The 8 Most Important Labor Stories of 2018

1. Janus dealt a heavy blow to labor—but public-sector unions didn’t crumble overnight.

In June, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited ruling in Janus v. AFSCME—and it was just as bad as everyone feared. In a 5-to-4 decision, the court found that public-sector unions violated the First Amendment by collecting so-called fair-share fees from workers who aren’t union members but benefit from collective bargaining regardless.

A report by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute estimated that the resulting “free-rider” problem could eventually lead to the loss of 726,000 public-sector union members nationwide. This diminished strength could result, in turn, in a 3.6 percent decline in public-sector wages.

But the immediate fallout has been less catastrophic than some forecast. Public-sector unions took a hit to their finances, as automatic deductions from non-members ceased. But many are reporting that membership is holding steady, or even increasing. That’s thanks in large part to protective measures enacted in blue states, as well as proactive membership organizing by unions themselves—both of which the Right is attempting to overturn or counter with its own aggressive “opt out”campaigns. While it’s far too early to tell what the long-term impact of Janus will be, the ruling wasn’t the knockout blow that anti-union forces had hoped for.

Read the other 7 top labor stories of 2018.