The end of unions? Not so fast, say labor lawyers

The ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will hurt unions in New Jersey — but it will not necessarily destroy them.

So said a smattering of labor lawyers across the state.

“While Janus is a blockbuster decision which overturns 40 years of precedent, it is unlikely to be a death blow to unions which represent public employees,” Steven K. Ludwig of Fox Rothschild said. “It will make public unions responsible for earning the support of dues-paying members and losing the crutch of required ‘fair share’ fees.”

The ruling said public-sector union employees can no longer be forced to pay union dues without their consent — even if those unions collectively bargain for their members.

“The United States Supreme Court today made clear that public employees may no longer be forced to subsidize a union against their will,” John Peirano, of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, said.

Peirano, however, said you shouldn’t expect a complete loss of dues.

“Dues deductions can continue for union members,” he said. “Union members may elect to withdraw from the union. However, under recently enacted state law, an employer cannot encourage an employee to withdraw from the union.”

Ludwig said the ruling will put New Jersey unions in the same position as unions in other states, noting unions still exist in right-to-work states.

“In the 28 states with right-to-work laws and in the federal government, where mandatory agency fees are banned, unions continue to represent workers and have not dissipated into thin air,” he said. “The battleground will now shift to states over union obligations to workers who choose not to pay union dues and whether unions will need to get a majority of workers to pay union dues in order to continue to represent employees.

“There also will be an attempt to expand this decision into the private sector.”

Joe Hannon of Genova Burns said he isn’t ready to call a winner and a loser in the ruling.

“It remains to be seen what the effect will be on labor unions in New Jersey,” he said.

But he did feel the unions were not caught off guard by the decision.

“I know unions have been expecting this and preparing for it,” he said.

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