HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that he and a bipartisan group of 20 other Attorneys General are filing an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a Seventh Circuit decision protecting “fair share” provisions in public sector collective bargaining agreements.
“In Pennsylvania, public-employee unions play a vital role, from striving for fair wages to protecting workers’ rights,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Unions give workers a voice and make government operate more effectively. Unions are required to represent all workers, even workers who don’t join the union. That’s why our state law recognizes that it’s only fair that employees who benefit from a union’s representation help pay for the cost of that representation. I’m proud to be part of a coalition of 20 Attorneys General in filing a brief in the Supreme Court to defend this important principle.”
The brief addresses Mark Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, a case that will be heard on February 26, 2018, that seeks to overrule precedent settled in the 1977 Supreme Court case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which states have relied upon for decades to negotiate labor contracts and ensure labor peace and efficient provision of government services. The brief argues that the Supreme Court should defer to states’ judgment on how best to manage their workforces.
The brief was filed by the Attorneys General of Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
The “fair share” provisions in public sector collective bargaining agreements allow a union – selected by a majority of covered employees to serve as those employees’ exclusive collective-bargaining representative – to collect a fee from all represented employees, solely to cover the costs of the union’s collective-bargaining related activities. Such fees do not support any political activities in which the union may engage. In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court held that states may constitutionally mandate such payments as part of a system of exclusive collective bargaining representation, in light of the important government interests in achieving labor peace and the expenses involved in maintaining the staff expertise necessary to perform collective-bargaining functions.
The plaintiffs seek to undermine the precedent set by Abood. The district court entered judgment in favor of defendants on the pleadings and the Seventh Circuit summarily affirmed, holding that Abood bars the plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court then granted plaintiffs’ petition for certiorari.
The brief filed by the Attorneys General argues that public sector “fair share” provisions are consistent with the First Amendment, and that overruling Abood’s approval of those provisions would disrupt thousands of labor agreements that States have adopted and maintained for decades. All states have a common interest in defending Abood’s deference to state policy determinations, and in preserving the ability of states to adopt the same tested models of collective bargaining that Congress has permitted for private-sector employees.