California’s public employee unions were handed a serious blow in a Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that forbids them from collecting fees from workers who benefit from their representation but do not want to join them.
In a 5 to 4 ruling, the court determined that public sector unions’ so-called “fair share” fees violate “the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”
The decision in Janus vs. AFSCME effectively makes California a “right to work” state, ending a 41-year precedent that allowed public sector unions to levy these fees on workers who don’t belong to labor organizations.
To unions, the fees ensured that employees don’t get a “free ride” by gaining raises and representation in workplace disputes without paying for those services.
But to critics inside and outside labor groups, the fees trampled the First Amendment rights of workers who believed the charges subsidized inherently political organizations that they opposed.