In a 1977 Supreme Court case, Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, there was a similar issue being argued: should employees who benefit from collective bargaining be forced to pay full Union dues or not? These employees argued that since they don't agree with the Union they should retain the moneys being forfeited to pay for their benefits. They also argued that their dues were being used for political ends. In the end, the Court ruled in favor of the Union, saying that the dues themselves were not inherently political in nature, and these employees still benefited from the collective bargaining. This was the introduction of "agency fees" being paid by individuals who work alongside public sector Union members but were not members themselves.
Fast forward to 2018 in New York City. The UFT has a collective bargaining unit of approximately 200,000 employees, with only 2,000 of them being "agency fee payers." That means around 1% of the people who benefit from Union negotiation don't pay the same rate. The total cost of being either a Union member or agency fee payer is currently around $1,400, so there is a lot of money being funneled into the UFT coffers with which they can properly protect our membership from the forces that be.
Enter: the Janus case. In a 5-4 decision on very political grounds, the Supreme Court sided with Mark Janus. Everyone is now wondering what is going to happen to public sector unions across the country as 22 states had rules following the 1977 Abood decision. Some view this as a potential rallying cry to get behind and really start connecting membership to union leadership again. I'm sure groups like the Movement of Rank-and-file Educators Caucus in NYC is hoping its grass-roots efforts will have a positive affect on union membership (and I think they are right).
The most influential aspect of this case to me, however, is something I read in this EdWeek article. In it, the author points out "The justices also ruled that unions cannot deduct fees from employees' paychecks without their express consent." What this exactly means for places like New York City, I'm not sure. It could simply mean that any new pedagogical employee is not automatically joined into the UFT as it is now. Or, worse, it means that any current member is automatically kicked out and has to opt back in. In the latter case, much of the time spent next year by Chapter Leaders and District Representatives will be spent trying to ensure everyone signs up. That could take a lot of time and money away from other, more long-term impacting things like the current contract negotiations happening between the City, the Department of Education, and the UFT.
I hope this situation can be turned into a rallying cry in general in politics to ensure we have more progressive candidates put into office (like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and to get our Union to be more connected to its membership.