- The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31, a lawsuit filed over the fairness and constitutionality of forcing teachers and other government employees in 22 states to pay fees to unions they refuse to join and do not support.
- Proponents of the fee say that, since unions bargain on behalf of all teachers in the unit, each teacher should be required to pay fees to help support union coffers.
- Opponents say the fees violate the right to free speech because teachers are forced to financially support the political efforts of unions they do not agree with.
This controversial issue is much like several similar cases involving union fees that have come before various courts before. This case will likely be resolved in a few weeks, and teachers and superintendents should be aware that the decision could overturn decades of precedent set by Abood v. Detroit Board of Education in 1977.
If the court rules against the fees, teacher unions will suffer because of fewer resources to support their agendas and a likely lessening of power in some circles. Teachers who opted out of the unions will likely see an increase in their paychecks while those who support the union will be unaffected in the short term, though dues may increase over time to compensate for lost revenues. It may also mean that teacher unions will need to work harder to earn the support of teachers, and this may mean they will need to be more responsive to a broader base of opinions than in the past.
From a school district point of view, the court decision may affect the way payrolls are calculated in affected states. Beyond that, a lot of questions remain unanswered. Will this affect the effectiveness of teacher unions in seeking improved wages and working conditions for teachers? Will this affect the ability of teachers to strike, which many argue should not be a valid option anyway? Whatever the effects, the court's current makeup could mean change is coming soon.