Minnesota unions prepare for potential Supreme Court right-to-work decision

Dominic Lynch
Posted: Sep 11, 2017 3:50 PM

Public sector unions across Minnesota are preparing for the fallout of a potential landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that could be decided in 2018. At hand is the possibility of the court instituting right-to-work policies across the U.S.

The landmark case comes from Illinois. Mark Janus is a child support specialist for the state of Illinois. He has been compelled to pay the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union regular dues – around $23 per paycheck – even though he did not want to join it and does not agree with its activities.

Right-to-work laws have been passed in 28 states, but Illinois, Minnesota, and 20 others still do not provide a way for public sector employees to opt-out of their union membership.

In Minnesota, some public sector unions are preparing for the fallout of a Supreme Court decision favorable to Janus.

Education Minnesota, the state’s 86,000-strong teacher union, has already printed pre-filled union registration forms for all the teachers in its system, according to Kim Crockett, a senior policy fellow at the Center for the American Experiment. All a teacher would have to do is sign and return the form to join the union. Opting out would require a teacher providing written notice to the union in the window between September 24 and September 30.

The freedom of association “can be denied by a card slipped in front of a teacher,” Crockett said.

Janus and other public sector employees like him have argued that being forced to pay dues to a union they disagree with is a violation of their First Amendment right of association.

In an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, Janus laid out his opposition to the union and why he was suing it for the option to opt-out.

“When I was hired by the state of Illinois, no one asked if I wanted a union to represent me,” he wrote. “I only found out the union was involved when money for the union started coming out of my paychecks.”

This is the same principle right-to-work laws are based on: no one should be compelled to join or pay dues to an organization they do not agree with.

In his guest column, Janus wrote that, “The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of association. I don’t want to be associated with a union that claims to represent my interests and me when it really doesn’t.”

No matter the outcome of the Janus case, right to work advocates will soon ask the Supreme Court to hear another case called Yohn v. California Teachers Association. Ryan Yohn is fighting to make union membership opt-in, not opt-out.

That case will likely not reach the court until 2019. The Supreme Court is expected to decide this month whether it will accept the Janus case. If it does, a decision likely will be handed down by the end of the court’s current term in 2018.