The Supreme Court could deal labor unions a severe blow in a case that puts non-member "fair share" fees at risk. The question was put on hold with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia but resurfaces next month when Justice Neil Gorsuch may provide the crucial fifth vote.
The conservative-leaning court could reverse a 1977 precedent that could allow those nonmembers to not be saddled with the fair share fees accessed to them, USA Today reported on Sunday.
The 1977 court ruling, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, said nonmembers did not have to pay for the union's political activities, but could be charged for collective bargaining efforts, USA Today said.
The Supreme Court has nibbled away at the 1977 ruling over the past six years. The New York Times said the same question was before the court in 2016 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, but the death of Scalia left the court in a 4-4 deadlock.
With Gorsuch replacing Scalia on the Supreme Court, many expect him to provide the fifth vote against the unions.
Daniel DiSalvo, a labor expert at the conservative Manhattan Institute, told the newspaper that public employee unions could lose from 10 percent to 30 percent of their membership and financing over time if they rule in favor of the current case.
The court will hear arguments in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees on Feb. 26.
The Times said in the current case before the court, Illinois state government employee Mark Janus, who is represented by AFSCME, sued the union, charging that he does not agree with its political positions and should not be forced to pay fees to support its work.
The Times said a ruling for Janus would highlight a long campaign by conservative organizations to weakening unions that represent public employees. Conservatives say the Janus ruling would end laws making nonunion members to pay into unions.
"We are now one step closer to freeing over five 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," Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which represents Mr. Janus, told the Times.
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