News & Commentary

June 8, 2021

Zachary Boullt

Zachary Boullt is a student at Harvard Law School.

The Supreme Court has rejected Jade Thompson’s appeal claiming she has a First Amendment right not to be represented by a union. The appeal argued that the Court should overturn Minnesota State Board v. Knight to weaken public sector unions’ powers derived from exclusive representation. A federal appeals court had previously ruled against Thompson, despite that case’s judge claiming that the reasoning of Janus was incompatible with the exclusive representation requirement in public sector unions. This rejection demonstrates the Court choosing to decline this opportunity to potentially extend the reasoning of Janus beyond the payment of union fees.

ABC News today examined potential ripple effects of the unionization of Oregon state legislative employees. Oregon state legislators’ staffers and state Capitol office employees became the first state legislative employees in history to unionize on May 28. They joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 89. The unionization effort was spurred by a combination of hours and pay issues. ABC News interviewed Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell, who predicted that the successful Oregon effort would spread to other state legislatures, pointing to increased unionization across political campaigns and changing attitudes among younger staffers. However, some states explicitly bar unionization of partisan state employees, while others separate the employment status of certain sets of statehouse employees, making combined efforts more difficult.

President Biden’s Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment has begun to indicate that it will focus its recommendations on executive actions that won’t require congressional input. Seth Harris, the deputy assistant on labor and the economy, said the task force is preparing an extensive list of executive actions that can facilitate organizing. The task force is currently conducting listening and idea solicitation sessions with unions through June 11.

Connecticut’s marijuana legalization bill that will likely soon pass through the state’s General Assembly includes a plethora of pro-labor provisions. The bill’s current text requires marijuana retailers to sign labor peace and neutrality agreements in order to gain a license. It also requires a project labor agreement for marijuana-related construction projects that cost at least $5 million. Though Connecticut has required union labor for public projects, this bill is unique for requiring project labor agreements for private projects. The Associated Building and Contractors of Connecticut, an organization of non-union construction businesses, oppose the bill’s labor provisions and are advocating for them to be stripped from the bill. The organization’s president expects court challenges to the provisions if the bill passes.

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