Here's the Right-Wing Plan to Destroy Unions and Hinder Democratic Fundraising

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard a major case that will substantially weaken public-sector unions and diminish the strength of the Democratic Party.

That case is Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which will determine whether public-sector unions can collect fees from non-union employees. 

It sounds like a simple and technical issue, but the outcome could change the fate of public-sector unions, the strongest-standing bulwark of labor organizing in a time when many private unions have largely faded.

Unions need to be able to enforce fees on non-members because these employees could otherwise reap the benefits of collective bargaining, such as higher payer, job protection, and good working conditions. Without the power to enforce fees on non-members, unions could be substantially weakened because there would be a strong incentive for employees to free-ride and not pay the fees — ultimately undermining the benefits of collective bargaining. 

Opponents say that forcing non-member to pay union fees violates the First Amendment because unions engage in political speech. However, the court already ruled on those arguments in 1977 in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, coming down in favor the unions. There's no reason for the court to take the issue again. Even many conservative legal analysts disagree with that the court should hear Janus.

But the court heard a similar case last year, and it came down 4-4 after Justice Antonin Scalia died. It's widely believed that Scalia would have voted against the unions. Justice Neil Gorsuch is almost certain to follow this path. 

As the New York Times reports, major conservative donors have backed this aggressive legal attack on public sector unions. And it's not just about labor — it's a political attack to weaken the Democratic Party, which draws substantially on public-sector unions for financial and organizational support. 

As Eric Segall, a law professor at Georgia State, argues, there's no constitutional basis for the conservative justices to rule against unions and overturn Abood.

"If the Justices were to take their prior rules regarding precedent (and federalism interests) seriously, they would not overturn Abood," Segall writes. "[I]t will demonstrate yet again that the values and politics of the Justices trump their alleged commitments to legal principles and the rule of law. Moreover, if the Justices overturn Abood, it will be because Justice Gorsuch, not Judge Garland, now sits on the Court, not because the first amendment forbids states from making the decision to require all public sector employees to financially support the unions that represent their best interests."

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.