Anti-union, anti-worker cases lining up for Supreme Court


4/14/17


Public employee unions, and collective bargaining rights for public sector employees continue to be under attack in the courts by anti-labor groups.  These groups challenge our right to collect service fees (“fair share” fees) from employees who are not union members but who still receive the benefits of a negotiated union contract and union representation on employment matters.  The unions’ right to service fees was challenged in the case of Friedrichs v. CTA, which had made its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.  It was generally anticipated that the increasingly conservative Court would reach a 5-4 decision against service fees.  However, in March of 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the Justices who had been predicted to vote against service fees, died suddenly.  The Friedrichs case therefore resulted in a 4-4 split decision by the Supreme Court, leaving the lower court’s decision in place, which reaffirmed the legality of service fees.

The Senate has confirmed President Trump’s nomination of an extremely conservative jurist, Neil Gorsuch, to fill Justice Scalia’s seat.  Gorsuch is a federal appeals court justice from the Tenth Circuit in Colorado, who has authored several anti-worker and pro-employer court decisions.  It is extremely likely that Gorsuch will be the swing vote in a 5-4 decision to overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, long-standing Supreme Court precedent upholding the right to collect service fees.

The threat of the U.S. Supreme Court eliminating service fees continues to be real. Below you’ll see the lineup of cases primed to reach the Supreme Court. The first one on the list, Janus vs. AFSCME is sure to be submitted to SCOTUS in the coming weeks.


Janus v. American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees, et al.:

Challenges the payment of fair share fees for union representation as unconstitutional, out of Illinois. On March 21, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the complaint based on case law that fair share payment is constitutional.  Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is expected.


Hamidi v. Service Employees Int’l. Union, Local 1000:

Challenges the way service fees are collected as unconstitutional, out of California.  The federal trial court issued a judgment in favor of the union. On March 13, 2017, the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.


Bain v. California Teachers Association:


Challenges a union’s right to require union members to pay full union dues, including expenditures related to political issues, out of California. The federal district court dismissed the complaint.  The case was appealed and is now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, with all briefs having been filed since February 2017 for decision by the Court.


Centeno v. Department of Social and Health Services:


Challenges the payment by home health care providers of fair share fees for union representation as unconstitutional, out of the State of Washington.  The federal district court found in favor of the union, and the case is before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, with all briefs to be filed by June 2017 for decision by the Court.


Yohn v. California Teachers Association, et al.:


Challenges the payment of fair share fees for union representation as unconstitutional, out of California. Non-union teachers have filed a complaint in federal district court on February 6, 2017 against CTA, CTA-affiliated teacher associations, and the school districts.


AFL-CIO, et al. v. Rauner:


Union challenges a governor’s executive order which prohibits state agencies from enforcing collective bargaining agreements which have fair share provisions, out of Illinois.  The union filed the lawsuit in 2015 in federal court, which sent the case to the state courts. The case is currently progressing through the Illinois state court system.


Cochran v. Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education:


Challenges the payment for fair share fees for union representation as unconstitutional and challenges the adequacy of fair share procedural safeguards, out of Kentucky.  This case is in federal district court, with a trial date set for January 2018.


Berman v. Public Employees Federation, AFL-CIO:


Challenges the payment of fair share fees for union representation as unconstitutional, and challenges the adequacy of fair share procedural safeguards, out of New York.  On March 31, 2017, the federal district court dismissed the challenge to the payment of fair share fees, but did not dismiss the challenge to the adequacy of fair share procedural safeguards. This case is therefore still in the federal district court for a final decision.


Lamberty v. Connecticut State Police Union:


Challenges the payment of fair share fees for union representation as unconstitutional, and challenges the adequacy of fair share procedural safeguards, out of Connecticut. The trial ready date is set for December 18, 2017 in federal district court.


CSEA will continue to monitor each of these cases and will actively participate wherever it is possible and appropriate. Continue to monitor CSEA.com for updates and analysis by our legal staff.