In a major victory for First Amendment rights, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that non-union government workers cannot be required to pay union fees as a condition of working in public service on June 27, 2018.

This landmark case guarantees the First Amendment rights to free speech and free association for more than 5 million public school teachers, first responders and other government workers across the country.

Despite this victory for workers, Big Labor has sought to maintain an iron fist over public-sector employees with their billion-dollar forced-dues machine and force them to continue paying tribute to a union boss just to get or keep a job.

Defiance of the Supreme Court’s ruling by Big Labor has required the Foundation to litigate dozens of follow-up cases across the country to enforce the Janus decision and protect the rights of workers.

Public employees interested in learning more about how to exercise their rights under Janus can do so by visiting a special website created by the Foundation: MyJanusRights.org

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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. Rauner directed 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 were 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 were compelled to pay fees.

Although the court eventually ruled that Governor Rauner did not have standing necessary to file his lawsuit, the challenge continued 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 v. California Teachers Association 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 U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2016. Hearings were held on March 1st 2017. On March 21, the Seventh Circuit 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, allowed Foundation staff attorneys to next file a writ of certiorari to ask the Supreme Court to take the case.

The Supreme Court granted the Foundation’s petition for a writ of certiorari on September 28, 2017, and veteran Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger argued the case before the High Court on February 26, 2018. The Court issued the landmark decision in Janus guaranteeing the rights of public employees on June 27, 2018.

Following the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, many public-sector unions have refused to abide by the decision. In addition to numerous cases already won for public workers, the Foundation is currently litigating dozens of follow-up cases as a result, including numerous class-action lawsuits.

Oregon State employee Debora Nearman became the first person to win a refund of forced dues under Janus. SEIU officials were required under a settlement won by the Foundation to return over two years of illegally seized fees, nearly $3,000. Thanks to Janus, she was also no longer forced to fund the organization that ran an aggressive campaign against her husband, Rep. Mike Nearman.

Among the Foundation’s current cases that seek to build on Janus is class-action lawsuit Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board. In July 2019, Foundation staff attorneys asked the Supreme Court to consider this case.

In Branch, a group of Massachusetts educators are challenging the application of the state’s monopoly bargaining law. This policy forces public workers to waive their First Amendment rights guaranteed under Janus and pay union dues if they want even the most limited participation in the government-created bargaining process.

About Mark Janus

Mark Janus worked 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 was forced to pay union dues or fees for the privilege of working for his own state government.

Even after winning the right to stop subsidizing a union after at the Supreme Court ruling, union officials refused to refund any of the dues seized from his paycheck, requiring follow-up litigation by the Foundation.

Janus is asking the Seventh Circuit to rule that he is entitled to refunds of approximately $3,000 in fees he was forced to pay since March 23, 2013, as permitted by the statute of limitations with free aid from Foundation staff attorneys.

News Releases:

Final Briefs Filed at Appeals Court in Janus v. AFSCME: Case Seeks Refund of Unconstitutionally Seized Forced Union Fees

Mark Janus Asks Appeals Court to Order Refund of Forced Union Fees Outlawed by U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Rules for Workers’ First Amendment Rights in Janus v. AFSCME

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

Janus Decision Still at Risk, Say Mark Janus and Bill Messenger (The Epoch Times)

The Legal Battle to Enforce Janus v. AFSCME (Federalist Society)

On Labor Day, celebrate workers’ First Amendment rights under Janus (Washington Examiner)

After Supreme Court labor union ruling, non-members want dues payments back (Fox Business)

Supreme Court hands Illinois governor a rare win over unions (Associated Press)

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 (Watchdog.org)

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 (Watchdog.org)

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

Supreme Court Decision

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 .

NEWS RELEASES:

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

LEGAL DOCUMENTS:

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.

NEWS RELEASES:

Supreme Court to Review Illinois Homecare Provider Unionization Scheme

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

LEGAL DOCUMENTS:

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.

NEWS RELEASES:

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.

LEGAL DOCUMENTS:

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.”