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Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31

In this case, the Supreme Court considered whether to overrule its opinion in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), which permitted the use of mandatory “agency fees” to support the collective bargaining efforts of unions representing government employees. Agency fees are deducted from employees’ paychecks and used to support activities germane to the union’s responsibility as the collective bargaining representative chosen by employees. Here, employees challenged agency fees, arguing that the imposition of such fees constitutes compelled subsidization of speech with which objecting employees disagree, in violation of their First Amendment rights.

Public Citizen submitted a brief as amicus curiae supporting the constitutionality of agency fees. The brief argued that the applicable level of First Amendment scrutiny is reduced where the government acts in its proprietary capacity and an employer, rather than in its capacity as sovereign, and that the fees are part of a reasonable system through which the government manages its relationship with employees. On June 27, 2018, in a decision that strikes a significant blow to the continued viability of public-sector unions, the Court overruled Abood  and held that requiring agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment.