Celebrating One Year of Janus v. AFSCME!

Posted by Olivia Grady on Thursday, June 27th, 2019 at 3:57 pm - Permalink

One year ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision.

The Supreme Court in Janus ruled that state government workers who are not members of a union do not have to pay agency fees to a union. Agency fees are fees that unions claim cover the cost of collective bargaining for these workers. However, agency fees are typically just a little less than regular dues, and the unions determine which costs are related to collective bargaining.

The Court found that agency fees are unconstitutional because they violate the workers’ First Amendment rights. In ruling that these fees are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court overturned Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 1977 Supreme Court case that had upheld agency fees.  

The Janus case interestingly started out differently from other cases. It initially started in 2015 when former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) issued an executive order forbidding the collection of agency fees from workers. He also preemptively sued the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), challenging their collection of agency fees as a violation of the First Amendment rights of workers.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois initially found that Governor Rauner could not sue because he was not personally harmed by the agency fees. Mark Janus, however, an Illinois child support specialist, and two other Illinois government workers tried to join the case as co-plaintiffs. The judge allowed the case to continue with the three government workers as the only plaintiffs.

The Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation argued the case on behalf of Mark Janus.

Thank you to Mark Janus, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center, for this victory for state government workers!

However, there is still work to be done. Unfortunately, a number of state legislators have introduced bills contrary to the Janus decision, and unions have been preventing workers from leaving the union. Many workers also still don’t know about the restoration of their First Amendment rights.

Finally, unions still represent these workers even though they aren’t union members. This is due to exclusive representation, which unions have fought for. Workers, however, should be able to negotiate with their employers over their salaries and benefits. Because exclusive representation limits the freedom of workers to negotiate with their employers, Americans for Tax Reform and the Center for Worker Freedom strongly support ending exclusive representation.