Supreme Court Decision on Public Employee Fees Case

June 27, 2018

The Supreme Court today handed down a far-reaching decision in the Janus case, in which Janus challenged the right of public sector unions to collect mandatory fees from public workers who objected to the payment of the fees as an infringement of First Amendment rights.

The Court held for Janus, holding not only that the collection of mandatory fees infringed on public employees’ free speech rights, but that the unions could no longer collect fees “unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”  In other words, employees who wish to pay fees must opt in rather than requiring those who do not wish to pay to opt out.

This is a huge decision in which the current Court overturned the 1977 Supreme Court decision in the Abood case, in which they declined to recognize that compulsory dues/fees constituted an infringement on free speech rights.   Public Sector unions are almost certain to lose both members and significant dues revenue; the National Education Association has announced that it expects to lose 300,000 members.

Today’s rulings mark the end of the Supreme Court session until they return in October.  Overall the Court rulings this term have demonstrated judicial conservativism.