MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining, dealing a serious financial blow to organized labor.
The court ruled in favor of a government employee, Mark Janus, who did not want to be obligated to pay union dues.
The ruling could affect some big unions here in the state that represent city workers, law enforcement and teachers.
Currently, public school teachers in Minnesota have a choice if they want to be in the union or not, but they still have to pay a fee to cover things like collective bargaining. That change with the Janus ruling; employees can opt out of paying starting today.
WCCO-TV talked to the teacher’s union, who is upset.
“Most people that I know are trying really hard to pay their bills, plan for their future, retire with dignity. This Janus case is going to affect all of that,” Education Minnesota’s Denise Specht said. “There are people who want to keep us from getting ahead to keep power at the top and we’re not gonna let that happen.”
Meanwhile, the Center of the American Experiment is applauding the decision.
“After Janus, we can expect unions to represent what employees want in the workplace rather than represent politics,” Kim Crockett said.
About 175 union members marched through the streets of downtown Minneapolis Wednesday night, led by a gigantic Teamsters semi truck.
“This ruling is an excuse and an opportunity for us to talk to other teachers and other educators about why our work together as a union matters,” said Annaka Larson, a St. Paul Public School teacher.
In the case of public school teachers in Minnesota, they had the choice if they wanted to be in the union or not — but they still had to pay a fee to cover things like collective bargaining. That changes with this ruling.
Employees like Champlin Park High School teacher Linda Hoekman can now opt out and keep that money.
“I will not, at this point, be opting in to the union. I’m excited to see what opportunities they have for me, but I love that I am able to make the choice,” Hoekman said.
She automatically had $1,000 in fees deducted from her paycheck every year. Now, she will be keeping that money for her family.
“I understand completely that numbers definitely makes you stronger. I just like the possibility that we can choose to have those numbers together … instead of being forced to work together,” Hoekman said.
Although the court ruled employees do not have to pay a fee, the union still has to represent those people. That means workers who choose to leave the union and save money still benefit from union negotiations with the employer.
Here are more of the responses that have been pouring in around Minnesota:
Gov. Mark Dayton
The US Supreme Court’s decision today in the case of Janus v. AFSCME is appalling. Its determination that fair share union fees somehow violate the US Constitution is just the kind of terrible ‘Judicial Activism,’ which some Justices profess to deplore.
The benefits provided by a union to employees who elect not to join it are enormous. They receive the same better wages, safer working conditions, and stronger job protections as do union members. It is only fair that they should share in paying for the benefits that they receive.
Sen. Tina Smith
I believe that workers have a fundamental right to join together to fight for fair wages and better working conditions. I’m deeply disappointed in today’s Supreme Court decision to weaken this key protection for teachers, firefighters, nurses, and other public sector employees. We must now renew our commitment to fight against far-right, corporate-funded, special interests which backed this case—and continue to defend working families in Minnesota and across the country.
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
Today’s ruling is a win for worker freedom. Union membership works for some people, but doesn’t for others. Public workers can now make that decision for themselves, and won’t be forced to fund political speech that violates their First Amendment rights.
Republicans passed legislation this year that would immediately bring Minnesota laws into compliance with the Janus decision, but Gov. Dayton refused to consider it. In lieu of that legislation, I’m calling on Governor Dayton to immediately inform public sector workers of his administration’s plan to comply with the Supreme Court decision. Workers need to be informed of their rights, including the right to receive their full paycheck without forced collection of union dues.
AFL-CIO president Bill McCarthy
No court decision will ever stop working people from joining together in union to negotiate a fair return on their work. No matter how many roadblocks corporate special interests put in our path, our state’s labor movement will continue to fight for working Minnesotans’ freedom to prosper.
Minnesota Nurses Association president Mary C. Turner
This ruling is an attempt to silence working people’s voices, but nothing can stop nurses from standing up for patients in our hospitals and other facilities, and in our communities. Nurses will continue to advocate for quality patient care in the public and private sectors. We will not let this ruling enable hospitals to cut corners to increase their bottom lines at the expense of patients’ health by reducing staffing levels or investing in life-saving equipment.
Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin
Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is not an attack on unions, it is an orchestrated and well-funded attack on all working people. As more and more wealth and power is consolidated in the hands of big corporations and powerful individuals, unions are essential champions fighting for a living wage, better health care, and the right to retire with dignity.
While today’s decision makes it harder for unions to champion working people, it will never extinguish our goals of lifting up the working men and women of this country whose hard work has literally built our communities over the years.
This is not a time to feel powerless; this is a time to stand together and show our power. Voting is not an option in 2018; it’s time for action. I encourage Minnesotans to talk to their friends, neighbors, and families throughout the upcoming months about voting for DFLers in the Aug. 14 primary and Nov. 6 elections. DFLers care about our families’ futures and are dedicated to supporting unions, not tearing them down.
Minnesota Rep. Patrick Garofalo
Today’s ruling is great news for workers who wish to ensure that their First Amendment rights are not trampled by public sector unions. For too long, public sector union leaders have been able to coerce union dues from workers to promote unpopular political ideologies. With this decision, public school teachers (and others) who have been ignored by their union leadership, will finally have their voices heard. Today is a good day for personal freedom and liberty in our nation.
Alliance for a Better Minnesota executive director Joe Davis
We stand with working people across Minnesota and the country who are joining together across all walks of life to create better lives for their families and communities,” said Joe Davis, executive director of Alliance for a Better Minnesota. “Minnesotans will not stand for these attempts by the wealthy few who are rewriting the rules to line their own pockets and silence our voices. We will continue to come together to fight for opportunity and the freedom to prosper for all working people.