29 June 2018

The Supreme Court’s Decision in Janus: Public Employers Prohibited from Mandating Union Dues

Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a public employer violates the First Amendment when it withholds agency fees or union dues from an employee’s pay in the absence of that employee’s affirmative consent.  The case is Janus v. AFSCME Council 31.  It is significant for all public sector employers, but especially for employers in states that do not have Right to Work laws in place.  And although there are no immediate impacts for private sector employers, the decision could mark a significant decrease in overall funding and revenue for organized labor.

What Does Janus Mean for Public Sector Employers?

For public employers, the Janus decision effectively institutes a national “Right to Work” agency shop prohibition.  Said differently, it outlaws “union security” contract terms and means that public employers can no longer require employees to pay union dues as a condition of their employment.

Public employers in Michigan will see less of an impact, because most public employers are already covered by Michigan’s 2012 Right to Work legislation which also prohibits conditioning employment on payment of union dues.  But the Janus decision is very important for all Michigan police and fire employers.  Although police and fire employees were previously “carved out” of Michigan’s Right to Work law, those employees now have protected rights under Janus and cannot be forced to pay union dues.  Janus may also impact Michigan public employers who may have contracts executed prior to the effective date of Michigan’s Right to Work legislation.

What Does Janus Mean for Private Sector Employers?

Employers in the private sector will see no immediate or direct impact from the Janus decision.  But because many unions are likely to see reductions in revenue as a result of this decision, Janus may decrease the overall strength of organized labor nationwide.

Public sector clients who are unionized should contact their Miller Johnson labor and employment attorney to discuss their specific strategies and options to ensure compliance with the Janus decision.