Tim Pearce, DCNF
Public-sector unions may lose around 400,000 fee paying members after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that forced agency fees are unconstitutional, The Washington Free Beacon reports.
The court’s 5-4 decision potentially affects about 5 million public-sector workers paying union fees, whether or not the worker is a member of the union. Agency fees, a due payed to unions to cover the cost of representation, were required from many workers in specific, public-sector occupations and workplaces.
Prior to the court ruling, the mandatory fees were protected by law to limit free riders, or workers who don’t pay fees but benefit from a union’s collective bargaining.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees, National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers are some of the largest public-sector unions in the U.S., and they represent roughly 400,000 non-member, agency fee payers nationwide, according to 2017 labor filings reviewed by the Free Beacon.
Though some of the agency fee payers likely live in states that have outlawed mandatory dues, the SCOTUS ruling applies to 22 states that had not passed right-to-work protections for public-sector employees.
The expected worker exodus could have potentially devastating effects on local union shops and cut deeply into the funding base of national organizations.
“The ruling will decrease the funds available for unions, so we’ll see a rash of layoffs within the unions themselves. That’s going to lead to a decrease in the advocacy,” Fisher Phillips management-side attorney Todd Lyon told the Free Beacon. “There’s going to be a decrease in the political activity.”
The courts may force unions to pay back millions to workers who have been forced to pay union fees for years, violating the workers’ right to free speech by funding activity they do not agree with.
SCOTUS ordered a district court to reconsider a ruling in Riffey v. Rauner, a case in which a group of Illinois home care providers sought to recover $32 million in forced dues from SEIU. The district court ruled against the workers in June 2016, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision.
If the ruling is reversed and the precedent set, many more workers may follow suit and sue unions they were force to pay into for years, costing the unions an untold amount of money.