The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case involving “agency fees” that unions impose on workers who aren’t members to cover union activities with the exception of political action. Since the oral arguments took place, most news outlets, court watchers and even most union leaders have predicted that the court will side with Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois who is required by state law to pay the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees a monthly fee.
As a teacher who was a plaintiff in a similar case two years ago, I hope the predictions on the court’s decision are correct. Although Janus is not a teacher, his case mirrors Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in its purpose: No government worker should be forced to fund a union as a condition of employment, and no worker should be forced to pay for political speech with which he disagrees.
I resigned from the teachers’ union about 20 years ago. Despite saying “thanks, but no thanks” to union membership, they still pull dues money out of my check against my wishes. This continues like clockwork, month after month, year after year. If I fill out the necessary paperwork each school year, I get about 38 percent of my dues money back, since that amount is what the union claims it spends on political activity. By law, I don’t have to pay for what the union says is “political.” But, just 38 percent?