Education

High Court Sets Feb. 26 Arguments on Future of Union Agency Fees

By Mark Walsh — December 20, 2017 2 min read

The U.S. Supreme Court has set the date for oral argument in a case critical to the future of the teachers’ unions and other public-employee labor organizations.

Argument will be Feb. 26 at 10 a.m. for Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 (Case No. 16-1466).

At issue is whether the court will overrule its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which first authorized public-employee unions to collect so-called agency fees from those in the bargaining unit who refuse to join the union. In a number of cases in recent years, the nonunion members have challenged the fees as violating their First Amendment free speech and association rights by requiring them to support causes to which they object. (This is so even though the unions may not charge the fee-payers for political activities.)

The Janus case is scheduled for one hour of oral argument. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has extended the arguments by as much as an extra half hour in two of the biggest cases of the term, involving police searches of cellphone tower location data and a baker’s refusal to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. But those cases had no other case scheduled after them, while another case is set for argument immediately following the Janus case.

Besides, the chief justice probably wouldn’t see the need for extra time, given that the high court has addressed agency fees in a number of recent cases. Most recent was Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which ended up in a 4-4 deadlock in March 2016 following the death the previous month of Justice Antonin Scalia. The tie upheld, without setting a national precedent, lower court decisions that Abood was still the prevailing law and the unions could collect agency fees.

New Justice Neil M. Gorsuch will be the focus of the arguments in Janus. The challengers to agency fees, including Illinois child-support specialist Mark Janus, have filed their briefs, which include the support of President Donald Trump’s administration.

AFSCME, along with the teachers’ unions and their allies, are expected to mount a vigorous, last-ditch defense of the constitutionality of agency fees. AFSCME’s brief on the merits is due Jan. 12. Any friend-of-the-court briefs, including those expected from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, would be due one week after that.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
Speech Therapist - Long Term Sub
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read