Oral arguments in the United States Supreme Court this morning offered no additional clues about how the Janus case will be decided.
At issue are mandatory dues paid by public sector employees to unions. If the case goes as expected, public employees would be free to opt entirely out of paying dues, essentially rendering all states right-to-work for public sector employees.
The long-term implications for Illinois are hard to overstate.
Much of what broke Illinois stems from public unions having too much power over lawmakers. How did we get unaffordable pensions, rigged collective bargaining, burdensome work rules, broken prevailing wage mandates and costly unfunded mandates imposed by Springfield on our towns and cities?
Public union cash and the resulting clout accounts for most of it, and mandatory dues are the source.
There’s also a profound issue of individual freedom. Why should workers be forced to pay for an organization many of them despise?
Just don’t expect immediate impact in Illinois if the case goes in favor of the worker who brought the suit, Illinoisan Mark Janus. It will take years for any impact to materialize in election results and reforms.
Keep in mind that this is not the potential death knell for unions that many have hysterically claimed. Right-to-work states still have plenty of union membership. That’s as it should be. Personally, I believe in the principle of collective bargaining wherever workers decide they need it to counteract an imbalance of bargaining position. That principle can be honored without forced dues.
But in Illinois and some other states, public union power has simply gone too far. Here, less than three percent of our population is a member of a public union. How could so small a portion of the population exert so much influence and inflict so much financial damage? The balance of power is wrong.
Today’s oral arguments seemed to reflect the predicted result that four liberal justices would side with unions against Janus. With four others expected to vote against unions, all eyes were on recent appointee Neil Gorsuch, likely to be the swing vote. He asked no questions and made no comments but is expected to vote against the unions. Further details on the case and today’s hearing are discussed here.
For the left’s perspective on how a decision against unions could backfire in their favor, see the Intercept article linked here. The risks discussed there seem exaggerated to me, though it will turn on exactly how the Court reasons its opinion.
We’ll have the decision no later than June 30.
–Mark Glennon is founder and Executive Editor of Wirepoints. Opinions expressed are his own.