News & Commentary

June 28, 2018

The Supreme Court struck a major blow to public sector unions yesterday. The Janus ruling held that the First Amendment prohibits states from requiring non-union members to pay so-called “agency fees” to the union that represents them. Sharon Block and Ben Sachs suggest some ways states can support unions to avoid the First Amendment problem, and at OnLabor Senators Blumenthal and Whitehouse write about the “dark money” that financed the Janus litigation. A separate post today will collect reactions to the Janus opinion.

OnLabor contributor Jared Odessky has an op-ed in the New York Times arguing that Janus will hurt LGBT workers. Because many large unions represent both public and private-sector employees, the elimination of agency fees affects all unionized workers. In the 29 states that lack full employment protections for LGBT workers, a collective bargaining agreement with a nondiscrimination clause is often an employee’s only protection. And even where workers are protected by state law, their employers often require them to sign arbitration clauses as a condition of employment; unions offer employees a chance to negotiate against forced arbitration and use grievance procedures if they experience discrimination.

As the unemployment rate continues to decline, some employers are seeking to hire foreign laborers through the H-2B visa program. The visas permit employers to hire seasonal non-farm workers, many of whom work in landscaping. But Congress recently imposed new limits on the number of visas available, causing consternation among some employers who say they simply cannot fill the jobs with American workers and stay in business.

The City is Seattle asked the full 9th Circuit to review a May decision by a panel of three judges that revived a suit challenging a Seattle ordinance that allowed rideshare drivers to unionize. That decision, which OnLabor covered here, put Lyft and Uber drivers’ right to unionize in limbo.

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