The US Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 could have a reverberating effect in Connecticut.
Union membership in Connecticut is already very high compared to most states. Roughly 165,000 workers are union members, accounting for 17 percent of all employees.
Of those workers, 43,000 are state employees, while there are tens of thousands of teachers, police, and firefighters among other public sector employees who could be impacted by the Janus decision.
“This could provide division in our ranks,” said Rick Hart, with the Uniformed Professional Firefighters Association of Connecticut.
Hart said the decision in Janus could lead to some firefighters deciding they do not want to pay for membership, while others remain paying members.
“This is an attempt to weaken us,” he said.
The decision by the US Supreme Court allows public sector employees who are covered by collective bargaining, to forego membership in a union, while receiving the benefits of that union when it comes to legal representation as well as the negotiation of salaries and benefits.
Supporters of the decision include fiscal conservatives, who say the decision strengthens workers’ rights when it comes to their membership in groups that promote political activity.
“Every government union worker has the right to decide for him or herself whether or not he or she wants to pay a union,” said Carol Platt Liebau, President of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, a fiscal conservative thinktank based in Hartford. “Everyone under the Constitution has a first amendment right to make his or her own financial and membership decisions and we’re pleased that that was affirmed as a constitutional right for every state worker.”
The financial impact on public sector unions is not yet clear. Dues and fees vary based on bargaining unit.
It’s also not clear how many people in state and local government opted out of being union members even if they were covered by collective bargaining.