COLUMBUS (AP/WCMH) -- The Supreme Court says government workers can't be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining, dealing a serious financial blow to organized labor.
The justices are scrapping a 41-year-old decision that had allowed states to require that public employees pay some fees to unions that represent them, even if the workers choose not to join.
The 5-4 decision Wednesday fulfills a longtime wish of conservatives to get rid of the so-called fair share fees that non-members pay to public employee unions in roughly two dozen states, including Ohio.
Robert Alt, President and CEO of The Buckeye Institute, a conservative think tank, called the court ruling “a great victory” for Ohio workers.
“For those workers who the court recognized for many years were having funds taken out of their paycheck every week to support causes with which they disagreed, today is an opportunity for them to no longer be forced to pay those fees.”
Alt said the court recognized that rationales used for the courts earlier decision allowing the fair share fees did not justify the violation of first amendment rights.
Melissa Cropper, President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, said the union had been preparing for the possibility of this court ruling for months.
“Our members have indicated they are still very committed to the union,” Cropper said. “So I feel like we’re as strong as we’ve ever been, probably stronger because when our members see these kind of attacks come they actually double-down on their commitment to the union.”
She said the court ruling does not change the fact that the unions are required to represent all employees.
“Regardless of whether the person pays or not, we have an obligation to represent them if they have a problem within the district,” Cropper said. “They get the benefits of the contract that we negotiate. They get the benefits of working conditions that we negotiate.”
“So to now says that someone doesn’t have to pay for that but still gets all the benefits - it’s like saying to you - you have to pay to join the gym but the person next to you can still come and use the gym and not have to pay for it - that’s the unfairness of it,” Cropper said.
Cropper said she does not anticipate a loss of membership.
And Robert Alt says some unions in states where fair share fees have been eliminated have grown stronger.
“In some cases after an initial dip the unions actually pick up in terms of their membership,” Alt said. “They have to become more competitive to actually reach out to those union members and the workers respond.”
President Donald Trump said the Supreme Court ruling is a "Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!"
While Trump received the support of some union workers in his 2016 campaign, labor unions have largely sided with Democrats.