By Kim Crockett
Oct. 2, 2017
The Supreme Court has only just announced it will hear Mark Janus’s case, but labor unions are already acting as if they’ve lost. Mr. Janus, a state employee in Illinois, wants to stop paying union “fair share” fees, which ostensibly cover the cost of collective bargaining. If he wins, public workers in states like Illinois, California and Minnesota—which don’t have “right to work” laws—could be freed to keep their money if their union isn’t delivering value.
Mr. Janus’s case is similar to one the justices heard last year involving a California teacher named Rebecca Friedrichs. Her argument was simple: Because collective bargaining with the government is inherently political, forcing her to fund it violated her First Amendment rights. A 5-4 majority of the justices appeared to agree, and seasoned court observers were confident Ms. Friedrichs had won. But then Justice Antonin Scalia died, and the final vote was a 4-4 tie.
Which brings us back to the current case, Janus v. Afscme. Now that Scalia has been replaced by the like-minded Justice Neil Gorsuch, at least some unions are preparing to lose. Consider Education Minnesota, my home state’s National Education Association affiliate.
As teachers settle into a new school year, they will be shown a video featuring Education Minnesota’s president, Denise Specht, asking them to sign a “membership renewal” card. The union has already filled out cards for all of the state’s 86,000 teachers, who are asked merely to add their signatures. One union representative told me the renewal form is being distributed in anticipation of Janus.