Supreme Court: Mandatory Union Dues Violate First Amendment
By Brittany Jones, Esq., policy manager for Family Policy Alliance®
Thomas Jefferson said, “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
And just this week, Justice Alito echoed Jefferson in a monumental opinion where the Supreme Court reversed its own prior decision: “Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned.”
The Supreme Court in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council affirmed that the government can no longer compel the sort of funding that Jefferson abhorred through mandatory union dues for government employees. And by doing so, the Court for the second time this week, protected First Amendment rights to free speech and to freely live out one’s faith.
What is this case about?
This case challenges an established practice that allowed public sector unions to charge what is known as “agency fees.” In union states, this arrangement allows an employee to opt out of a portion of the union dues that are supposedly used for political activity. The fees are typically similar to, but a bit lower than, union dues.
This case centers around an Illinois public employee, Mark Janus. He challenged the agency fee system that was set up in the 1977 Supreme Court case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. He argued that collective bargaining in public sector unions is inherently political and that forcing employees to pay any dues to an inherently political entity violates the First Amendment rights of public employees.
The Union, on the other hand, argued that without these fees they would not be able to survive and represent the employees well. Further, they argue that non-union employees benefit from their efforts and should at least pay some fees.
What did the Court say?
The Court decided that laws that compel a government employee to support a public sector union violate free speech rights by forcing an employee to support a message that they disagree with.
Justice Alito reiterated why free speech is so important to upholding our democratic system of government. Further he decried government-compelled speech because “individuals are coerced into betraying their convictions. Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning.”
Once again, as in Masterpiece and NIFLA, the Court protected the rights of conscience of all people. It affirmed our right to think, act, and speak on the topics that most affect us and refused to allow the government to compel us to speak when we wish to remain silent.
What does this mean going forward—for Believers and for union states?
Twenty-eight states are already right-to-work states, which means that employees do not have to pay union dues. This ruling will not directly affect those states, but it will have a huge effect on states that don’t give employees this freedom. To learn more or opt out of union dues follow this link: https://www.optouttoday.com/other-public-sector-union.
For Believers everywhere, in union states or in right-to-work states, the Janus opinion this week further strengthens our freedom to speak freely about biblical principles in the public square. We can promote the value of life, the good of marriage between one man and one woman, and the importance of religious freedom.
And, of course, we can support elected leaders and organizations who share our values. If you live in a state where you were forced to pay union dues to fund advocacy that you disagreed with, you are now free to send your dollars to organizations and causes that align with your beliefs.
If you would like to support Family Policy Alliance’s 2018 election efforts to see pro-family, pro-religious freedom candidates (who have been through our thorough vetting process) elected to office in both state and federal races, please partner with us here.