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Forced union fees: Fairness where it's due

| Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, 9:15 a.m.

In what portends to be one of the most important labor-law cases in recent history, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments over whether public-sector workers should be compelled to pay fees to a union as a requirement for employment.

At issue is 40 years of labor law established by Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the court ruled that unions could collect money from government workers as a condition of employment, regardless of union membership. This is considered employees' “fair share” of unions' costs in handling contract negotiations and grievances. But workers cannot be compelled to support unions' political activities.

Therein lies the rub.

There remains a large gray area over what is and isn't “political” union activity. In the pending Janus v. AFSCME case before the court, a brief filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute points out union fees are used to fund national conventions, which are inherently political.

“Supporting this kind of organization is a political act, period, and it is highly problematic for such support to be a condition of public employment,” writes Robert VerBruggen for National Review.

For Pennsylvania public school teachers, the mandated “fair share” fee amounts to 74 percent of full membership dues (2016-17), according to Jessica Barnett for the Commonwealth Foundation.

Compulsory union payments shouldn't be a condition of employment. On this issue the Supreme Court must restore fairness where it's long overdue.

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