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Supreme Court Case Is Threat to Public Unions

September 29, 2017
 
 

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that could limit the ability of public-sector unions to collect fees from nonmembers, The New York Times reported. The case does not center on higher education unions but has major implications for them: a decision in favor of the plaintiff, Mark Janus, who works for the state government of Illinois and does not wish to pay fees to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, could drastically limit revenue for unions at public institutions.

Janus’s was one of just 11 cases the justices added to their docket out of 2,000 petitions submitted over the summer break, according to the Times. The case resembles another involving a California teachers' union that was argued before the high court in early 2016, and which resulted in a 4-to-4 deadlock upon the death of the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. It is widely speculated that Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Scalia’s replacement and an appointee of the Trump administration, will cast a tie-breaking vote against the union position in the new case.

Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors, said in a co-authored statement Thursday that the organization plans to defend faculty unionization rights against Janus and other threats. "We are facing unprecedented attacks, through the courts and through legislation, on our freedom to join together in union and work together to set standards that create better universities and colleges," he said. "We anticipate submitting an amicus brief arguing that fair-share fees are constitutional. And our chapters will continue to organize to defend higher education as a public good."

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