BREAKING NEWS (Feb.26, 2018): Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Landmark Workers’ Rights Case, Janus v. AFSCME

With their billion dollar forced dues machine, Big Labor has managed to hold an iron-fist over public sector employees and forced them to pay tribute to a union boss just to get or keep a job.

That grip may soon come to an end with one Foundation case seeking to end forced dues or fees for all public sector workers, Janus v. AFSCME, heard by the Supreme Court on February 26.

About the Case

On February 9, 2015, relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn (more information below), newly elected Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies from enforcing state bargaining agreement provisions requiring nonmember state employees to pay union fees and directing that any fees deducted be placed in escrow pending the resolution of litigation over the constitutionality of the forced fee provisions. On the same day Governor Rauner sued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against the unions collecting forced fees from state employees for a declaratory judgment that the forced fee provisions violate the First Amendment and that his executive order is valid.

On March 23, 2015, Foundation staff attorneys filed a motion, eventually granted by the court, to intervene as plaintiffs for Mark Janus and two other Illinois state employees who are compelled to pay union fees as a condition of their jobs. Their accompanying complaint requested not only a declaratory judgment, but also an injunction against and damages from the unions to which they are compelled to pay fees.

Although the court eventually ruled that Governor Rauner did not have standing necessary to file his lawsuit, the challenge continues on behalf of the three employees. On July 2, 2015, the Attorney General moved to stay the case pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Friedrichs which the court granted on July 8, 2015. After deadlock in Friedrichs left in place union bosses forced dues powers for the time being a District Court judge dismissed the case citing Friedrichs.

The Foundation along with the Liberty Justice Center, filed an appeal to the Seventh Court of Appeals in October 2016. Hearings were held on March 1st 2017. On March 21, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the Illinois district court which ruled that the Abood v. Detroit Board of Education precedent applied to Janus v. AFSCME. The decision by the Seventh Circuit, which was expected, allows Foundation staff attorneys to next file a writ of certiorari to ask the United States Supreme Court to take the case.

About Mark Janus

Mark Janus works at the Illinois Department of Healthcare Services as a child support specialist. To read an op-ed that Mark wrote in the Chicago Tribune please click here.

He is forced to pay union dues or fees for the privilege of working for his own state government.

News Releases:

Illinois state employee asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear First Amendment challenge to mandatory union fees

National Right to Work Foundation Staff Attorney Argues Case Before 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Challenging Forced Union Dues

Foundation Cases Poised to Challenge Forced Dues at Supreme Court

Illinois Civil Servants File Appeal in Case to Overturn Union Boss Forced Dues Powers

State Employees Move to Defend Rauner’s Federal Challenge to Government Union Bosses’ Forced Dues Powers

Selected Media Coverage

Mark Janus Op-ed (Chicago Tribune)

Supreme Court to Consider Public Worker Union Dues (Wall Street Journal)

Supreme Court Again Will Consider Mandatory Fees to Public-employee Unions (Washington Post)

Supreme Court Will Hear Case on Mandatory Fees to Unions (New York Times)

Supreme Court to Hear Labor Case that Threatens Unions (Bill Messenger interviewed on NPR)

Union Power Hangs In The Balance Of This New SCOTUS Case(Daily Caller)

Supreme Court asked to take up fight over mandatory union fees (Washington Examiner)

Minnesota unions prepare for potential Supreme Court right-to-work decision (

All eyes on Illinois case that could change U.S. labor law (Illinois News Network)

A Supreme Court Absence is Felt (Wall Street Journal Editorial)

Trump justice nominee means Illinois’ fair share case could lead to national right-to-work law (Illinois News Network)

Seventh Circuit hears arguments over IL ‘fair share’ union fees; case may be headed to SCOTUS (Cook County Record)

The ‘next Friedrichs’ of right-to-work has its day in appeals court (

New Legal Challenges To Public Union Agency Fees (Law360)

The Supreme Court Need Not “Ignore Pleading Rules” to Decide the Constitutionality of Forced Union Dues Imposed on Public Employees (Federalist Society)

