In both the public and private sectors, collective bargaining gives unions the exclusive right to speak for covered workers on workplace issues, many of whom may disagree with the union's views.
The case, known as Janus v AFSCME, was brought by Mark Janus, a public employee in IL, who is challenging his state's policy of requiring that he pay union dues to the IL branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, even though he does not want to be a member.
The future of unions could hang on a case being argued Monday before the U.S. Supreme Court. They added that a ruling against the unions would require overruling a 40-year-old precedent and would strike down more than 20 state laws and affect thousands of union contracts and millions of workers.
Given that the Court split 4-4 on the prior Friedrichs case, there is a widespread assumption that the Court's frequently conservative and liberal judges were split. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court in April and has yet to weigh in on union fees. AFSCME's Naomi Walker has warned that a loss in this case "could undermine political operations that assist the Democratic Party" and damage "the progressive infrastructure in this country, from think tanks to advocacy organizations".
However, his paychecks are automated to pay union dues regardless, which is something Janus is not happy about.
The SEIU Local 521 gathered outside the Santa Clara County Government Center as part of a nationwide show of solidarity for the labor movement as justices heard arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a challenge to an IL law that allows unions to collect fees from non-members.
Dan McDermott, an employee for the Altoona unemployment office who participated in the rally, said, "We still protect them". "Here, collective bargaining is core political activity", he said, since unions are seeking higher wages and more public spending.
Mark Janus, who works for the State of IL and chose not to join the AFSCME union, believes his First Amendment rights have been violated. "Almost every preK-12 teacher in IL is in a union", said IEA President Kathi Griffin.
The Supreme Court is likely to hand down a decision in June.
"We're having these breakout sessions today in solidarity with our unions because of the attack on unions right now", said Shannon Jenkins, an income maintenance caseworker for the Somerset County Assistance Office.
But her union wouldn't even allow her to survey other teachers.
Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper doesn't mince words when it comes to the latest U.S. Supreme Court case.
"The opportunity here is to re-engage in a way that the reason for unions in the first place becomes a prominent reason again", Weingarten said. American Federation of State, County and Municipality Employees, is the third time in recent years that the high court has sought to reexamine union fees charged to nonmembers who work on union contracts.