Supreme Court hearing public-sector union case

The Supreme Court on Monday is hearing a case which public-sector unions say could potentially impact millions of government workers across the country.

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The debate centers on a challenge of an Illinois law allowing unions representing government workers to collect fees from those employees who opt not to join. The case arises from a lawsuit by Mark Janus, a state child-support specialist in Illinois, who claims that his First Amendment rights are violated by the state law which also mandates that public employees who decide not to join an employee union pay so-called “fair share fees” to cover a portion of the union’s contract-bargaining costs.

“This is not giving me the freedom of speech or the freedom of association. I am forced to support this union whether I want to or not- that’s the problem.” Janus told ABC News.

Such rules apply in at least 22 states.

Janus said he’s not against unions but wants to have a choice.

“It was just the fact that nobody asked me. It wasn’t a fact that I was given a choice in the matter,” he said. “It was just a mandatory automatic fee. This is not giving me the freedom of speech or the freedom of association.”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, in court documents, defends the fee structure saying: “These fair-share fees cover those non-members’ proportionate share of the costs associated with the essential collective-bargaining responsibilities outlined above, but exclude other expenses unrelated to those responsibilities. The unions’ representative functions — and the fees that make those functions possible — serve the interests of the public employer and the State or locality that adopts such a labor-relations system.”

Janus disagrees.

“I don’t need to be represented by them I can represent myself.” Janus said in our interview.

When it considered the case in 2016, the Supreme Court was split 4-4. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who did not weigh in on the case, could potentially prove a pivotal vote.