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Part II: Supreme Court Ruling in Janus v. AFSCME to Impact Organized Labor

Part II: Supreme Court Ruling in Janus v. AFSCME to Impact Organized Labor

The Supreme Court’s impending decision in Janus v. AFSCME is top-of-mind for unions, employers with an organized workforce and the third-parties serving unionized workers – including our team at BPA.

In Part I of this blog series, we provided background information key to understanding the case brought to the Supreme Court on behalf of Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois. But understanding the history of the case and past precedent is only the first step in understanding the potential impact of the ruling.

The death of Justice Scalia resulted in a deadlock when the High Court reviewed a similar case involving non-unionized public school teachers in California who argued mandatory union fees violated their First Amendment rights (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, 2016). However, the confirmation of President Trump’s conservative Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, is largely expected to tip the scale in the Janus case – many experts anticipate Mark Janus will prevail in a 5-4 decision.

Union Membership Set to Drop if Janus Prevails

If fair-share fees are not required, union membership is expected to drop as workers become less incentivized to join. This would lead to a drastic decline in union revenue, and therefore result in shrinking budgets. Though the Janus case focuses on organized labor within the public sector, its ripple effects will likely have profound repercussions in the private sector as well – already facing historical lows in terms of membership.

Unions were created to serve the working class and represent their best interests at the negotiating table with employers. The primary function of unions is to give a voice to workers whose voices would not likely be heard otherwise. Historically, the effects of these talks result in wage increases, improvement in working conditions, and more robust benefits packages, which include healthcare coverage, retirement plans and more.

The effects of the Janus case are numerous. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Janus, it will be much harder for the public sector to unionize, recruit new members and retain existing members.

BPA is here to help our clients navigate the complexities of benefits plans as the regulatory landscape evolves.