Many public employees object to union policies. With Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court is in a position to overturn a requirement of "fair share" fees.
Rebecca Friedrichs is a teacher and was the lead plaintiff challenging the California Teachers Association's "agency shop" arrangement, She joins Insight to explain why she decided to file her lawsuit and challenged the CTA all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As president of AFSCME Local 3790 in New Jersey, I empathize with Phillip’s difficult position of being pitted between his personal principles and the coerced nature of the law. Like him, I have been anxiously awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court. For me, it is the case Janus v. AFSCME, which could release me from being forced to pay a union that does not represent my best interests. Through its political activities, my union acts in ways that is opposite to my own political efforts. Masterpiece focused on the application of freedom of religion and Janus focuses on our First Amendment right to free speech. Nevertheless, the two cases have very little to do with a debate over the merits of any particular union, whether marital or labor, and everything to do with one issue: the freedom to choose.
I hope to see the Supreme Court restore my freedom of speech by ruling in favor of Mark Janus, thus freeing me and approximately five million government workers nationwide from being forced to pay a union as a condition of employment. Yet, this hope should not be misconstrued as a position against government unions in general.
As organized labor braces for a Supreme Court ruling that could make it easy for public-sector workers to stop paying some dues, unions across the country are reaching out to hundreds of thousands of members to persuade them to keep paying dues.
The Service Employees International Union has sent text messages to 800,000 members as part of a program that includes meeting with workers and sending mailers to homes.
The U.S. Supreme Court's impending ruling in a landmark labor-relations case could deal a big blow to the power of public employee unions across the country, especially in a heavily-unionized state such as New York.
The concerns and questions raised by the case, Janus vs. AFSCME, were the subject of a panel hosted by the Empire Center for Public Policy on Wednesday. State Senator Diane Savino and Daniel DiSalvo, an assistant professor at the City College of New York, discussed the case at the Albany Capital Center and Capital Tonight host Liz Benjamin moderated the debate.
Janus v. AFSCME is one of the most important Supreme Court cases this term and perhaps one of the most important in decades. It concerns a claim that under the First Amendment, unionized government workers should not be forced to subsidize union speech to keep their jobs. This issue was to be decided in 2016’s Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, but Justice Antonin Scalia’s death left the court in a 4-4 deadlock.
Most court observers expect Justice Neil Gorsuch to break this tie in Janus, so they sought to discern his views on labor matters from the recently decided Epic Systems v. Lewis case. (That decision concerned how the National Labor Relations Act and the Federal Arbitration Act interact.) The most interesting part about Janus to date, however, is what public sector unions and their allies are doing.
Will making agency fees optional result in dramatic change?
The potential is there for dramatic change, because as of 2017, 7.2 million government workers belong to a union. Their total membership nearly equals the total membership of private sector unions, 7.6 million, despite federal, state and local government workers only comprising about 17% of the U.S. workforce. In California, state and local government unions are estimated to collect and spend over $1.0 billion every year.
While there are many education policy questions that divide Americans, we can all agree that our hardworking and talented educators deserve great compensation, clean and safe workplaces, and our genuine appreciation for doing a job critical to our country’s future.
Here’s something else we should all agree on: educators, as professionals who are tasked with teaching our children to become independent, critical thinkers, should have the power to decide whether or not to join and fund the national teachers unions.
If Mr. Janus wins his case, teachers, students, and families across the country will benefit, as school employees learn they do not have to join a union against their will. Ending forced unionism will reduce fear and conflict in public school working conditions, meaning increased morale and respect for teachers, and higher-quality instruction for students.
Currently, public school teachers in Washington State must pay about $1,000 in annual dues to the powerful Washington Education Association (WEA) or risk losing their jobs. Many feel intimidated, moreover, fearing they will be punished if they voice opinions contrary to those of union executives.
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. 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?
To Illinois College alum Mark Janus, who is at the center of a history-making Supreme Court case, it’s about standing up for what he believes is right.
It’s that belief that resulted in his fight against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court’s decision could play a pivotal role in how union dues are handled for non-union employees.
On Monday morning in the nation’s capital, Americans exercised their right to demonstrate peacefully on the steps of the Supreme Court. Hundreds of public employees, unions officials, and lawyers like me from all over the country, came with signs and chants to demand two very different versions of freedom.
Inside the courthouse the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against requiring public employees, as a condition of employment, to pay so-called “fair-share” fees to a union. The central legal argument in Janus v. AFSCME is simple and compelling: all public-sector collective bargaining is inherently political because it directly affects the cost, size and nature of government. Forcing employees to pay for union speech violates the First Amendment.
As a public schoolteacher, hundreds of parents entrust me to help their children achieve their potential. Thousands of taxpayers also rely on me to use their resources for the betterment of the next generation.
WASHINGTON — Dianne Knox describes herself as "a child of the '60s." Pam Harris grew up a butcher's daughter in a proud union household. Rebecca Friedrichs was secretary of her local teachers' union. Mark Janus supports the rights of workers to organize.
But as the lead plaintiffs in four successive Supreme Court cases challenging the power of public employee unions, Knox, Harris, Friedrichs and Janus take pride in helping conservative groups reach a tipping point in their decade-long, anti-union campaign.
Paying union dues and baking a wedding cake may not seem like classic examples of free speech—except perhaps at the Supreme Court.
Even in his hometown of Springfield, Mark Janus is a relatively unknown figure.
Janus is a state employee who works in a nondescript office investigating child support claims. He’s also a divorced father of two adult children and he volunteers to help Boy Scouts.
An outsider looking in might think Mark Janus has the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The child support specialist for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services is less than three weeks away from oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in his case challenging forced union dues.
The court's decision could change labor law across the country, impacting hundreds of thousands of government workers in 22 states without right-to-work laws.
Government unions in New York together constitute a major industry in their own right, annually collecting at least $862 million in dues and fees from more than 1 million employees.