SCOTUS Agrees to Hear Koch-backed Union Busting Case


The Supreme Court on Thursday said it would decide a case that could see the last bedrock of the labor movement starved of funding.

Justices granted plaintiffs’ request for a hearing in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31—a challenge of an Illinois law requiring public sector employees to pay agency fees that fund collective bargaining.

The Court looked set to strike down a similar law last year in the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Oral arguments were held in January, but the death of conservative hardliner Antonin Scalia in February left SCOTUS deadlocked. Precedent was set by an appellate decision that upheld the California law.

Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick to replace Scalia, is widely expected to vote with conservative justices to overturn mandatory agency fees.

The Janus case was initially brought to federal court, in 2015, by Illinois’ Republican governor, Bruce Rauner.

Litigants are being represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center—two institutions financed by some of Americas wealthiest conservativebenefactor families, including the Kochs, the Waltons, and the Coors families.

After President Trump’s election, labor leaders prepared for an event like the re-litigation of the battle at the heart of Friedrichs. In December, Service Employees International Union reportedly started readying a 30 percent, $90 million budget cut by 2018, citing the empowerment of hostile right-wing forces.

The organization, which has backed the Fight for Fifteen minimum wage campaign, also represents public sector employees.

Last year, the overall unionization rate in the United States was 10.7 percent and declining, with most activity concentrated heavily among government employees. The public sector workforce was 34.4 percent unionized; the private sector unionization rate was 6.4 percent.

Prominent Senate Democrats last week proposed legislation that would ban states allowing agency fee-free riding in the workplace. Conservatives have branded the policy “right to work,” as if it legally guarantees employment.

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Since 2010, Sam Knight's work has appeared in Truthout, Washington Monthly, Salon, Mondoweiss, Alternet, In These Times, The Reykjavik Grapevine and The Nation. In 2012, he worked as a producer for The Alyona Show on RT. He has written extensively about political movements that emerged in Iceland after the 2008 financial collapse, and is currently working on a book about the subject.