Two months into 2019, and state legislatures nationwide have taken early action on public-sector union policy in the states, responding either directly or indirectly to the Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Janus v. AFSCME. In Janus, the high court ruled that public-sector unions cannot require non-member employees to pay agency fees to cover the costs of non-political union activities.
As of March 1, legislatures in 29 states had introduced 82 bills relevant to public-sector union policy. Of these 82 bills, 45 were sponsored by Democrats and 29 by Republicans; the remainder were sponsored by bipartisan groups or committees. Of these 82 bills, two had passed lower chambers and three had died. The remainder were either in committee or awaiting a committee assignment.
More about Janus: Generally, members of an employee union pay fees to that union. These fees support the union’s activities, which can include collective bargaining and contract administration, as well as political activities, such as lobbying. Some public-sector employees do not wish to join a union, and some are opposed to unions’ political activities. In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that employees cannot be required to give financial support to a union’s political activities. However, the court found that it was not a violation of employees’ rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require them to pay fees to support union activities from which they benefit, such as collective bargaining. It is this ruling that was overturned by Janus, which held that such fees are not constitutional.