The Illinois FOP Labor Council

The Labor Council provides full union representation: negotiating and enforcing contracts, improving salaries, working conditions, and benefits for law enforcement professionals throughout Illinois. Our members are protected 24 hours a day by a staff of full-time, in-house attorneys and field representatives who have a proven track record of winning.

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By John Roche, Attorney - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

 

            The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case that could have broad and negative implications for public sector unions. The Court agreed to hear Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, (“AFSCME”) No 16-1466 to determine whether public sector unions may require employees who are not members to help pay for the cost of collective bargaining. 

            This issue has been pursued and financed by highly organized and well-funded anti-union groups who seek to deprive public sector unions of their ability to finance the cost of collective bargaining by denying unions the ability to collect the fair share of the costs of representing the bargaining unit members.

            The Janus case comes out of Illinois and was originally filed by Governor Bruce Rauner. Governor Rauner filed the suit against all of the public sector unions in Illinois, including the IFOP Labor Council. Governor Rauner was quickly dismissed from the case because he lacked standing to bring the matter. A replacement plaintiff was quickly found. Mark Janus, a State of Illinois employee who works in an AFSCME bargaining unit, stepped in as the new plaintiff. Janus argues, as originally argued by Governor Rauner, that requiring him to pay anything for the costs of collective bargaining violates his First Amendment right. 

            Under the law, unions must represent all employees in the bargaining unit whether or not those employees are union members. Under Illinois law (and the laws of many States that permit public sector bargaining), unions are permitted to charge non-member bargaining unit employees the cost of the “fair share” of collective bargaining, which is less than the amount of full union dues. Such requirements are designed to protect union members from “free riders,” i.e., those employees who would let their fellow employees who are union members pay the full amount of the costs of collective bargaining while the non-union members pay nothing. In addition to rights under Illinois law, bargaining union members who are not union members are required to pay their “fair share” based on the 1977 U.S. Supreme Court case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. This has been the law of the land since 1977. In recent years, some conservative Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court implied a willingness to overturn Abood. A case similar to Janus, but out of California, had worked its way to the Court in 2015 and the Court appeared evenly split on whether to overturn Abood, with conservative Justice Scalia being the deciding vote. Based on his questioning during oral argument, it was widely believed that he would vote to overturn Abood. Justice Scalia suddenly passed away before he could vote and the Court was evenly split 4 to 4 on the issue. Abood was, therefore, not overturned. With the Court now fully constituted with the appointment of Justice Gorsuch, the full court will take up the Janus case in the coming year.

            Should Abood be overturned, public sector unions with low union membership will be financially crushed.  All public sector unions will be severely challenged at a time when well organized, highly funded groups continue their onslaught on employee rights. If so, public sector employees must redouble their resolve to unite and fight for their rights.