Vermont Unions Criticize U.S. Supreme Court Decision Barring ‘Fair Share Fees’

Jun 28, 2018

Public-sector unions in Vermont are denouncing Wednesday's Supreme Court decision that says nonunion members cannot be asked to help pay for collective bargaining.

Vermont was one of the 22 states where public sector workers were allowed to be asked to pay a ‘fair share fee’ even if they weren’t in the union.

But on Wednesday, the Supreme Court said the practice was unconstitutional.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion and said the practice forces employees to support a union even if they “strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities.”

Steve Howard is the executive director of the Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA).

“My reaction is it’s a victory for the billionaire class that has funded this lawsuit ... to try to break the back ... of organized labor throughout the county,” he said.

Howard said the union lost about $800,000 in money it now will not be allowed to collect from nonmembers due to the court’s decision. That’s about a quarter of the VSEA’s $3.5 million budget.

"My reaction is it's a victory for the billionaire class that has funded this lawsuit." — Steve Howard, VSEA Executive Director

He says since the court’s ruling on Wednesday three people have left the union, but 55 have joined.

“I do have some concern, but I think people know that the VSEA has fought hard for state employees and that we’ve been effective and we know how to win on their behalf,” Howard said.

Another union, the Vermont-NEA, represents a little over 13,000 teachers in the state.

Communications Director Darren Allen says they see this as an opportunity to reach out to nonmembers and expand union membership by saying, “'look it’s going to be better for you and better for kids if you join with the vast majority of your colleagues who believe in this union, because it does empower educators to make our schools as good as they could be."

Allen said prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, there were about 1,100 nonmembers paying the fair share fee.

Vermont politicians also weighed in on the court’s ruling.

"I think this outcome is fair and respectful of people's personal finances and positions." — Vermont House Minority Leader Don Turner

Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, disagreed with decision and said he supported fair share fees when he was in the state senate.

"I believe that in some capacity, people should pay if someone is representing them and negotiating for them, they should pay something,” he said.

House Minority Leader Don Turner, a Republican running for lieutenant governor, said he respects the court’s decision.

“I think this outcome is fair and respectful of people’s personal finances and positions. I do support collective bargaining rights and will continue to work toward solutions to problems that work for both labor and management,” he said.

In a tweet, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said the ruling is “major setback for working families” and “we must make it easier not harder to join a union.”