We knew the Janus case was coming. Today the Supreme Court heard oral arguments. Remember, the public sector unions dodged a bullet back in 2016 when Justice Scalia died. The Supreme Court then split 4-4 on keeping agency fees (fees paid by non members) legal for unions in the Friedrichs case. After reading today's oral arguments in the nearly identical Janus case, I think I can say without too much reservation that things did not go well for the unions.
Unless there is a miracle, each one of us will get to decide if we want to pay union dues or not in the not too distant future. Make no mistake about it, the unions, whether we like the leadership or not, will be weakened.
Janus is arguing that paying union dues if he is not a union member is compelling him to associate against his will with an organization and thus speak against his will. This he claims violates his First Amendment rights. The unions counter that since non-members benefit from what unions do, they should have to pay for it. They cite Abood as a 1977 9-0 precedent where the Supreme Court said agency fees for non-union members were constitutional.
That was in a different time back in 1977. By getting soft and trying to play concessionary games with the powers that be, unions have gotten nowhere. Today just confirmed that.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote, lays out the conservative goals in this excerpt from today's oral argument from the SCOTUS blog that I think gets to the core of the matter.
When Illinois solicitor general David Franklin took his turn at the lectern, Kennedy – who is often regarded as a key vote in high-profile cases – left little doubt about where he stood. “What we are talking about here,” Kennedy said sternly, “is compelled justification and compelled subsidization of a private party, a private party that expresses political views constantly.” Later on, Kennedy asked attorney David Frederick, who appeared on behalf of the union, whether, if the unions lose, they “will have less political influence.” When Frederick answered “yes,” Kennedy shot back, “Isn’t that the end of this case?”
Unless Donald Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch is a closet liberal, this case is over and it's time to think about a post Janus world for government employees.
If you are hoping the unions lose so you can stop paying dues, all I can say is be careful what you wish for, you may very well get it.
Kennedy explained what this case is all about: decreasing working peoples' political influence.
For those who want to read the entire transcript of today's oral arguments, go here.