On June 27, the US Supreme Court released a landmark decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, Country, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. The Court ruled in favor of plaintiff Mark Janus, a child support specialist who works for Health Care & Family Services, returning First Amendment rights to all public sector workers. This means that five million public servants in 22 states no longer have to pay a government union as a condition of employment.
Overturning the Court’s earlier decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Court agreed with Mark Janus that public sector union speech is inherently political since “it covers critically important and public matters such as the State’s budget crisis, taxes, and collective bargaining issues related to education, child welfare, healthcare, and minority rights.” The Court’s decision will impact how government unions extract fees from members—moving the system from opt-out to opt-in. The onus is now on the unions since public sector employees must now “affirmatively consent” to pay dues. Now, no government worker can be forced to check their First Amendments rights at the door in order to serve their communities.
This is a long-awaited victory for worker freedom, but the work has just begun. The network now has an opportunity to help workers understand how this decision affects them. In the months leading up to this decision, government union leaders have been hard at work in localities and states to apply pressure on workers and put hurdles in the way for those whose rights have been restored. Now more than ever, workers like Mark will need the network’s help when it comes to understanding what the decision means for them, holding government accountable, and promoting sound interpretation of legislation and litigation that affects workers’ rights.
Kate Bowers, a teacher in Oregon, shares her experience being forced to pay union dues that would go towards political views she did not support.
Aaron Benner, an outstanding Minnesota teacher, shares his experience with his teachers union.
Shortly after the decision was released, State Policy Network’s Senior Policy Advisor, F. Vincent Vernuccio, joined Stuart Varney on Fox Business to discuss the impact of the decision. Vernuccio observed, “It’s a major blow for forced unionism and compelled speech, but it is a great day for the First Amendment and for public employees in the 22 non-right-to-work states where unions can actually get workers fired for not paying them.”
Interpreting “Affirmative Consent”
Since the Janus v. AFSCME decision, public sector workers and employers across the country have asked for the interpretation of what Justice Samuel Alito meant by “affirmative consent” in the majority opinion. This memo outlines the policy interpretation of “affirmative consent” from the attorneys of the Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation–which represented plaintiff Mark Janus–with input from the State Policy Network’s labor policy expert, F. Vincent Vernuccio. Read the memo: What Does the Opt In Provision in the Janus Decision Mean?
Beginning the opt-out process can be as easy as filling out a few fields on a form and printing out the customized letter. There are several sites that offer an opt-out letter template and additional insights into any timing requirements or other limitations you might face.
This Pennsylvania-based nonprofit staffed by former government employees is there to help educate, equip, and empower teachers, first responders, and other public servants in Pennsylvania to receive fair treatment from government unions. Get answers, find out your options and connect with other teachers through their Free to Teach community or with other public servants through their Free to Serve community.
Public employees in Connecticut can learn about their rights and which benefits, such as pensions and protection from layoffs, are protected by state law independent of their union membership status. Workers can also request help in opting out their union.
Teachers in Minnesota can get sample letters and instructions for opting out of their unions as well as tips, and even reminders, of upcoming opt-out window deadlines.
Government employees in Illinois can get answers to frequently asked questions about opting out of Illinois unions and easily create customized opt out letters with all the necessary addresses to mail to their unions.
This site assists workers in learning their rights, provides guidance on how to exercise them, and directs workers to the National Right to Work Foundation’s legal aid program for free assistance in exercising their First Amendment rights protected by the Janus decision.
Public sector employees from all 50 states can use this website to create a PDF opt out letter specific to their state that can be printed and sent to their union.
If you teach in Nevada, Nevada Teacher Choice offers step-by-step instructions and a template letters specific to each school district. They also offer resources for replacing union benefits and a community of other educators who have decided to leave their unions.
Public employees in New York can learn more about how the Janus v. AFSCME decision impacts them and submit their information to have an opt out letter sent directly to their employer.
Public Sector employees in Washington, Oregon, and California can get detailed information about what it will take to opt out of their union, as well as create a customized letter. Employees from other states will be able to create a general opt out letter.
Teachers across the US will soon be able to see the specific requirements to opt-out of the teachers union in their state, as well as the challenges or obstacles they can anticipate and available alternatives for liability insurance, professional development, and other benefits.
The Buckeye Institute is making it easy for public-sector workers in Ohio to initiate the opt-out process by providing the unique opt-out requirements for their specific union and how to complete the process (which varies from union to union).
If you have tried to opt out and encountered obstructions or resistance, or are having your workplace freedoms violated in other ways, the Liberty Justice Center (who represented Mark Janus) is available to help. Check out StandwithWorkers.org for more information and to get updates on the issue of workplace freedom.