Randy Myers's Page > Posts tagged with "court"


Subject: Should Supreme Court Make Union "Dues" Optional?

Forum: Should Supreme Court Make Union "Dues" Optional?
Mark Janus, a child-support specialist for the state of Illinois, doesn’t like paying $45 a month to AFSCME, the union that represents him. So he’s suing. His case—Janus v. AFSCME—is expected to be decided this summer by the U.S. Supreme Court. It will be a controversial decision. Last year, down one member, the court deadlocked 4-4 on a virtually identical case. This year, Neil Gorsuch, the newest justice, will likely break the tie.

Note that Janus is not technically paying union dues. Under existing law, nobody can be forced to join a union or pay its dues. However, where workers are represented by a union, they can be required to pay “fair share” or “agency” fees to help cover the union’s costs for negotiating contracts and representing workers in disputes with employers. The idea: keep people from getting a free ride for what the union provides.

What agency fees don’t cover are costs associated with political activities or organizing employees into a union. Congress has said paying those costs could breach an employee’s constitutional right to free speech by forcing them to fund political activities they may not support.

Janus claims everything a union does is inherently political. If the Supreme Court agrees, workers covered by union contracts everywhere could stop paying agency fees.

Union supporters argue that the organization representing Janus, an arm of the National Right to Work Committee, which is supported by a number of big-name conservative donors, is simply trying to stamp out unions and lower costs for big business—at a time when corporations, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, can spend as much as they want politicking. (Unions can too. But if they take in fewer dues or fees, they would find it difficult.)

It’s easy to argue that workers shouldn’t be required to pay for union activities they don’t support. It’s also easy to argue that if people feel that strongly about not supporting unions, they can work somewhere else.

What do you think? Should the Supreme Court side with Janus or his union?

Suggested Reading:

“For the Third Time, Justices Take on Union-Fee Issue: In Plain English,” by Amy Howe

“Janus v. AFSCME: 5 Things to Know,” by Carolyn Phenicie, The 74

Subject: Scalia Controversy: Should School Adopt his Name?

Forum: Scalia Controversy: Should School Adopt his Name?
It’s easy to find people willing to gripe about the Supreme Court, complaining that this justice is too conservative or that one too liberal. Fair enough. But should we let political leanings influence how we honor Supreme Court justices—and other public figures, for that matter—for their years of public service?

Consider the case of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away in February. Scalia was famously and staunchly conservative. An important member of the court for nearly 30 years, he was once described as the intellectual anchor for the originalist and textualist position in the Court’s conservative wing. In short, he was the ideological opposite of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—who nonetheless counted Scalia as one of her closest and dearest friends.

At George Washington University in Fairfax, Virginia, by contrast, plenty of liberals appear less willing to look past Scalia’s right-leaning politics. In late March, the school announced receipt of a $20 million anonymous gift to rename its law school after Scalia. The university’s administration and law school both support the name change, but the university’s broader faculty oppose it. A nonbinding resolution passed by the faculty senate claims the new name would not create “a comfortable home for individuals with a variety of viewpoints,”

Perhaps there are conservative Republicans who grit their teeth when they take the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge in New York. Maybe there are liberal Democrats who frown when they fly out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Virginia—or worse yet, when they drop their children off at Ronald Reagan Elementary School in New Berlin, Wisconsin. But I wonder if any of those people have ever advocated for changing the name of those facilities. Or have they been more like Ginsburg, who was able to look past political differences in her dealings with a colleague whose views often diverged from her own?

What do you think? Do the faculty opposed to naming George Mason’s law school after Scalia hold a defensible position? Or should we accept that we’ll sometimes have to enter buildings, or drive on roads, named after people whose politics we didn’t particularly like?

Suggested reading:

“The Posthumous Attacks on Scalia Begin,” by Lloyd Cohen