Reprinted from nwLabor Press on January 3, 2017. It is unattributed.
The US Supreme Court has set February 26 as the date it will hear oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a lawsuit that seeks to declare it unconstitutional for any public employees to have to pay union dues. Last year, the Court split 4-4 on a similar case, Friedrichs v California Teachers Association. With the confirmation of Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, it’s considered likely that a 5-4 majority will rule in favor of plaintiff Mark Janus, overturning a unanimous 1977 US Supreme Court decision, and imposing a so-called “right-to-work” regime on all public employee workplaces nationwide. Right-to-work is the usual term for state laws that bar any collective bargaining agreement that requires union-represented workers to pay union dues.
On December 6, Trump Administration lawyers in the US Justice Department filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief arguing that in the public sector, “speech in collective bargaining is necessarily speech about public issues.”
“Virtually every matter at stake in a public-sector labor agreement … is a matter of public policy concerning all citizens,” wrote solicitor general Noel Francisco. [The office of the solicitor general represents the US government at the Supreme Court.] “To compel a public employee to subsidize his union’s bargaining position … is to force him to support private political and ideological viewpoints with which he may strongly disagree.” And that, the Trump Administration lawyer argues, would violate the First Amendment, which says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” The amicus brief is a reversal of the Obama Administration’s position on the issue. …