. Public-sector employees must affirmatively agree to pay fees.