Law & Principles

Trent England | June 27, 2018

Janus decision casts doubt on Oklahoma law

Trent England

The Supreme Court of the United States today handed down a landmark decision for freedom of speech and association. It was widely expected that Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee, would win his suit against the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Janus objected to the union’s ideology but was forced to pay thousands of dollars to it under Illinois state law. The Court, in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, condemned the Illinois law and any policy that forces government workers to pay a union as a condition of employment.

While the decision directly applies only to states without right-to-work laws, the Court repeatedly stressed that when states grant unions exclusive bargaining powers, such a policy “substantially restricts the nonmembers’ rights.” This applies in some right-to-work states with laws granting this “tremendous increase in the power” of government unions. In fact, this is the law for some government workers today in Oklahoma.

An Oklahoma City teacher may object to the American Federation of Teachers support for Planned Parenthood. A teacher in Bartlesville may likewise disagree with the National Education Association’s support for abortion or opposition to guns. They might both oppose the massive tax hikes pushed by both unions. But state law says that while they can opt out of paying union dues, the unions still have the exclusive power to speak for them in employment matters.

As today’s opinion makes clear, all employment matters for public employees are matters of public significance. They are important to individual workers, but also to all citizens, because they inexorably related to how government works. While the Court did not today strike down state laws that give unions this power, it did cast doubt on the wisdom and fairness of such laws. Oklahoma policymakers should take note.

Trent England David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow

Trent England

David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow

Trent England is the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, where he previously served as executive vice president. He is also the founder and executive director of Save Our States, which educates Americans about the importance of the Electoral College. England is a producer of the feature-length documentary “Safeguard: An Electoral College Story.” He has appeared three times on Fox & Friends and is a frequent guest on media programs from coast to coast. He is the author of Why We Must Defend the Electoral College and a contributor to The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and One Nation Under Arrest: How Crazy Laws, Rogue Prosecutors, and Activist Judges Threaten Your Liberty. His writing has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Times, Hillsdale College's Imprimis speech digest, and other publications. Trent formerly hosted morning drive-time radio in Oklahoma City and has filled for various radio hosts including Ben Shapiro. A former legal policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, he holds a law degree from The George Mason University School of Law and a bachelor of arts in government from Claremont McKenna College.

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