About 'Right-to-Work' and the Janus Case

Forty years ago, in a case called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public sector employees are not required to join a union, but when they accept a union job and chose to opt-out of being a member, they are charged a fee for the union’s efforts to negotiate the salary, benefits, and other contract-related items from which they benefit. In essence, these individuals are required to pay their fair share for core union services, and came to be known as “fair share payers.”  

In 2018, the Supreme Court will hear a case called Janus v. AFSCME, which challenges this previous ruling. If the Court decides that non-members do not have to continue paying their fair share, it could allow workers to receive, but not pay for union services. This would be a victory in the decades-long attack by conservative groups – often coined ‘Right-to-Work’ -- aimed at weakening public sector employees and unions, which, in turn leads to lower wages, health benefits, higher workplace death, etc...

Currently, there are 28 states that have 'Right-to-Work' laws, which prohibit the union security agreements that allow unions to collect dues from employees in unionized jobs for contract negotiation and representation services. The Janus case will likely make 'Right-to-Work' a nationwide law in the public sector.

What does this mean for workers and unions?

  • Membership and dues payments are voluntary in a Right-to-Work environment.
  • Employees don’t have to pay for the union services they receive even if their position is represented by a union.
  • Unions still have a legal obligation to represent all members, regardless of whether they pay union dues.
  • Union services, funded by contributing employees, will be utilized by non-paying employees.
  • Unions will have less resources to provide services, negotiate contacts and enforce them.

What happens to the workplace in 'Right-to-Work' states?

  • Decrease in wages
  • Increase in workplace injuries
  • Increase in health care costs
  • Decrease in access to retirement plans

Below are some resources to learn more about 'Right-to-Work:'

Background info on 'Right-to-Work' from LiUNA
FAQs about fair-share from AFL-CIO

'How Business Unionism got us to Janus'

'Court tees up right-wing assault on unions'


Watch this video from Robert Reich, economist and former Secretary of Labor, to better understand how Right-to-Work laws threaten your contract, workplace, and community.