Tuesday, January 21, 2014
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments to day in Harris v. Quinn. According to SCOTUSblog, the expected attack by conservatives against union mandatory dues occurred. The surprise is the Justice Scalia apparently exhibited less enthusiasm for reversing Abood than his conservative colleagues. In contrast, the liberal Justices apparently showed real concern that the Court would outlaw public unions ability to seek dues from all employees they represent.
To the extent that there's a silver lining (and I'm not sure there's one at this point), the argument seemed to focus on the uniqueness of public sector collective-bargaining. In particular, several Justices (with the apparent exception of Scalia) seemed receptive to the argument that public-sector unionism is more about affecting public policy than typical collective bargaining. I don't buy that argument and, even if I did, I'm not convinced that under the Court's precedent, it would mean that mandatory dues is prohibited by the First Amendment. But that appears to be where several Justices are headed. Whether there a 5 of them is the question. Even if there are, the tenor of this argument suggests that the ruling will not affect the private sector. For now at least. Which is not to say that eliminating mandatory dues in the public sector won't be a significant harm to the labor movement.
Hat Tip: Patrick Kavanagh