On the morning of June 27, anti-union advocates scored a victory they’d sought for decades: A groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court ruling siding with an Illinois government employee, Mark Janus, who claimed a First Amendment right not to pay fees to the union that represented him.

Within hours after the high court’s Republican majority applied Janus’s argument to all government workers, a conservative advocacy group called the Buckeye Institute sued on behalf of an Ohio teacher named Jade Thompson. Not a union member, Thompson argued she should have the right to refuse union representation entirely.

Building on the Janus case—which like Thompson was facilitated by anti-union organizations—a victory in her case or others like it filed this summer could lead to another high court ruling that would further destabilize the embattled U.S. labor movement.

Under the “exclusive representation” system that governs employment by the federal government and most states, if the majority of a workforce chooses to unionize, the union they pick has the right and responsibility to represent everybody in that workforce, whether they are a union member or not. Employees who choose not to join are entitled to fair representation by the union, including handling grievances and negotiations with management. Many states had allowed unions to fund their representation work by charging all non-members a fee, but under the Janus ruling, those mandatory fees are now illegal throughout the public sector.

Anti-union groups want the Supreme Court— which if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed will have its most solidly conservative majority in decades—to go even further.

Ending exclusive representation “gives unions the ability to say ‘goodbye’ to people not paying them.”

The lawsuit filed by Thompson (the wife of a Republican state legislator) in Columbus, Ohio was followed by matching litigation in Alaska, California, Minnesota, Maine and Maryland. In her complaint, Thompson argued that designating a union as the representative of workers who haven’t chosen to be union members violates their right to free speech and association under the First Amendment. If the courts agree, exclusive representation could eventually be replaced with a system where a union can only negotiate on behalf of workers who affirmatively decide to join it. Co-workers doing the same jobs could form competing groups to negotiate separate deals with the same boss, or hammer out their own individual contracts.

Union leaders warn that’s a recipe for favoritism, where employers will seek to divide and conquer employees. If groups of workers are subject to separate contracts, they could be coerced into dumping whichever union their employer didn’t like, unions say. Letting management negotiate separate deals would foster a “Lord of the Flies-Game of Thrones kind of environment,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million member American Federation of Teachers. “And that is what the right-wing wants.”

Some conservatives label their effort as a boon to labor, one that will help them adapt to a post-Janus world. They contend unions should welcome policies that would release them from providing now-free services to people who refuse to join. Ending exclusive representation “gives unions the ability to say ‘goodbye’ to people not paying them, and public employees the chance to say ‘no thanks’ to unwanted representation,” said Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative advocacy group.

Vernuccio, who served on President Donald Trump’s labor transition team, has previously testified on behalf of proposed state laws to do away with exclusive representation.

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