CHARLESTON — In Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 27 that public sector employees will no longer be forced to contribute to unions that represent them in collective bargaining agreements, but the landmark decision will have little impact on West Virginia.
Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers in West Virginia (AFT), explained that public sector unions in West Virginia don't have collective bargaining.
"Under the ruling, it refers to public sector groups that do have collective bargaining," Campbell said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "It requires them to opt-in as opposed to being part of the union and paying agency fees if they're not full members."
Campbell said in West Virginia, you can belong to a union or not at any given time.
"As far as people in West Virginia who reap the benefits of the union work without paying, it's at the level of the legislature," Campbell said. "There are lobbying efforts advocating for public education, but, directly, the folks that receive representation services are the members."
Campbell said employees in unions in West Virginia are there because they want to be.
"People belong because they choose the union to advocate for public education and state employees, Campbell said. "The things that we work toward are the things that our members deem valuable. While this decision attempts to break the unions, our members are committed to the organizations we have between us and (the West Virginia Education Association)."
Campbell said the unions represent at least two-thirds of teachers and, between all the organizations that represent service personnel, over half of the public sector employees in West Virginia.
Campbell said AFT is actually growing and that many see Janus as trying to stifle the collective voice of the employees.
The Janus decision reversed a 40-year-old decision that had previously ruled that states could require public employees to pay agency fees to unions even if the workers did not join the unions.
Plaintiff Mark Janus, a child support specialist for the state government in Illinois, argued in his suit that forcing government workers to pay union fees violated their First Amendment Rights.
Janus received free legal representation from Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Defense Foundation.
Wednesday's 5-4 decision was authored by Justice Samuel Alito.