Sunday, February 25, 2018

The US Supreme Court will make a significant ruling on unions and union fees

So let's say you get a job with the New York state government. You will now be represented by a non-governmental union. A union is an organization that protects the rights of the workers within the union. They negotiate salaries and benefits and attempt to protect their membership as much as they can.

The union automatically will receive a small percentage of your salary. This is automatically taken out of your paycheck by the government and sent to the union. The problem is that many people do not care whether they are represented by a union or not. In fact, many do not want to be in a union and do not want money taken out from their paycheck and sent to a union. The unions and the government have an agreement, however, to remove money from paychecks and send this money to the unions.

So, EVEN IF you do not want to be in one of these unions, the government takes a fee out of your salary anyway and sends it to the union. The unions have argued that even people who are not in unions are protected by unions, so they should have to pay a fee as well.

A guy in Illinois, who works for the Illinois state government, did not want to be in a union and does not want any of his paycheck going to the union. He claims that these unions usually support Democratic political candidates (they do) and he is a Republican - he does not want any of his salary to go to an organization that will contribute money to Democratic candidates. 

The Supreme Court will soon determine whether these unions of government workers have a right to take money out of every government worker's salary. I have a feeling the Supreme Court will rule against the unions in this case, especially since the current US Supreme Court is quite conservative and Republican (not liberal and Democratic).

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

will wade into a clash - if you are at the beach and you slowly walk into the water, you wade into the water. The Supreme Court will enter into this argument (clash) between unions and non-union members. They will wade into the controversy the way a person wades into water, slowly and forcefully.

organized labor - unions (organized workers - labor often means workers)

conservative groups - if someone is conservative he/she tends to support business and low taxes. Conservatives are generally anti-union (against unions). They believe that businesses should not be monitored or regulated very strictly.

a precedent - something that happened before and that is a guide to all future action. 

deal a potentially crippling blow to - to deal a blow means to hit someone or something. A crippling blow is when you hit a person so hard he can no longer walk. So to deal a crippling blow to something is to ruin or destroy it.

contentious - if an issue is contentious, people are arguing about it

pivotal - a moment of great change (the USA is becoming much more conservative, but this seems to be a cyclical situation. In 1976 there was a liberal president, Carter. In 1980 he was replaced by Reagan, a conservative, and Reagan and Bush, another conservative, were president until 1992. Clinton, a liberal, took over until 2000. G.W. Bush (son of G.H. Bush), conservative, took over until 2008. Obama was a liberal and now Trump is a conservative.)

protesters - people who do not like something and gather to express their disapproval

to flood the court - to enter the court in large numbers

the debate - the argument

public sector unions - unions of government workers

pertaining to - in regard to

employee grievances - employee complaints. So the existing law says that non union members can be charged by unions because the unions will help them with complaints etc.

a compromise - both sides gave in a little bit, neither side completely won

to be overturned - to be completely changed to the opposite

a challenge - a challenge to the law allows fees to be collected from non-union members. So the new Supreme Court Justice, who was appointed by Trump, will probably decide who wins this case. He is conservative.

to be germane to something - to be relevant to something, to legitimately apply to something

issues germane to collective bargaining are inherently political - unions engage in collective bargaining, meaning they negotiate for the whole group (collective)...and the guy who brought this case to the court says that collective bargaining is a political process in itself (inherently). Therefore, he should not be forced to support a political organization. He is saying all unions are political.

The First Amendment - this is a part of the Constitution which protects many of an American's rights, especially a person's right to 'free speech'. He is saying that if he is forced to give money to a political organization, his free speech rights are being violated.

to subsidize the speech of a third party - to pay for the message of a political party

advocacy - to advocate for something means to speak in favor of it. So the guy, Janus, is saying that Illinois is heavily in debt, but these unions keep demanding higher and higher salaries for their workers, and this is killing his state. He does not want to be a part of this.

the current fiscal situation - the current economic situation of Illinois, which sucks.

a stagnant economy - an economy which is not moving, seems dead. A stagnant body of water has old, rotten, polluted water in it.

the case boils down to - the central issue of the case is.....

coffers - budgets

to file a brief - in an important Supreme Court case, all kinds of organizations will 'file briefs', meaning they will send documents to the Supreme Court advocating for a certain decision.

to impose - to force

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