High court revives suit over how public schools are funded

U.S. Supreme Court exterior

The state employee, Mark Janus, is appealing a lower court ruling that rejected his claim that such fees violate free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution. But Gettleman allowed state workers who pay agency fees to sue public-sector unions.

"No person should be forced to give up a portion of their pay each month to fund public sector union activity against their will", Rauner said in a statement.

The case takes aim at a decades-old practice in many states allowing public-sector unions to collect fees from workers who do not want to the belong to the union as long as the money is not spent on political activities. Like a lot of conservative First Amendment jurisprudence these days (viz Citizens United, which cloaked unlimited campaign spending in constitutional protections), the likely decision may defy common sense or fundamental fairness.

Eighteen state attorneys general signed a friend of the court brief by the Michigan Attorney General's Office, which urges the justices to abandon the "meaningless distinction between collective bargaining and other political activity".

Janus targets a 1977 Supreme Court case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that said workers must pay for union bargaining costs whether they are members of the union or not.

"When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one", AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement.

Its conservative majority restored, the Supreme Court said Thursday it will return to an issue with the potential to financially cripple Democratic-leaning labor unions that represent government workers.

The executive order was put on hold when a judge in Downstate St. Clair County ordered the state to keep passing the fees along while the matter continued to play out in court.

Litigants are being represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center-two institutions financed by some of Americas wealthiest conservative-benefactor families, including the Kochs, the Waltons, and the Coors families.

The Illinois case involves Mark Janus, a state employee who says Illinois law violates his free speech rights by requiring him to pay fees subsidizing a union he doesn't support, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. In 2016, the court deadlocked 4-4 on a virtually identical case.

In that case, Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, a public-interest legal team that brought the case on behalf of the educators in California who objected to mandatory funding of union activities they described as political, said the result was expected.

The justices will hear argument in the winter. The death of Scalia left the court without a majority, leading to the split decision.



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