State Policy Network

Janus v. AFSCME

U.S. Supreme Court hears landmark case on workers' rights

About the Case

The Supreme Court’s announcement that it will hear arguments in Janus v. AFSCME is welcome news to government workers across the country who currently do not have a choice or a voice when it comes to supporting a union. The case challenges a 1977 precedent that has allowed state and local governments to force employees to pay money to unions.

Millions of government employees in 22 states must pay fees to a union whether they want to or not. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center, the litigation partner of the State Policy Network affiliate Illinois Policy Institute, are representing Mark Janus in the case.

Janus, per an Illinois Policy Institute profile, has paid thousands of dollars in fees to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees—one of the most powerful political actors in the state of Illinois—despite feeling that “[t]he union’s fight is not my fight.”

“For years it supported politicians who put the state into its current budget and pensions crises…That’s not public service,” says Janus.

As the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME on February 26, 2018, network leaders, public employees, and other supporters of worker freedom gathered on the courthouse steps to rally in support of Mark Janus.

Thirty people from more than 20 states took to the rally podium to share personal stories about why this case is so important to them. Among them were Minnesota teacher Aaron Benner, who left the public sector after his union failed to support him when he was physically attacked by a student, and Chicago teacher Joseph Ocol whose union expelled him because he chose to coach his student chess team rather than participate in a union strike. Read the full rally recap and watch the video below to see how the network came together to support Mark and government workers across the country.

To everyone who rallied in support of Mark Janus, and to the many more of you who supported his fight for workplace freedom in your states, thank you! Together, we were able to show the country that Mark Janus and millions of other government workers deserve a choice and a voice in union membership.

Video: Stand with Janus Rally

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Mark Janus: Meet the man who could end forced union fees for government workers

State think tanks are taking up the cause of public employees' First Amendment rights

Mackinac Center for Public Policy


The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which has litigated multiple cases in Michigan concerning similar issues, also submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in July, urging it to both take the case and find in favor of Janus. In Michigan, most public employees in mandatory bargaining units are right-to-work under state statute. Police and firefighters, however, are not and are the public employees most likely to be affected by a decision in Janus. “The problem is, when you’re negotiating with the government, everything you do is political,” said Patrick Wright, vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center and author of the amicus brief. “For those who agree with the union’s agenda, that’s fine. But it’s forced speech for those who don’t, and that’s a violation of the U.S. Constitution.”

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Center of the American Experiment


After getting in touch with thousands of personal care attendants in Minnesota, Center of the American Experiment discovered that SEIU Healthcare Minnesota had established the union without the consent of most of its members. Minnesota Personal Care Attendants (MNPCA) helped these PCAs ask for another election so that their voice could be heard. "Minnesota Personal Care Attendants (MNPCA), a coalition of home care workers and advocates,...delivered over 10,000 cards from PCAs across the state, demanding a union decertification election. The cards total three times more than the 3,543 PCAs who voted for unionization in 2014."

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The Buckeye Institute


The Buckeye Institute asked the court to take up the case in its amicus brief filed in July 2017. “We are pleased that the Supreme Court will take up this crucial case to protect the First Amendment rights of public employees,” said Robert Alt, president and CEO of The Buckeye Institute. “Forcing employees to pay for speech with which they disagree and forcing them to pay fees to a union in order to keep their jobs is unjust and unconstitutional. We are confident that Mr. Janus will prevail and that the court will rule in favor of the First Amendment rights of all public employees.”

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Freedom Foundation


In an op-ed for The Washington Examiner, Maxford Nelson, director of labor policy at The Freedom Foundation in Washington state, said, “Most Americans instinctively recognize the injustice of forcing individuals to subsidize, through their mandatory union dues, political activity with which they disagree. Yet such is the legal reality for millions of public employees around the country.”

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Amicus Briefs from SPN State Think Tank Affiliates

James Madison Institute Amicus Brief (December 2017)
Freedom Foundation Amicus Brief (December 2017)
Mackinac Center for Public Policy Amicus Brief (July 2017)
Mackinac Center for Public Policy Amicus Brief (December 2017)
The Buckeye Institute Amicus Brief (July 2017)
The Buckeye Institute Amicus Brief (December 2017)

SPN Resources