A U.S. Supreme Court decision on Wednesday is being called a potentially crippling blow to unions representing government workers nationwide.
The high court ruled 5-to-4 that non-union workers can’t be forced to pay so-called fair share fees to help cover the costs of collective bargaining and other work carried out by public sector unions.
Chet Jorgenson, president of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, sees the decision as an attack on all workers.
He notes that in states with strong unions, wages are higher and economies are stronger.
“Minnesota doesn’t want to be like Alabama or Mississippi where they don’t have unions,” he states. “We want a strong economy, and if you compare our economy to places where they don’t have unions or they have very weak unions, there’s no comparison. We do much better.”
US Economy Could Take $33 Billion Annual Hit
A recent report projects the high court’s Janus ruling could lead to reduced wages for government employees, and a drop in U.S. economic activity of between $11 billion and $33 billion annually.
The court’s decision overturned a 1977 ruling that found unions can collect fees for non-political work that benefits all workers.
Opponents of fair share laws called the decision a win for workers who don’t want to be forced to pay for political speech they disagree with, and claim the move will create more choice in the workplace.
Heidi Shierholz, a former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, points out it’s already illegal for fair share fees to be used for political activities.
She says giving workers a choice about paying their share of costs associated with negotiating higher wages, benefits and filing workplace grievances is likely to produce what she calls a “free ride” effect.
“Even if they value it highly, they may be unwilling to pay the dues, and that will starve the union of resources and will hurt the ability of the union to provide crucial services,” she says. “The real goal is to actually starve the unions to reduce their effectiveness.”
Shierholz maintains Wednesday’s decision is the result of a 40-year effort to weaken public sector unions through the courts.
In February, a report by the Economic Policy Institute identified a core group of wealthy foundations with ties to powerful corporate lobbies that bankrolled a long line of fair share fee cases, including Janus.