Select Page

On Monday, February 26, 2018, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. Many expect SCOTUS to rule 5-4 to overturn Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ., 431 U.S. 209 (1977).

Abood allows unions to collect fair share fees.  However, the fair share fees cannot:

  1. be expanded to enable the union to use a portion of them “for the expression of political views, on behalf to political candidates, or
  2. toward the advancement of ideological causes not germane to [the union’s] duties as collective bargaining representative.” Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, 851 F.3d 746, 747 (7th Cir. 2017), citing, Abood, 431 U.S. 235-36.

The issue in Janus, is an employee’s First Amendment Rights.  If employees “who disagreed with the political views embraced by the union” were forced to “be unwilling contributors to expenditures for political views” they disagreed with, the law requiring those contributions would infringe on free speech. Janus, 851 D.3d at 747.

One of the front lines in the ongoing litigation between public employers and unions about dues and fair share fees is Lincolnshire, Illinois. As we mentioned two days ago, Lincolnshire passed a right-to-work ordinance in 2015. Four unions filed suit and the case is on its way to the Seventh Circuit. As if in anticipation of the oral argument in Janus, the Unions struck back in the Northern District of Illinois on February 21, 2018.

Dixon O’Brien and Operating Engineers Local 150 filed a lawsuit against the Village of Lincolnshire (Case No. 18-CV-01310).  O’Brien “objects to the use of his tax money to fund private organizations that lobby and/or engage in other political activities that run directly against his economic interests and his political beliefs.” Complaint, ¶ 25. O’Brien requested a “refund of the portion of his tax money that funded lobbying and other political activities, including but not limited to his share of dues paid to the IML.” Id. at ¶26.

The Plaintiff in the Janus case is arguing that fair share fees inflict the same grievous First Amendment injury as would the government forcing individuals to support a mandatory lobbyist or a political advocacy group.

If SCOTUS overturns Abood, the case to attack against government employers using public funds to pay for membership in various groups (e.g. Illinois Municipal League, United Counties Council of Illinois) is already in the court system and in a Circuit that will be friendly to O’Brien’s argument.

Stay tuned.