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Supreme Court takes case that could hit California public employee unions

01 October 2017, 12:23 | Tara Lloyd

Supreme Court takes case that could hit California public employee unions

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"With the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the Janus case, we are now one step closer to freeing over 5 million public-sector teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other employees from the injustice of being forced to subsidize a union as a condition of working for their own government", Mix said.

"Janus" is Mark Janus, an IL state employee who argues that he should not have to pay dues to the union to which he does not belong even if it represents him. Currently, public-sector unions in 22 states are permitted to collect fees from workers who aren't members. Back then, the Court ruled that government workers could be required to pay their share of the costs of their unions' core activities, such as handling contract negotiations and grievances.

However, the organizations representing Janus have said they intend to ask a new conservative-majority court to overturn the existing precedent first established in the Supreme Court's 1977 ruling in Abood v Detroit Board of Education, which had allowed the collection of the so-called "fair share" fees.

In Friedrichs, decided a year ago, the Court split 4-4 following the death of Justice Scalia, and therefore left standing a 9th Circuit decision adverse to the plaintiff, a California school teacher.

Union officials said they view the case as an attack. The result is that public employees can be required to pay an "agency fee", but not the full union dues, which can include money used for campaign donations.

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Labor unions and their supporters argue that optional dues encourage workers to free-ride.

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On Thursday he told an Illinois Chamber of Commerce luncheon that he planned to veto the bill, and he alluded to the court challenge that is underway.

One case the court will consider comes from Pennsylvania and involves a man who drove a vehicle rented by his girlfriend.

But President Donald Trump's conservative pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch, has since filled the vacant seat, and he is expected to bring the long-awaited fifth conservative vote that could strike a death blow to public-employee unions. Also on the agenda are cases involving employees' rights to unite over workplace disputes, and states' rights to allow betting on professional and college sporting events. That would mean that public sector employees could still benefit from the services of a union without having to pay for them. The issue to watch: Can the Supreme Court devise a formula to reduce or eliminate partisan gerrymandering?

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Instead, it'll be a case filed by Mark Janus, an IL child protection specialist, that will make history for its role in determining the future strength of public sector unions, or the weakness of them.

A federal judge tossed out the governor's suit and said he had no standing to sue because he did not pay the fees.

Traditionally, labor unions in America - in both the public and private sectors - have been the "exclusive representatives" of the "bargaining units" that elected them.

Congressional Republicans have also introduced a bill aimed at making union dues and fees optional for all workers.

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