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How today’s Janus decision impacts unions and politics in California and nationwide




Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) hold a rally in support of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union at the Richard J. Daley Center plaza on February 26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.
Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) hold a rally in support of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union at the Richard J. Daley Center plaza on February 26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

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The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that government workers can't be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining, dealing a serious financial blow to organized labor.

The justices are scrapping a 41-year-old decision that had allowed states to require that public employees pay some fees to unions that represent them, even if the workers choose not to join.

The 5-4 decision fulfills a longtime wish of conservatives to get rid of the so-called fair share fees that non-members pay to unions in roughly two dozen states. The court ruled that the laws violate the First Amendment by compelling workers to support unions they may disagree with. "States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees," Justice Samuel Alito said in his majority opinion for the court's five conservative justices.

President Donald Trump weighed in minutes after the decision was handed down, while Alito still was reading a summary of it from the bench. "Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!" Trump said in a tweet.

The case involving Illinois state government worker Mark Janus is similar to the one the justices took up in 2016. At that time, the court appeared to be ready to overrule a 1997 high court decision that serves as the legal foundation for the fair share fees. But Scalia's death left the court tied, and a lower court ruling in favor of the fees remained in place.

The unions argued that so-called fair share fees pay for collective bargaining and other work the union does on behalf of all employees, not just its members. More than half the states already have right-to-work laws banning mandatory fees, but most members of public-employee unions are concentrated in states that don't, including California, New York, and Illinois.

So how does the Supreme Court decision impact California politics? We explain.

With files from the Associated Press

Guests:

Carla Marinucci, senior writer for POLITICO’s California Playbook

Sean T. Walsh, Republican political analyst and partner at Wilson Walsh Consulting in San Francisco; he is a former adviser to California Governors Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger and a former White House staffer for Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush

Fernando Guerra, professor and director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University; he is a member of the Southern California Public Radio Board of Trustees

Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000, the Sacramento-based branch of the labor union representing many public service employees

Mark Janus, the plaintiff in the SCOTUS case, Janus v. AFSCME

Jacob Huebert, attorney who represented the plaintiff, Mark Janus, in the SCOTUS case, Janus v. AFSCME; he is also the director of litigation at the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit that focuses on protecting economic liberty and private property rights

Cynthia Estlund, professor of labor and employment law at New York University; she co-authored an amicus brief in support of AFSCME