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Local Governments and School Districts Blog

Wisconsin has become a right to work state this week. It is clear that the legislation signed by the Governor does not apply to public sector employees such as public safety and transit employees. Local governments will still be required to negotiate over fair share dues for these bargaining units. A case before the United States Supreme Court may, however, change all of that.

Recently, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation sought US Supreme Court review of a decision involving teachers in the state of California who are challenging the obligation to pay union fees. This is a suit that was brought against the National Education Association and the California Teachers Association in April of 2013. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has asked the United States Supreme Court to grant a certiorari petition which would result in a review of the 1977 Abood ruling which allowed states to pass laws requiring public workers to pay fair share dues. The Foundation is looking to overturn the 1977 decision based upon a recent Supreme Court ruling in 2014 that held workers who provided in-home care to Medicaid recipients in Illinois were not required to pay fair share dues to the union that was representing their interests in front of state agencies. This is known as the Harris v. Quinn decision. Although the Harris v. Quinn decision is based on a different set of facts, it signaled the willingness of the Supreme Court to review the 1977 decision that held it constitutional to require public workers to pay fair share dues.

It is not clear whether the Supreme Court will accept certiorari and review the decisions involving a challenge to fair share dues from a group of California teachers. Several Justices have expressed an interest in pursuing a further review of the prior decisions on this topic. The end result could be a review of the constitutionality of requiring public sector employees to pay fair share dues in those instances where collective bargaining on all topics continues to occur. For now, Wisconsin employers are still subject to the provisions in the existing labor agreements that call for fair share dues being paid by every employee in the public safety or transit bargaining unit.