My name is Mark Janus, and I was the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME. On June 27, 2018, the Court ruled that government employees like me could not be forced to pay a government union as a condition of working in public service. This landmark ruling was a tremendous victory for workers’ rights, and I was privileged to be a part of it.
For more than a decade I worked a child support specialist for state government in Illinois. Quite simply, my job was to help people. When parents weren’t together anymore, I worked to ensure that children received all the financial support available to them.
Serving others has always been a part of who I am. I took pride in my job at the state. But in order to do this type of work, I was forced to check my First Amendment rights at the door. That’s why I asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.
I learned about public service during my youth, when I became a Cub Scout. I worked my way all the way up to rank of Eagle Scout, and have remained active with the scouts throughout my entire adult life. Through scouting I learned self-reliance. But scouting also taught me that I must take an active role in my community; as I better myself, I must also strive to improve the world around me. That’s why public service matters so much to me.
Over the years I’ve worked in the private sector and in government. In the 1980s, I worked in a government job and was not required to pay money to a union. Then I worked for a private company. When I returned to the public sector in 2007, the union automatically deducted money from my paycheck even though I was not a union member. That’s when I learned that state government in Illinois had granted AFSCME – a politically powerful government union – the power to exclusively represent more than 90 percent of state workers in Illinois. The government gave AFSCME the power to collect money from almost every employee of state government, even if we didn’t support the unions’ politics and policies. I had no choice, and no voice in the matter.
It turned out that I was one of millions of American workers who were forced to support a government union as a condition of employment. This was a gross violation of my First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association. That is why I asked the U.S. Supreme Court to end this practice.
I’m not anti-union and neither was my case. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to form a union, or be part of a union. But what was unfair and unconstitutional is forcing me – and millions of other American workers – to pay to advance policies we oppose just so we could serve our communities and our state. The Supreme Court was right to end this practice – and I am honored to spend the next part of my career working to defend workers’ rights and ensure the ruling in my case is fully implemented across the United States.