PERSPECTIVE: Supreme Court hands public unions their lunch

The Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a 41-year-old decision by a vote of 5–4 dealing a huge blow to non-federal, public-sector unions and the power of collective bargaining across the country.

The ruling effectively overturns the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which set a precedent for allowing state and municipal unions to require fees be paid by all employees. Abood ultimately led to a lawsuit in which the plaintiff, Mark Janus, argued such a practice violated his First Amendment rights. Janus claims he was forced to pay monthly dues, even as a nonmember, whether he agreed with the union or not.

Forcing state or municipal employees to pay an organization that participates in advocacy of public issues and donates to political parties was clearly not viewed the same this week as it was four decades ago.

Unions are already anticipating significant losses. Initial estimates show that with employees now being given the choice to contribute from their pay, organizations effected stand to lose in the ballpark of 730,000 members, creating cash flow problems that will lead to less significant political contributions.

Less contributions will further diminish the already struggling political advocacy efforts and clout on Capitol Hill and state capitols around the country. The Supreme Court has effectively put an end to state-sanctioned political coffer stuffing and required consent of those who may potentially finance such efforts.

Following the decision, the United Automobile Workers, as well as the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions, swiftly rebuked the ruling claiming an attack on Americans’ collective bargaining rights.

The dissenting opinion by Justice Elena Kagan stated the ruling was “weaponizing the First Amendment, in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy.”

“No recent developments have eroded its underpinnings,” Kagan wrote of the 1977 Abood decison. “And it is deeply entrenched, in both the law and the real world. More than 20 States have statutory schemes built on the decision. Those laws underpin thousands of ongoing contracts involving millions of employees.”

Kagan was joined along partisan lines by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Bryer.

Analysis

As the hits kept coming this week for liberals on the Supreme Court it was announced later Wednesday Justice Anthony Kennedy would be retiring at the end of July. Kennedy has long been thought of as a swing vote and a life raft to the liberal justices on some major issues.

President Trump will likely appoint another justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas — a pro-life, strict constitutionalist that will not legislate from the bench. Chances are the pick will be relatively young thereby allowing Trump to effectively shape the Supreme Court for decades to come. According to Axios, the president is favoring five judicial candidates in particular, ranging from 46–53 years of age.

The hard truth is that the chances of a revival to union dominance are as likely as Jimmy Hoffa resurfacing to lead the movement himself. The injured party in Janus v. AFSCME had legal standing due to a $45 per month fee, but has morphed into the probable end of major unions as a force in America’s political landscape.

Justice Neil Gorsuch was the beginning of the end for what was left of the era of strong organized labor in America. With a Kennedy replacement nominee on the horizon, public unions are left to watch in horror as the troops try desperately to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.

[NBC News] [Politico] [CNBC] [Jacquelyn Martin/AP via USA Today]

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