However, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois took a different view, saying he finds it “encouraging” that the Supreme Court “upholds the right to be free from coercion in speech.”
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It is encouraging that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFCSME upholds the right to be free from coercion in speech. No longer will public sector employees be required pay dues to support unions that promote abortion and other political issues with which they disagree.</p>— Bishop Paprocki (@BishopPaprocki) <a href="https://twitter.com/BishopPaprocki/status/1012363223377563648?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 28, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Commenting in a June 28 post on Twitter, Paprocki, depicting the agency fees as dues, said that “no longer will public sector employees be required pay dues to support unions that promote abortion and other political issues with which they disagree.”
The 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME struck down a 1997 Illinois law that required non-union workers to pay fees for collective bargaining.
The plaintiff in the case, Mark Janus, is an Illinois state employee who sued the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). He contended that mandatory “agency fees” paid to the union for contract negotiations violate his free speech because the union takes actions with which he does not agree, the Washington Post reports.
These fees are not used for political purposes, but his lawyers argue that the unions’ lobbying efforts are political acts.
In a Feb. 26 essay in USA Today, Janus said the union uses his monthly fees “to promote an agenda I don’t support.” He objected to the legislation supported by the union’s lobbying arm and to politicians supported by its political arm.
The court considered the constitutionality of “fair share” or “agency” fees, SCOTUSblog reporter Amy Howe said in a June 27 opinion analysis. The decision overturned the 1977 ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.
The majority opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, ruled that the mandatory agency fees violate the First Amendment. The fees mean public employees who are not union members pay for “unspecified” lobbying expenses and other services that may benefit them. This purpose is “broad enough to encompass just about anything that the union might choose to do” and if a non-member wanted to challenge a fee it would be a “laborious and difficult task” given that it is hard to distinguish what expenses non-members are required to pay and which they are not.
Alito said that the legal and economic environment has changed, with public spending, including public employee wages, benefits and pensions, showing “mounting costs.” These changes give collective bargaining a political significance that might not have been present when such fees were upheld by the Supreme Court.
Despite burdens on unions, Alito said, there have been “many billions of dollars” taken from non-members and transferred to public sector unions “in violation of the First Amendment.”
Justice Elena Kagan, who authored the main dissent, said previous legal precedent “struck a stable balance between public employees’ First Amendment rights and government entities’ interests in running their workforces as they thought proper.” Over 20 states have statutory schemes based on the precedent, she said, charging that the majority of justices acted “with no real clue of what will happen next – of how its action will alter public-sector labor relations.”
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“It does so even though the government services affected – policing, firefighting, teaching, transportation, sanitation (and more) – affect the quality of life of tens of millions of Americans,” Kagan said.
Janus was represented by the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
His case also had the support of the Becket Fund, whose own amicus brief argued that allowing government workers to opt-out of mandatory union payments protects their freedom of speech and religious freedom.
The legal group, which focuses on religious liberty concerns, argued that giving power to unions to force employees to support speech with which they disagree was a form of “coercion laundering” in which the law uses non-government organizations to coerce.
In a case summary on its website, Becket said the case could have ramifications for religious colleges and universities under private accrediting agencies that could use delegated government authority to infringe on their religious speech and practices.
The Office of General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops filed its own amicus brief in the case. It said that “right-to-work” laws eliminate the clauses that prevent “free riders” who benefit from union contracts without paying for union membership. Eliminating these clauses “dramatically weakens” unions and their bargaining power on workers’ behalf, the brief objected.