4 Things Every School Administrator Should Know About the Supreme Court's New Collective Bargaining Decision

Scott Swier
Founding Member, Attorney At Law

 

Last week, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The case involved a lawsuit brought by an Illinois public employee, Mark Janus, challenging a union's right to collect dues and fees (so-called fair share provisions), against the employee’s will. Mr. Janus claimed that compelling him to pay the union dues and fees when he did not join and strongly objected to the positions the union took in collective bargaining violated his First Amendment rights. The High Court agreed.

Here are 4 things every South Dakota school administrator should know about this case.

1. What was the Janus case about?

This case involved a lawsuit brought by an Illinois public employee, Mark Janus, challenging a union’s right to collect dues and fees (so-called fair share provisions), against the employee's will. Janus claimed that compelling him to pay the union dues and fees when he did not join and strongly objected to the positions the union took in collective bargaining and related activities violated his First Amendment rights.

2. What was the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus?

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court decided “The State’s extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public sector employees violates the First Amendment.” In short, the Court ruled that employees cannot be compelled to pay union dues or fees, because doing so violates the free speech rights of the employee by compelling him/her to subsidize the union’s “private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”

3. Is there a distinction between union "fees" and union "dues"?

Yes. "Dues" are generally the monies paid by members to a union for representation in collective bargaining matters. "Fees" are monies paid by members for other purposes, including political purposes. Dues and fees are part of so-called “fair share” provisions in collective bargaining agreements.

For purposes of the Court’s ruling in Janus, there is no distinction between dues and fees. Employees cannot be compelled to authorize deductions (whether dues or fees) from their pay to a union.

4. Will unions still be required to represent and provide other benefits to district employees who have chosen not to join those unions?

Yes. Unions will be required to represent and provide other benefits to district employees who have chosen not to join them. The Janus opinion clearly states that a union’s duty of fair representation is a necessary part of the authority that it seeks when it chooses to be the exclusive [bargaining] representative. Therefore, it has the duty to represent non-members, as well as members, even though non-members will no longer be required to pay agency fees.

Source: National School Boards Association - Council of School Attorneys