The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Janus v. American Federation of State, Municipal, and County Employees (AFSCME), a case that could threaten the future of state and local public-sector unions. The issue at hand involves the fees that public-sector unions collect from nonmembers for the purposes of covering the cost of collective bargaining actions. The plaintiff, Mark Janus an Illinois state employee, argues such actions are coerced speech that violate his First Amendment rights and is seeking to overturn a decades-old precedent.
Oral arguments were previously made back in 2016. The ruling at the time came to a four-four deadlock due to the subsequent death of Justice Antonin Scalia. With Justice Neil Gorsuch now on the bench, the arguments were brought forward again in a new case. The debates within the courtroom saw no evidence of evolving positions from the original eight justices while Justice Gorsuch remained silent the entire time, giving no indication of his position on the matter.
It was expected that Justice Scalia would have ruled against union fees, and many suspect the same from Justice Gorsuch despite his silence today. Such a ruling would be a serious blow to the unions that represent teachers and other public-sector employees at the state and local levels, however, we likely will have to wait until the end of June to find out whether the Court was swayed one way or the other.
NALC will keep its members up to date with the latest on this important case as it develops.