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Supreme Court weighs 'fair share' union dues

by AirTalk®

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Various unions, social causes and organizations attend a rally calling on greater social equality, organized by non-unionized fast food workers demanding for a wage raise from $7.25 per hour to $15.00 per hour and to be unionized on December 5, 2013 in New York, United States. The day held various protests in front of fast food outlets around the country and culminated in a larger rally attended by various groups in downtown Manhattan. Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Should non-union members still have to pay dues? The Supreme Court heard arguments this week over whether labor unions should have the power to collect dues from teachers and other public sector workers who choose not to join the union. If the court goes against decades-old precedent and rules against these mandatory fees, known as "fair share" dues, it would be a major upheaval in national labor laws.

The issue is whether these mandatory dues are violating a person's free speech rights by forcing them to pay money if they object to the union on fundamental political grounds. Justice Elena Kagan called that argument "radical" and said it would "radically restructure the way workplaces are run".

The alternative argument is that workers who choose not to join still benefit from the protections and collective bargaining power of the union, and therefore are still required to pay their "fair share" of the costs of negotiating and administering contracts.

Is it fair to require people who purposefully opt out of unions to pay dues? Will they be getting a “free ride” by benefiting from the union anyway? Do “fair share” dues violate free speech?


Catherine Fisk, Chancellor's Professor of Law, UC Irvine; Fisk was a signatory on a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the respondents (Quinn)

Deborah J. La Fetra, Principal Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation; Authored a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Harris


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