In 1977, in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that government employees who do not belong to a union can be required to pay a fee – often known as a “fair share” or “agency” fee – to cover the union’s costs to negotiate a contract that applies to all public employees, including those who are not union members. The justices reasoned then that allowing the fees would help to avoid both labor strife and the prospect that nonmembers could be “free-riders” who benefit from the union’s collective bargaining efforts without having to pay for them.
Anti-union right-wing organizations have been aggressively trying to overturn this precedent in recent years, with Harris v. Quinn in 2013, and Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in 2015. In both cases, the precedent of Abood was sustained. In Friedrichs, however, the conservative justices actually invited plaintiffs to try again and bring another case.
The third time was the charm. For the second time this week the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a long-standing precedent, rejecting its doctrine of stare decisis, to effectively say “the law is what we say it is.” It was a foregone conclusion that the conservative majority would rule in favor of a “free-rider” who did not want to pay dues to his AFSME Union, in their never-ending quest to destroy public unions. Justice Alito wrote the opinion for the conservative majority in a 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME (.pdf).