On this 2-Year Janus Anniversary: American Experiment continues to fight for workplace freedom

Two years ago on June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME freed millions of public employees from being forced to subsidize government unions’ political agendas in order to keep their job.

Since then, Center of the American Experiment has been helping Minnesotans fight for their newly restored right to say no to financially supporting government unions through our workplace freedom projects—Employee Freedom MN and Educated Teachers MN—and by connecting public employees with legal resources through the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC).

Not only have these efforts resulted in support for public unions decreasing and an expanded teachers’ union resignation window, but they have also recently resulted in six Minnesota state employees sending notice to their public-sector unions that they are suing for an estimated recovery of $19 million in union fees paid by state and local employees.

The plaintiffs, represented by UMLC, the Liberty Justice Center, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, filed two separate class action lawsuits against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 5 and the Minnesota Professional Employees (MAPE).

If successful, the lawsuit against AFSCME (Brown et al., v. AFSCME Council 5) could net $13 million in recovered fees for 8,000 state and local workers who paid fees to the union prior to the 2018 Janus ruling. The lawsuit against MAPE (Fellows et al., v. MAPE) could recover as much as $5.8 million for state employees.

“From 1993 to 2018 I was forced to pay AFSCME union dues for a union I never wanted to join in order to work for the state of Minnesota,” Eric Brown, lead plaintiff of the class action case against AFSCME, said in an LJC press release. “It is time for AFSCME to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling, return the money that was taken out of my paycheck without my permission, and return money to other Minnesota state employees who were victim to this as well.”

“I joined this lawsuit because MAPE took money I didn’t want to pay and shouldn’t have been forced to pay. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, I should be entitled to get my money back,” added Mark Fellows, a licensed social worker for the Department of Human Services who paid fees for over 10 years.

There are still too many public employees who have not been informed of the Janus decision and what it means for their rights regarding union membership. But one thing is clear: Janus has served as a wake-up call for unions. The freedom of choice public-sector employees now have is forcing unions to focus on becoming more in-touch with members and their professional needs. And if public employees don’t feel the union is representing their best interests, they can, and are, choosing to reevaluate their relationship with the union and leave.

The Janus decision broke down barriers that trapped public employees who wanted to be free from financially supporting a union, but more dismantling is clearly required to eliminate other barriers that remain. For one, Minnesota and other states should join Texas and Alaska in their efforts to fully comply with the Janus decision.

The Center will continue using its workplace freedom projects to stand up to government unions bent on undermining the First Amendment rights of Minnesota workers.