Trump Administration Sides Against Unions in Key Supreme Court Case

December 7, 2017

The Trump administration sided against public employee unions Wednesday evening in a Supreme Court case that could deal the labor movement a crippling financial blow.

In a brief submitted in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Office of Solicitor General sided with a child-support specialist for the state of Illinois who's challenging AFSCME's legal right to collect so-called "fair-share fees" from union nonmembers. Unions say such fees are necessary to cover collective bargaining costs for union nonmembers, whom they're required by law to represent. But plaintiff Mark Janus is arguing that the mandatory fee violates his protected speech under the First Amendment.

Janus's legal challenge is financed in large part by the conservative Bradley Foundation, which see the case as an opportunity to impose right-to-work rules on public employee unions in all 50 states. Twenty-eight states have passed right-to-work laws blocking private-sector unions from collecting fees from union nonmembers, most recently Missouri (though unions will seek to overturn that state's right-to-work law, passed in February, in a referendum next year).

Trump won the presidency with strong support from white working class voters, but as a candidate he expressed support for the right-to-work movement. "I like right to work," he told a North Carolina radio station during the campaign.

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