The U.S. Supreme Court on June 27 ruled that public sector union “agency shop” fees violate the First Amendment. The decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al. may have a significant impact on union membership and the operations of school districts and other government entities.

Established by statute in 22 states, including New Jersey, “agency shop” requires non-union employees to pay a “fair share fee” to cover the union’s collective bargaining and other non-political activities. Under the concept, an employee who decides not to join the union would still be responsible for paying the majority of union dues. In New Jersey, the agency shop fee constitutes 85 percent of the dues.

The court’s Janus decision means employees cannot be compelled to join or pay any fees to the union. The employee will still be covered by the terms and conditions of the contract, and the union will be required to be involved with grievances filed by non-member employees regarding contractual provisions. The court left open the question of whether the union must represent the employee in disciplinary proceedings. However, based upon New Jersey’s Employer Employee Relations Act, it appears the union would be required to provide representation, as the law specifically requires disciplinary review procedures be included within the collective negotiations agreement.   

Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling further held an employee must “clearly and affirmatively” consent by “clear and compelling” evidence before any money can be taken from them. In short, this means employees must opt in to paying union dues, and not be required to opt out of paying dues.   

Last month, in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling, New Jersey’s governor and legislature enacted the “Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act,” which includes a series of provisions that would grant union representatives access to prospective and existing members of their respective bargaining units.

NJSBA will continue to analyze the decision and will provide members with information about the impact on school district operations.


Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et al., June 27, 2018

Governor Signs Union-Backed Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act,” School Board Notes,  May 22, 2018

What Does the Janus Case Mean for New Jersey?School Leader, May-June 2018

National School Boards Association Analysis of Janus Ruling, June 27, 2018