Unless an employee affirmatively consents to pay, agency fees nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s paycheck. In a 5-4 decision split down party lines, the United States Supreme Court overruled Abood v. Detriot Bd. of Ed. and held Illinois’ collection of agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment. In other words, it is now unconstitutional for States and public-sector unions to require workers who choose not to join the union, to pay fees covering union negotiation costs.
The decision comes just over two years after a previous challenge to Abood was unsuccessful. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, 578 U.S. ___ (2016) (per curiam), the Court split four to four after Justice Scalia’s death left it divided along party lines on the issue. A tied decision from the Supreme Court effectively affirms the decision of the court below. Remarkably, the same issue made it back to the Supreme Court in short time despite serious jurisdictional deficiencies.
Crabbe, Brown & James, representing the National Fraternal Order of Police, submitted an Amicus Brief on behalf of the Respondents. While the Janus decision may result in decreased union membership, it could simultaneously create stronger, more cohesive units. Moving forward, the challenge, as General Counsel to a public-sector union, is to devise alternative collective bargaining strategies to adapt to the new economic landscape without facilitating a decline in membership.
Read the Court’s full opinion here.
Read the National FOP’s Amicus Brief here.