by Catherine L. Fisk, Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
In Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, the Court declared unconstitutional labor laws and union contracts in 22 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These laws and contracts required union-represented workers to pay their fair share of the cost of negotiating and administering labor contracts. Using what Justice Kagan described in dissent as a “weaponized” version of the First Amendment, the Court continued its six-year attack on public employee unions.
The case originated when Republican Bruce Rauner was elected governor of Illinois. Rather than negotiate with the state’s public employee unions to address the state’s budget issues, or work with the Illinois legislature to repeal laws he considered an obstacle to that goal, Rauner filed a federal law suit to get fair share fees declared unconstitutional. That says quite a bit about Janus – it was from the start an effort to use the federal courts to thwart democratic and politically accountable governance.