Janus in the Court – Podcast Featuring lead attorney Bill Messenger (Federalist Society)

Legal Documents

Petition for Writ of Certiorari with United States Supreme Court No. 16-1466

Reply to Briefs in Opposition

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Decision

Plaintiff brief for Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

Audio transcript of oral arguments before Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

Plaintiff brief for Illinois District Court

Initial brief filed by Illinois Governor Rauner in Illinois District Court

Opposition Briefs

Brief of respondents Lisa Madigan and Michael Hoffman

Brief of respondent AFSCME

Amicus Briefs in Support of Petitioner

Rebecca Friedrichs Amicus Brief

Atlantic Legal Foundation Amicus Brief

Buckeye Institute and National for Public Policy Solutions Amicus Brief

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Amicus Brief

Michigan and 18 Other States Amicus Brief

Cato Institute and National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Center Amicus Brief

Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence Amicus Brief

Deborah Nearman Amicus Brief

Competitive Enterprise Institute Amicus Brief

Pacific Legal Foundation, Linda Chavez, Goldwater Institute,The Fairness Center, Gregory J. Hartnett, Elizabeth M. Galaska, Robert G. Brough, Jr., John M. Cress, Pioneer Institute, Inc., and Empire Center for Public Policy, Inc. Amicus Brief

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Related Precedent

2016 – Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

California public school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs along with eight other teachers, brought forth a challenge that argued Abood v. Detroit Board of Education should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment; and it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech. Unfortunately, Justice Scalia’s untimely death resulted in a 4-4 deadlock and kept the Appeals Court decision that denied the challenge to Abood .


Worker Advocate Issues Statement on Supreme Court Case that Could End Public Sector Forced Union Dues

Worker Advocate Urges Supreme Court to Strike Down Public Sector Forced Union Dues


Supreme Court Decision

2014 – Harris v. Quinn

The Court held five-to-four that an Illinois requirement that nonunion Medicaid-funded home-care personal assistants pay union fees violates the First Amendment. The Court refused to extend Abood, which upheld forced fees imposed on public employees to the extent that they are used for collective bargaining, to the “new situation” before it, “[b]ecause of Abood’s questionable foundations, and because the personal assistants are quite different from full-fledged public employees.” This holding renders unconstitutional similar forced-fee schemes imposed on providers in at least thirteen other states.


Supreme Court to Review Illinois Homecare Provider Unionization Scheme

To watch an interview with plaintiff Pam Harris please click here.


Supreme Court Decision

2012 – Knox v. Service Employees International Union

In 2005, the California State Employees Association (CSEA) union, a local affiliate of the SEIU, imposed a “special assessment” on every civil servant in its bargaining unit to pay for a campaign to defeat several California ballot initiatives. The Court Supreme Court struck down the scheme in a precedent-setting ruling issued on June 21, 2012 that applied strict scrutiny to forced union dues or fees for the first time. The Court’s majority ruled that government union officials must obtain affirmative consent from workers before using workers’ forced union fees for union politicking.


Supreme Court Strikes Down SEIU Scheme to Force CA Nonunion State Employees to Fund Union Politics)

California State Employees Lay Out Class-Action Lawsuit before Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Review Ninth Circuit Ruling that Forces Nonunion Workers to Fund Union Political Activism

To watch an interview with Foundation staff attorney and lead plaintiff Dianne Knox please click here.


Supreme Court Decision

1977 – Abood v. Detroit Board of Education

A six-member majority of the Court rejected arguments that the strict scrutiny test should be used when determining whether requiring public employees to pay agency fees to keep their jobs violates the First Amendment. The Court ruled that the agency shop as such is constitutionally valid, but only “insofar as the service charges are applied to collective-bargaining, contract administration, and grievance-adjustment purposes.” The Court unanimously agreed that “a union cannot constitutionally spend [objectors’] funds for the expression of political views, on behalf of political candidates, or toward the advancement of other ideological causes not germane to its duties as collective-bargaining representative.”