By Sahid Fawaz
Labor unions are gaining many allies in an upcoming Supreme Court showdown. And now it can include bishops among them.
“U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are backing public sector unions in an upcoming Supreme Court case, pitting church leaders against the Trump administration and conservatives in a legal battle over how organized labor is financed.
In an amicus brief filed on Friday (Jan. 19) in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sides with the union, which is being challenged by the State of Illinois over its right to collect money from nonmembers for collective bargaining.
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The bishops equated the effect of a ruling against the unions to the landmark high court decisions, Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, which respectively legalized abortion and same-sex marriage.
A judgment against AFSCME, the brief says, ‘would represent another unfortunate decision of this Court that marginalizes the voice of the bishops with respect to an important public policy debate by declaring their position to lie beyond the constitutional pale.’
AFSCME, the nation’s largest union of public employees, argues that it needs nonmembers to pay “fair-share fees” to manage the costs of representing all employees in collective bargaining, as they are legally allowed to do, according to the 1977 ruling Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.
The Trump administration’s Office of Solicitor General and conservative groups including the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty have filed briefs in support of overruling the Abood decision, agreeing with the plaintiff that the fees are an infringement on free speech.
The bishops note their longstanding opposition to “right-to-work” legislation, which doesn’t allow employees to be charged for union representation they didn’t ask for, even if they might benefit from it.“
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