Supreme Court deals blow to unions with Illinois case ruling
Overturning a 41-year precedent, the U.S. Supreme Court today handed down a decision
empowering worker’s rights advocates that could essentially destabilize the financial structure of unions.
In a 5-4 ruling down partisan lines, justices ruled in favor of plaintiff Mark Janus in Janus v. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), stating that forcing government workers to pay union fees violated their First Amendment Rights.
Janus, an Illinois child support specialist, challenged the longtime practice of requiring workers to subsidize unions, arguing that it violated First Amendment rights. Janus’ initial discontent took root while working for a government agency that forced staffers to pay unions that in turn supported political causes with which he disagreed.
The ruling overturns a 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that allowed collecting “fair-share fees” from contracted employees who were non-union members.
Illinois Policy Institute partnered with the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for the litigation to represent Janus — who in turn represented the state’s workers — throughout the case.
As a result of the ruling, government workers will now have the right to contribute to their unions voluntarily and ensures that government employees receive the same treatment as any other United States residents, Illinois Policy staff attorney Mailee Smith said.
From a larger perspective, the victory also means that workers will exercise the right to decide on donations themselves. The Janus outcome doesn’t necessarily minimize or abolish union clout in Illinois altogether, as government unions will still retain other powers, Smith said in a press release.
Janus, a Springfield resident, works for the Department of Health Care and Family Services. He credited time spent as an Eagle Scout during his youth as formative, not only teaching him self-reliance but also imparting a strong community ethic.
“I would say I’m just an average guy,” Janus said in a video on the Liberty Justice Center’s website. “I would like to see the state come back and be the powerhouse that it could be and … used to be.”
Liberty Justice Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest litigation center protecting economic liberty, private property rights, free speech and other fundamental rights in Illinois and beyond.