Court case could weaken union clout

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that that has drawn the attention of public-sector union leaders, who fear their future could be in the hands of the court’s conservative wing when the case is decided in June. At issue is a 39-year precedent that allows some unions to collect fees even if workers don’t wish to join. If the precedent is overturned — and most observers believe the court’s four conservative justices will vote to do just that — many public-sector unions will be forced to reorganize or establish new fee structures. “What you will see is a substantial decline in union participation,” said Marick Masters, professor of management and director of Wayne State University's Labor@Wayne, which studies labor issues at Wayne State University. “The exact amount, you don’t know, but it would vary.” Masters said a 1988 Supreme Court case (Communications Workers of America v. Beck) offered “Beck Rights” to those who objected to having their dues cover political activities. But the ruling was less than definitive and Masters said members who objected in some cases were told to resign from the union.

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