PA Supreme Court orders trial on public school funding

Michele Moreno
September 29, 2017

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up an Illinois case originally brought by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner that challenges the practice of government employee unions collecting fees from nonmembers, a question the court deadlocked over past year.

An Illinois state employee, Mark Janus, asked the justices to take up the issue again.

But since 1977, the Court has said that nonunion employees can be required to pay a portion of union dues to cover the cost of collective bargaining and prevent "free riders" - workers who get the benefits of a union contract without paying for it.

Pennsylvania's highest court is reviving a lawsuit that says the state is failing in its obligation to provide an adequate education to public school students.

The Illinois case involves Mark Janus, a state employee who says Illinois law violates his free speech rights by requiring him to pay fees to subsidize AFSCME, which represents tens of thousands of Illinois workers.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest public employee union in IL and the one at the center of the lawsuit, called the case "yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor".

The Supreme Court split 4-4 on the First Amendment issue in March 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia left a vacancy that had not been filled until Neil M. Gorsuch was confirmed on April 7.

The decision to hear the case sparked a new round of concern among union leaders, who have been fighting for years in courthouses and legislatures to preserve agency fees.

The 1977 ruling, known as Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, said agency fees were constitutional so long as workers didn't have to cover the cost of political or ideological activities.

Twenty-two states have not banned agency fee requirements, covering about 5 million public-sector workers.

"Abood acknowledged that certain labor-relations interests justify the small intrusion on employees' First Amendment interests that fair-share payments represent", the union argued.

"This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor", Saunders said in a statement Thursday.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the state Supreme Court's 5-2 ruling reversed a 2015 decision by a lower court that rejected the challenge to how the state allocates funds to schools.

The justices are likely to hear oral arguments in early 2018.

And if this case unfolds as expected, the widespread conservative belief that Donald Trump's impact on the federal courts outweighs numerous less fortunate aspects of his presidency will gain strength. American Federation, a case that could permanently hobble public-sector unions in the United States.

Other reports by Insurance News

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