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A case that could ultimately change the rules on forced unionization in America had its day in court this week, and is perhaps bound for the U.S. Supreme Court for a defining decision on free speech and unions.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit on Wednesday heard oral arguments in the case of two Illinois state government employees challenging the constitutionality of forced union dues.
A district court earlier dismissed the case, Janus v. AFSCME, which specifically deals with the First Amendment rights of public employees who wish to opt out of their unions, and the fairness of a union’s “monopoly” right to speak for individuals.
“One of the most powerful political forces in Wisconsin and certainly in Illinois are government unions … They generally have the loudest voice,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Not only do they have the loudest voice but they’ve been granted tremendous privilege to be the sole spokesman, the monopoly bargaining agent for all government employees. And that means they can compel you to accept them as your ‘voice.’”
The Illinois employee plaintiffs are being represented, free of cost, by the Right to Work Foundation and the Illinois Policy Institute’s Liberty Justice Center, free-market organizations that oppose compulsory union dues and membership.
Under a 1977 Supreme Court decision, unions are not allowed to use membership fees to pay for “explicitly political” activities, but they can demand “fair share” fees connected to collective bargaining.