Janus v. AFSCME could be next U.S. Supreme Court case to decide constitutionality of mandatory union fees for public employees

Chicago, IL (March 1, 2017) – On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will hear oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case challenging mandatory union fees paid by government workers in Illinois. This case builds on recent Supreme Court decisions Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), both of which were won by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

In Janus, the plaintiffs are two Illinois government employees who are represented by staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center.

Under Illinois law, union officials are empowered to require government employees to pay money to a union as a condition of employment. Although state employees aren’t forced to be full-fledged union members, they are required to pay mandatory dues or fees to a union or be fired. This lawsuit seeks to end that practice on the grounds that these fees violate the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.

A victory for the Janus plaintiffs would impact millions of government employees who currently can be fired for refusing to pay dues or fees to union officials. The National Right to Work Foundation currently has seven cases across the country on behalf of public employees seeking a ruling that mandatory union fees violate the First Amendment, with Janus most likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court first.

In 2016, because of the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the High Court split 4-4 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that would have also ended forced dues for public employees. A new justice will be the deciding vote should Janus or another case presenting the issue be taken up by the Supreme Court.

National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix commented, “Hopefully the Seventh Circuit will rule quickly so the case can go to the Supreme Court, which should uphold the First Amendment by ending the injustice of forcing public employees to pay tribute to union bosses as a condition of working for their own government.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.

Posted on Mar 1, 2017 in News Releases