US Supreme Court takes up dispute over public sector union fees


Protesters at the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, rally against a ‘right-to-work’ proposal, that would outlaw the mandatory payment of union dues. The US supreme court will now tackle the issue. Photograph: Steve Apps/AP

  • Case could ban unions from collecting fees from non-members
  • Unions by law must represent whole workforce

The US supreme court will consider limiting the power of government employee unions to collect fees from non-members in a case that labor officials say could threaten membership and further weaken union clout.

The justices said on Tuesday they will hear an appeal from a group of California teachers who say it violates their first amendment rights to have to pay any fees if they disagree with a union’s positions and do not want to join it.

The teachers want the court to overturn a 38-year-old legal precedent that said unions can require non-members to pay for bargaining costs as long as the fees do not go toward political purposes. Public workers in half the states are currently required to pay “fair share” fees if they are represented by a union, even if they are not members.

But the high court has raised doubts about the viability of that regime in two cases over the past four years. The court has stopped short of overturning the 1977 case, Abood v Detroit Board of Education case, but in a 5-4 opinion last year, Justice Samuel Alito called Abood “questionable on several grounds”.

Alito said a “bedrock principle” of the first amendment is that “no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support”.

Read more: US supreme court to hear challenge to financial basis of public-sector unions | US news | The Guardian

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