American Experiment urges High Court to Hear Mandatory Union Fees Challenge

Janus v. AFSCME could free all government workers in the U.S. from being forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment

Public school teachers, state social workers and other public employees should not be forced to pay money to a union just so they can keep their jobs. That’s why Center of the American Experiment is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Janus v. AFSCME.

Janus v. AFSCME has the potential to finally end the decades-old requirement of forcing government employees to pay mandatory union fees regardless of whether they want to be represented by a union. This case was brought by the Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of Mark Janus, a child support specialist from Illinois. On Tuesday, Janus petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case.

“No one should be forced to subsidize the political speech of a government union in order to hold a public-sector job,” said Kim Crockett, Vice President and Director of the Employee Freedom Project at the Center. “Because our judicial system has overlooked the fundamental speech rights of public employees and misunderstood the political nature of collective bargaining, union executives have grown powerful, capturing elected officials at the ballot box and forcing government employees to fund their political activity and special interests.”

In 22 states across the United States, including Minnesota, public employees are required to be represented by a union as a condition of employment. Government unions have a sweetheart deal; the government collects dues and deposits the funds in union accounts before employees even see their paycheck. Janus v. AFSCME argues that forcing workers to financially support a union against their will violates the First Amendment. Minnesota is the only state in the Upper Midwest to deny public employees full First Amendment protections.

“The First Amendment does not just guarantee the right to speak; it also guarantees our right not to speak, and by extension protects all citizens from being forced to support someone else’s speech,” Crockett said. “This case has the power to free all government workers in Minnesota and across the country, and to restore their freedom to choose what political causes they want to support. When public employees have a choice, unions have a choice, too. Either focus on serving union members or go out of business. That is good for public employees, good for government and good for the electoral process.”

The request for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case follows a March ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which upheld forced dues, citing the Supreme Court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. The plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME argue that Abood was wrongly decided and should be overturned, especially in light of subsequent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have applied strict scrutiny to mandatory union fees.

Last year, it appeared that the U.S. Supreme Court was ready to strike down forced union fees for public sector employees for good in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case. The plaintiff in that case was Rebecca Friedrichs, who, together with eight other teachers, argued that Abood should be overturned because the forced collection of union fees is a violation of the First Amendment.

Most legal observers agree that Scalia was set to cast the deciding fifth vote in favor of the plaintiffs. His death, however, resulted in a deadlocked court and left Abood in place. Now, Janus provides another vehicle for the Supreme Court to revisit the constitutionality of compelled union fees for public employees.