In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled today that the State of Illinois’ extraction of agency fees from non-consenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment.
The decision, in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-1466_2b3j.pdf, was released after much speculation on both the outcome and its ultimate impact on public-sector unions. Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the court, which noted that its previous justifications for agency fees, promoting labor peace and avoiding the risk of “free riders,” came at a time when public-sector unionism was a relatively new phenomenon. However, public-sector unionism has now surpassed that in the private sector.
The court concluded by stating: “States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees. The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”
The impact on many school districts is immediate – fair share fees can no longer legally be deducted from non-members’ pay. Not all schools in Ohio have fair share fee provisions in their contracts. Those that do should have received information from their unions about stopping such deductions.
Districts should contact their legal counsel with questions regarding the impact this result might have on other contract provisions.