About a dozen union employees rallied Monday outside the Berks County Services Center as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this week on a landmark organized labor case that could have far-reaching implications for public sector workers.
Any day now, the Supreme Court is expected to release its decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. The ruling could eliminate requirements that workers who are not union members but are represented by and benefit from a union contribute to it financially.
The case is named after Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee.
Janus is not a member of the union, but he is required to pay fair share dues, which are less than a union member pays. The dues are meant to offset the cost of the union negotiating labor contracts and undertaking other activities that benefit members.
In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that it was acceptable to charge fair share dues, but the money could not be used for political purposes. Janus argues that the $45 monthly payroll deduction infringes on his free speech rights because he disagrees with many positions taken by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union and that everything the public employee union does is inherently political.
Those at the Reading rally disagreed. Health care professionals represented by Service Employees International Union held signs reading, “America Needs Union Jobs” and “Our Voices Deserve to be Heard” as cars zipped by on Washington Street.
They argued that a ruling for Janus would weaken unions by reducing their revenue and limiting their bargaining power.
“I’m preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” said West Lawn resident Chris Ellis, a caseworker in the Berks County Assistance Office. “We have definitely been informing people about what this decision means for them. And what it means is that this could have a domino effect when it comes to the rights of all workers.”