U.S. Supreme Court Decision Impacts Municipal “Fair Share” Union Fees

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a highly anticipated decision in Janus v. AFSCME.  In Janus, the court held 5-4 that state statutes allowing public sector employers and unions to agree to impose “fair share” fees on employees who don’t join the union violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Maine is one of more than 20 states that authorize imposition of “fair share” service fees on public sector employees. The Janus decision overrules a 1977 decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the Court allowed “agency shop” arrangements where public employees who do not join the union were still required to pay their “fair share” of union dues for collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment. However, in this week’s Janus  decision the Court concluded that the “First Amendment does not permit the government to compel a person to pay for another party’s speech just because the government thinks that the speech furthers the interests of the person who does not want to pay.”  Municipal employers that have contract provisions relating to “fair share” service fees should immediately suspend deduction of those fees from employees who are mandated to pay them. Employers should also immediately consult their legal counsel to review applicable contract provisions and discuss next steps to comply with the Court’s decision.

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