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BY: Bill McMorris
One of the nation's largest public sector unions defended mandatory unionism in a brief filed to the Supreme Court Friday.
Federation - State - County - Municipal - Employees
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 is fighting to maintain a government agency's right to mandate union dues or fee payments as a condition of employment. Several AFSCME members in Illinois have petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse court precedent set in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) on the grounds that they are being forced to subsidize political advocacy. Twenty-two states mandate those fee payments, while 26 prohibit such fees.
AFSCME said such payments are needed to prevent a free rider problem in which workers benefit from union organizing efforts and advantageous contracts, while refusing to pay for those services. Since union contract terms, including salaries and grievance procedures, extend to all workers in a bargaining unit, rather than just union members, it is only fair for workers to pay for union services. The union argues that disrupting the practice could threaten labor peace in the workforce.
Fees - First - Amendment - Court - Collection
"Though such fees implicate the First Amendment, the Court explained, collection of them is justified by States’ strong interest in promoting labor peace through collective bargaining and avoiding the ‘free rider' incentive that arises when non-member employees can avoid paying any fees while retaining the benefits of representation by an informed and expert agent," the brief says.
The union dismissed as "false" the plaintiff's argument that public sector labor organizations are inherently political because they make claims to taxpayer dollars and affect budgetary matters. It sought to draw a line between collective bargaining and lobbying by contrasting a government agency's approach to employees, rather than public citizens. The government is free to designate any group a representative of employees, while it is not free to suppress political...
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