Public employee unions defy Supreme Court

  • 5 September 2018
  • NormanL

In June, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that banned public employee unions form collecting fees from non-union members. The decision sent shock waves through union headquarters across the country. No longer would they be able to reap hundreds of millions of dollars per year from non-members -- money the unions could and did use to further their political agendas.

But it appears some unions are ignoring the Court's decision, with the help of state governments:

Take the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 521, a San Jose–based group representing some 40,000 workers in California's Central Valley. It has exclusive collective bargaining rights for workers in the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (SCTA). Like most unions in the pre-Janus days, its contract requires SCVTA employees to pay dues even if they do not choose to join the union, though non-members pay a lower cost "agency fee" instead of full dues.

Those "agency fee" payments were the centerpiece of the Supreme Court's ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The court held that unions can no longer collect those fees from non-members.

"Public employees are forced to subsi­dize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bar­gaining and related activities," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. "We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmem­bers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern."

Yet for some reason, SEIU Local 521 is still collecting agency fees from SCVTA employees. William Hough, for example, has worked at the SCVTA since 2005 but refrained from joining the union. Now he's the lead plaintiff in a class action suit seeking to stop the union from collecting those fees without nonmembers' consent. He also wants a refund of all agency fees previously collected.

According to Ballotpedia, California's legislature is approving bills to shield its public sector unions from lawsuits -- including ones already filed in court.

This tells us the unions, and their political allies, aren't going to take the Supreme Court ruling lying down. They are going to fight on because of the amount of money -- and political power -- at stake. Some may call this a form of resistance. We think it's more of a lawless cash grab.