News Story

As Janus anniversary draws nears, public workers retain right to union representation

It’s the flip side of union’s power of exclusive representation

It’s been six years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that government employees cannot be required to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of staying on the job. On this anniversary of the ruling, Steve Delie, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, wants public employees workers to understand their rights.

A union is required to represent even workers who are not members, due to its “duty of fair representation.”

“It’s crucial that public employees understand the duty of fair representation to ensure their rights are protected,” Delie told CapCon.

Unions have this duty because they also have the right of “exclusive representation.” Under it, the union negotiates with management as the exclusive representative of a group of employees known as a bargaining unit. Members and nonmembers alike are part of the bargaining unit, and the union must represent them all, including at any disciplinary hearings they may face.

The duty to fair representation was first recognized in the 1953 Supreme Court decision Ford Motor Co. v. Huffman. Michigan adopted this principle in 1984 when the state’s highest court ruled in Goolsby v. City of Detroit. The court reaffirmed the duty in the 2023 case Technical, Professional and Officeworkers Association v. Renner.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.