Supreme Court to hear major challenge to public-sector unions


A federal judge said Rauner didn't have the legal right to challenge the IL law, leaving the employees to press ahead with the case.

The case is brought by Mark Janus, an IL public sector employee, who says the fees violate his First Amendment rights. He sued the union, saying he does not agree with its positions and should not be forced to pay fees to support its work. He was one of three employees who took over a lawsuit originally filed by Illinois' Republican governor, Bruce Rauner.

Pennsylvania's highest court on Thursday revived a lawsuit that claims the state is failing in its obligation to students, a case that could eventually have a dramatic effect on the shape of public education in the state.

Public employees who do not belong to the union can not be required to pay fees the union would use for political activity like lobbying or union organizing.

IL employee Mark Janus contends he shouldn't have to pay the fees because he is forced to support the speech of a union bargaining representative who is negotiating on political issues such as wages, pensions and benefits.

"The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people", leading public-sectors unions including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is the defendant in the case, said in a joint statement.

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"Janus and millions of other public employees are effectively being required to support a government-appointed lobbyist", his lawyers at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation argued in the appeal. In 2016, a suit brought by California teachers was nearly universally expected to produce a full-on reversal of the 1977 holding, but the death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the Court deadlocked 4-4 on the case, leaving a circuit court decision in favor of the union in place.

The 1977 decision by the Supreme Court in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education held that government had an interest in promoting "labor peace" and preventing free-riding by employees. After Scalia died, the court in March issued a one-sentence order indicating they had split 4-4 on the issue, so the lower court's ruling in favor of the teachers' union would remain in force. Non-members can then seek a refund of the portion the union spent on lobbying and activities unrelated to collective bargaining or contract administration.

"The billionaire CEOs and corporate interests behind this case, and the politicians who do their bidding, have teamed up to deliver yet another attack on working people by striking at the freedom to come together in strong unions".

The case is Janus v. AFSCME Council 31.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman in Chicago dismissed Rauner's complaint, ruling that the governor had no legal standing to bring the case and that the court lacked jurisdiction to decide the matter.

The justices are likely to hear oral arguments in early 2018.