State Policy Network
Celebrating the Historic Janus Decision Five Years Later

On July 27, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) that public employees do not have to pay union dues as a condition of employment. In the years since, a Network of policy organizations across the country has been working to inform workers of their rights, defend workers in court, and advance labor reforms that strengthen employee freedom.

These efforts have given hundreds thousands of public employees a voice and choice when it comes to union membership.

Background: What was the Janus decision?

Unions are organizations that work on behalf of their members to advance common interests, including better pay and working conditions. Before the 2018 Janus decision, public employees were required to join their union and pay union dues and fees in order to work. Opting out of union membership wasn’t an option.

While many public employees are happy with their union and will gladly contribute a portion of their paycheck to support the union’s activities, not all employees feel their union best represent their interests.

One of those employees was Mark Janus, a child support specialist who worked for Health Care & Family Services in Illinois. Mark’s union often supported political causes and activities that did not align with his beliefs. However, because of the union’s policies, Mark was forced to pay dues.

With the help of the Liberty Justice Center, Mark filed a lawsuit, and the case made it all the way to the US Supreme Court. In the case, Janus vs. AFSCME, the US Supreme Court restored the First Amendment rights of millions of public sector employees—giving them a voice and a choice when it comes to union membership. The decision will force unions to better represent workers and their interests in order to prevent membership decline. 

Informing Workers About their Rights to Opt-Out of Union Membership

The Janus decision was just the beginning of the campaign to give workers the freedom to choose union membership. Millions of public employees were still in the dark about their restored right to leave their union if they so choose. 

A Network of state and local policy organizations—committed to improving the lives of the people in their communities—launched campaigns to educate workers about their constitutional right to opt-out of union membership.

Americans for Fair Treatment, The Buckeye Institute, Commonwealth Foundation, Empire Center, Freedom Foundation, Liberty Justice Center, Mackinac Center, and many more were involved in educating workers about their rights post-Janus.

Defending Workers in Court When Unions Fail to Recognize Worker Rights

For many workers, leaving their union is a difficult endeavor. Although the Janus decision affirmed a worker’s right to leave their union, unions don’t always notify employees about that right, leaving many in the dark.

What’s more, unions will sometimes use questionable tactics at times to prevent employees from exercising their right to leave the union. For example, some unions would only process opt-outs during an arbitrary, union-established two-week annual window. Other unions would challenge employees opt-out requests by ignoring the request outright or filing lawsuits against those requests. To help workers exercise their right to opt-out, several organizations in the Network used litigation to defend these workers in court.

Advancing Worker Freedom through the Statehouse 

In addition to securing worker rights through the courts, the Network has also been engaged in the legislative process—encouraging state and local leaders to pass legislation that secures worker rights.

The Network Has Helped Hundreds of Thousands of Workers Leave their Union since the Landmark Janus Decision

Thanks to these organizations and many more, hundreds of thousands of public workers who feel unrepresented and without a voice at work are finally empowered to leave their union. But despite these significant wins for workplace freedom, there’s still many more opportunities for states to implement the historic Janus decision. Working together, this Network will continue their efforts and campaigns to help all workers find their voice and leave their union if they chose to do so.

Additional Reading

The Janus Effect
Empire Center

Janus V. AFSCME At Five: Government Union Membership At Record Lows
Freedom Foundation

New Report Shows Large Drop in Union Membership Five Years After Janus Decision
Mackinac Center

5 Things to Know About Janus v. AFSCME
State Policy Network

How to Leave Your Union: Help for Government Workers
State Policy Network

Janus v. AFSCME: US Supreme Court restores government workers’ First Amendment rights in landmark case
State Policy Network

Categories: News
Organization: State Policy Network