Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Issues Statement on SCOTUS 5-4 Ruling in Janus v. AFSCME

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Issues Statement on SCOTUS 5-4 Ruling in Janus v. AFSCME

by June 28, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, ruling that requiring non-members of public sector unions to pay fair share fees violates the First Amendment.  Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, issued the following statement:

“The Janus decision is an affront to the labor rights of public sector employees all across our country, particularly working-class families who are disproportionately minority. The ruling places corporate interests over the interests of some of the most vulnerable members of our workforce, including teachers, firefighters, police officers and other working-class employees who drive our economy.

“Remarkably, this ruling defies 41 years of legal precedent. It’s not every day that the Court overturns its prior and carefully considered decisions in the absence of a significant change of facts or circumstances. It raises questions about this Court’s commitment to the core principle of stare decisis.

“This decision will make it more difficult for public sector employees to protect their rights through union representation and will exacerbate the widening wealth gap between the haves and have nots in our country.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law joined an amicus brief along with the National Women’s Law Center and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.  The amicus brief notes the importance of unions as one of the most effective vehicles to move people into the middle class, especially for women and people of color.  This decision deals a large blow to the overall collective bargaining and political power on behalf of union members, including at the national level.  The weakening of public sector unions disproportionately impacts workers of color.  In 2016, African American men had the highest general union representation rate, followed by African American women.

A decision in favor of AFSCME would have protected the current union funding system and helped unions to continue to protect the rights of marginalized individuals.  For instance, African American workers represented by unions, regardless of union membership status, had significantly higher median weekly earnings ($807 for represented members and $808 for union members) than their non-union counterparts ($646).[2]  Public sector unions supported by agency fees help communities of color increase their earning capacity and wealth, giving them a better shot to achieve financial security for their families and future generations.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights. For more information, please visit

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