St. Cloud Teacher’s Union Disappointed in SCOTUS Janus Ruling
ST. CLOUD -- On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision in the case of Janus vs. the American Federation State County Municipal Employees.
The 5-4 decision means that government employees represented by a union --but who aren't union members themselves -- can't be made to pay a fee to cover the cost of contract negotiations that apply to them.
These fees are usually called "fair share" fees. These fees could go to political causes and lobbying on behalf of unions, which some employees may not agree with.
Mark Janus, a non-union worker for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services was the plaintiff. He argued that by forcing him to pay a fee that could go to a political cause he didn't support, the government was effectively violating his free speech.
Chris Erickson is the President of the St. Cloud Education Association. He says they're not that worried the decision will hamper their ability to bargain on behalf of the teachers they represent.
"I don't see it as a weakening. I do see it as a call to action for us as unions to organize better and reach out to our members better so that we can provide the benefits and value of belonging to a union."
He says that's in part because only a handful of the teachers they represent are only "fair share" members.
"Before this ruling, the teachers that were [just] fair share members, were a small handful. That number is less than 20, out of our 850 plus members".
In the majority opinion, the court agreed with Janus, in part comparing forcing someone to pay for free speech they may not agree with, is the same as making them sign their name in favor of a cause they may not agree with, which is barred by the first amendment. The majority opinion also concluded that any money lost by unions are outweighed by "many billions" given by non-members in violation of the first amendment.
The minority dissenting opinion held that ruling could harm "thousands of ongoing negotiations." A study released in May predicted public-sector unions could lose up to 700,000 members after the decision.
Finally, Erickson says that their members have the option of "opting out" of their dues going to political causes. Erickson says they're disappointed because this decision was about money, and a blatant attempt to weaken unions.