What is the Janus case and what will it mean for California teachers?
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court heard arguments on Janus v AFSCME, and a decision is expected in May or June of this year. The issue is whether the First Amendment is violated by state laws that allow public sector unions to charge non-members who benefit from collective bargaining. The “agency shop” arrangements are the norm in California public schools, community colleges and universities. The plaintiffs (Janus) argue that by being required to pay “agency fees” they are being forced to support organizations that are inherently political, thus infringing on their First Amendment rights. AFSCME, and other unions, argue that agency fees ensure that all workers that benefit from collective bargaining efforts of a union contribute to its expense.
Most legal experts and court observers expect the Supreme Court to side with the plaintiff, Janus, and strike down precedent that has allowed states to allow agency shop arrangements in the public sector. California is one of 22 states that currently has agency shop statutes and almost all California teachers are likely to be affected by this ruling.
What will this mean for California teachers? If the Supreme Court sides with AFSCME, then the status quo is likely to remain for the foreseeable future. If Janus prevails, then agency fees in public sector employment would be ruled unconstitutional. California teachers that are already agency fee payers would likely automatically be able to drop their union membership in its entirety. All other California teachers would then have an opportunity to choose whether to remain members of their union or drop out entirely.
It is unclear whether California teachers would have to opt out of union membership or if unions would be required to get potential members to opt in. Regardless of the procedure that ultimately gets worked out, an abolition of agency fees in California will result in teachers having a decision to make as to their union membership and representation.
Teacher Guardian represents an alternative to full union membership for California teachers that are considering dropping their union membership but want the security of having a group of experienced labor and legal representatives should the need for such representation ever arise.