High Court to Reconsider Forced Union Dues in Janus v. AFSCME
Judges and Lawmakers Have Duty to Protect Employees’ Free Speech
Today more than 20 states have laws on the books explicitly requiring all or some front-line public servants who are subject to Big Labor monopoly bargaining in the workplace to pay dues or fees to a union they may not want as a condition of employment.
And roughly five million unionized public employees — that is, the vast majority of all such employees across the U.S. — reside in states where forced financial support for government unions is authorized and promoted.
However, late this month the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case that directly challenges the constitutionality of compulsory financial support for government unions.
Mark Janus, the plaintiff in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, is a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Health Care and Family Services.
Granting a ‘Private Entity’ Taxation Power Over Public Workers ‘Undeniably Unusual’
“Mark Janus contends that laws and legislation aimed at requiring public employees like him to pay forced fees to a union they never asked for violate their First Amendment rights,” explained National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix.
“He is being represented by staff attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the Committee’s sister organization, as well as the Winston & Strawn law firm and the Liberty Justice Center in Chicago.”
Federal courts have repeatedly conceded over the years that public-sector forced union dues and fees are constitutionally problematic.
For example, the late Justice Antonin Scalia admitted in the 2007 majority opinion for the Foundation-won Davenport case that it is “undeniably unusual for a government agency to give a private entity the power, in essence, to tax government employees.”
Abood Gave Union Bosses License to ‘Interfere’ With Employees’ Free Association
It was in another Foundation case, 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that the Supreme Court originally sanctioned this “undeniably unusual” privilege for government union bosses.
Abood gave a judicial nod to forced financial support for government unions’ bargaining-related activities in jurisdictions where union officials are granted monopoly power to “represent” employees who don’t want a union along with those who do.
If legislators grant union officials the latter privilege, theorized Justice Potter Stewart while writing the Abood opinion, legislators must also have the option to empower union bosses to force unwilling workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
Justice Stewart all the same admitted that compulsory payments to unions may well “interfere in some way with an employee’s freedom to associate for the advancement of ideas, or to refrain from doing so, as he sees fit.”
Up to now, federal courts have swallowed Big Labor’s monopoly-bargaining excuse for public-sector forced union dues, even though it has left a bad taste in the mouths of many jurists.
But this excuse never made any sense whatsoever to Mark Janus.
‘Just Because I Care About Kids Doesn’t Mean I Also Want to Support a Government Union’
In a 2016 op-ed for the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Janus explained that it is his job as a child support specialist to “fight for the little ones.”
He continued: “Sometimes when parents aren’t together any more, kids get caught in the crossfire. These scars can last well beyond childhood, and they often mean kids don’t get the resources they need to lead a decent life.
“So I advocate for these children, hoping that maybe if this process goes a little bit smoother, their futures will be just a little bit brighter.
“I went into this line of work because I care about kids.
“But just because I care about kids doesn’t mean I also want to support a government union. . . .
“When I was hired by the state of Illinois, no one asked if I wanted a union to represent me.
“I only found out the union was involved when money for the union started coming out of my paychecks.”
In Mr. Janus’ view, AFSCME and other government union bosses’ advocacy of higher and higher government spending has been bad for union members “who face the threat of layoffs or their pension funds someday running dry” as well as for other ordinary taxpaying citizens.
“The union voice is not my voice. The union’s fight is not my fight,” he declared. “But a piece of my paycheck every week still goes to the union.”
With the help of the Foundation and its partners, in 2015 Mr. Janus and other plaintiffs began pursuing a case challenging forced union dues and fees as a condition of public employment on First Amendment grounds.
Before reaching the High Court, the case went through federal district and appellate courts.
‘Nonmembers Are Being Forced By The Government to Travel With’ a Mandatory Union
During oral arguments on February 26, Mr. Janus’s counsel of record, Right to Work Foundation attorney Bill Messenger, will make a presentation on and address questions about the compelling and multifaceted case against Big Labor’s monopoly-bargaining excuse for “interfering” with public servants’ First Amendment freedom.
In the merits brief they submitted to the High Court late last November, Mr. Janus and his attorneys pointedly observed:
“[F]ar from benefitting nonmember employees, exclusive [union] repre-sentation forces them to accept an agency, advocacy, and contractual terms that they may oppose and that may not benefit them [citation omitted]. . . .
“[N]onmembers are being forced by the government to travel with a mandatory union advocate to policy destinations they may not wish to reach.”
“Freedom-loving Americans from coast to coast are hoping the High Court will take the opportunity it has in Janus v. AFSCME, Council31 to correct the grave error it made 41 years ago in Abood,” said Mr. Mix, who is the president of the Right to Work Foundation as well as the Committee.
Missouri Lawmakers ‘Solemnly Swear’ They Will ‘Support’ The U.S. Constitution
“But it’s not only courts that have a duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution,” Mr. Mix continued.
“In all 50 states, including the states that currently have laws or policies enabling government union bosses to trample public employees’ free speech by forcing them to pay union dues or fees as an employment condition, elected officials take an oath to defend the federal Constitution.
“In Missouri, for example, legislators ‘solemnly swear’ or ‘affirm’ as they are installed that they will ‘support the Constitution of the United States.’
“Yet this year in the Show-Me State many elected officials are actively campaigning for passage of a Big Labor-backed ballot measure that would overturn Right to Work protections adopted in 2017 and empower union bosses to get private employees and public servants fired for refusal to pay union dues or fees.
“Appalling as it may seem, lawmakers in Missouri and many other states will readily violate their oaths of office just to please Big Labor bosses.”