Prairie State Wire

Prairie State Wire

Monday, January 27, 2020

Supreme Court's ruling means public sector employees now must opt into unions

State Government

By Kyla Asbury | Jun 28, 2018


After the landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME today, public sector employees no longer are required to opt out of unions in which they no longer wish to participate.

Public sector unions members now must opt into union membership and are no longer forced to pay agency fees or union dues to keep their jobs.

The Janus decision has changed the way at least 20 public sector unions can operate now—making it so that employees who do not want to be tied to a union no longer have to be.

Eric Kohn

The ruling overturns a 40-year-old decision that held that public sector employees had to pay agency fees but could be exempted from funding political activities.

Mailee Smith, an attorney with Illinois Policy Institute said in a statement that the state could stop collecting money on behalf of unions from all state workers—not just non-members.

"The court held that employees must 'clearly and affirmatively consent' before any fees are taken from their paychecks," Smith said in the statement provided to Prairie State Wire. "That signifies government employees must actively opt into union membership, potentially relieving millions of workers from the cumbersome obligation of 'opting out.'"

Smith said it should not matter whether a worker previously signed a membership card or authorized a dues deduction because the conditions of membership versus non-membership were different.

"Those who chose to be members were not presented with constitutional options, meaning that consent was not fully informed," Smith said.

As of January, the union membership rate nationwide was 10.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those numbers are nearly half of what they were in 1983 when the BLS started tracking the data. Of that data, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belong to a union.

The BLS data notes that there are 873,110 employees covered by a union in Illinois, half of which are public sector employees.

Eric Kohn, the spokesman for the Illinois Policy Institute, said Janus restored Constitutional freedoms to public sector workers.

"This is a monumental decision," Kohn said. "What this means is for all the public sector workers, who up until now have been forced to pay money to a union, their First Amendment rights have been restored."

Kohn said no longer will public sector employees' money be siphoned away and given toward a powerful government union like AFSCME.

"Their First Amendment rights to free speech have been restored today in Janus v. AFSCME," Kohn said.

Pat Hughes, an attorney and co-founder of Liberty Justice Center, asked Mark Janus to be a part of the case in 2015. Janus had free legal representation from the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Janus did not want to pay agency fees to AFSCME out of his paychecks each month because he did not want to be a part of the union. He was forced to pay each month until today.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in February and made its decision today.

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