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Supreme Court Delivers Fair Share Case Decision

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This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council, a high-profile, fair-share case with big implications for public employee unions, leaders, and K-12 talent managers in school systems across the country.

In a 5-4 decision, justices found that "States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees. The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay."

According to NPR, "the decision reverses a four-decades-old precedent and upends laws in 22 states." Listen (or read) the hour-long oral argument before the Supreme Court that occurred on February 26, 2018. 

The plaintiff, Mark Janus, an employee of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service, wrote in an editorial for the Chicago Tribune that he "shouldn't be forced to pay money to a union if I don't think it does a good job representing my interests." In arguing that being forced to pay union fees was in violation of Janus' First Amendment right to free speech, his lawyers cited the 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that found "a government entity could require public employees to pay a fair share of the cost that a union incurs when negotiating on their behalf over terms of employment. But no part of that fair-share payment could go to any of the union's political or ideological activities."

Janus is the second fair-share case the Supreme Court has heard in the past three years. You might also recall debate around the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case in 2016, which resulted in 4-4 decision after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia left a vacancy on the bench.

Regardless of your personal feelings on this case, district leaders in specific states need to be aware of these changes as it could possibly affect many human capital practices and processes as well as the culture of your organization. As we all continue to focus on the growth of children, we need to support the people in our system as best as we can--and with this decision comes emotions and change.

For more information on human capital, talent management, or continuous improvement in education, you can follow Emily Douglas-McNab (@EmilyDouglasHC) on Twitter.

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