April 16, 2019 -- Public employees across the country no longer are being forced to pay fees to unions they don't support.
They can thank Illinois' Mark Janus and others like him for their newfound freedom.
Janus was a former child support specialist for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. He was forced to pay AFSCME Council 31 a part of his salary for 10 years, even though he declined to join the union and disagreed with the union's politics — including their collective-bargaining position of demanding huge pay increases from a state that is broke.
Union advocates maintained the dues Janus was forced to pay to AFSCME were his "fair share" for the wages and benefits the union negotiated on his behalf.
And for 40 years, a legal precedent set by the Supreme Court in 1977 had backed the unions.
But Janus wasn't satisfied with the precedent. He felt strongly that his First Amendment rights guaranteeing his freedom to associate with whom he wanted — or not to associate with a union he wanted no part of — were being violated.
So he joined a lawsuit that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Last June, the Supreme Court agreed with him and struck down forced union fees as unconstitutional.
Since then, more than 210,000 Americans who were being forced to pay these fees to two of the largest public-sector unions no longer are paying.
That statistic is based on analysis from U.S. Department of Labor reports released last week.
"These numbers are an incredible confirmation of what we argued during my case: that all across the country, hundreds of thousands of government workers like me were forced against their will to give money to government unions, just so they could keep their jobs," Janus said. "That's why the decision in my case is so powerful. It freed these workers, and each of the 5 million public-sector workers in America, from mandatory union fees."