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02 March 2018, 04:49 | Christie Tate
Jonathan Alcorn Reuters
Union members cheer during a AFSCME rally at Mac Arthur Park in Los Angeles
JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS/NewscomMark Janus remembers getting his first pay check from the Illinois Department of Public Health, where he works as a bookkeeper, and wondering about the $50 fee deducted to pay dues to a union he'd never agreed to join.
A case that was heard Monday in the US Supreme Court and to be decided later on this year could have a big impact on public worker unions in NY.
Demonstrators on both sides protested outside the Supreme Court Monday as the justices considered the constitutionality of requiring non-union members to pay fees to public employee unions.
The case was a challenge to an IL law that requires government workers who choose not to join unions to "pay their proportionate share of the costs of the collective bargaining process, contract administration and pursuing matters affecting wages, hours and other conditions of employment".
He said the union uses his monthly fees "to promote an agenda I don't support", objecting to the legislation supported by the union's lobbying arm and politicians supported by its political arm.
During the case in 2016, the 325,000-member California Teachers Association warned that tens of thousands of contracts governing millions of workers nationwide could be thrown into disarray if the Supreme Court upended fair-share fees. She said contracts would have to be redone in 23 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico because laws on the issue in those jurisdictions would then become unconstitutional.
Pro-union speakers said they are not confident of a victory at the Supreme Court, which is ruled by a conservative majority of five justices.
For obvious reasons, that means all eyes in this case will be fixed on the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch.
He went on: "I'm asking you whether or not in your view, if you do not prevail in this case, the unions will have less political influence; yes or no?"
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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is surrounded by leaders of the striking sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968
Worthington says it's too early to write off the power of workers coming together to bargain for equitable conditions, and points to a list of advances made possible by unions, including child labor laws and weekends. "But I don't want to pay a union to do so", Janus said in a February 26 essay in USA Today.
They got support from Justice Samuel Alito, who said that "throughout history many people have drawn a line between a restriction on their speech and compelled speech".
Green also argues, whether they like it or not, Janus and others benefit from what unions do for them, and still will even if they don't pay dues. Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, who did most of the talking in support of the mandatory fees, grasped at straws rather than confronting head-on the free-speech rights of public employees like teachers, police officers and firefighters.
"I truly believe that working people understand the benefit of unions and why unions matters", he said.
Frederick told reporters afterward that Gorsuch appeared attentive during his oral argument and took notes, which he considers a good sign.
His case, which is being backed by the anti-union National Right to Work Foundation, is part of a decades-long offensive against labor representation by conservative organizations.
"Property and contract rights, the statutes of many states and the livelihoods of millions of individuals affected all at once", she said.
In advance of a similar Supreme Court case two years ago, the unions embarked on a campaign to make the case to members about why they should pay dues voluntarily.
"When have we ever done something like that?"
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