State Policy Network Applauds Work of State Think Tanks Fighting for First Amendment Rights for Government Workers

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.

Several other state think tanks from across the country have taken up the cause of First Amendment rights of public employees.

OHIO—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.”

MICHIGAN—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.”

WASHINGTON—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.”

MINNESOTA—Center of the American Experiment press release and article “10,000 Cards Delivered to Gov. Dayton Demanding New PCA Election.”

Center of the American Experiment Vice President and General Counsel Kim Crockett’s op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.


Get Informed

Illinois Policy Institute

Read and Watch: “Meet the man who could end forced union fees for government workers,” to learn more about Mark Janus.

Liberty Justice Center

To learn more about the case, read and bookmark: Janus v. AFSCME: Should people who work for government be forced to give money to a union just to keep their jobs?

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation

Read and Bookmark: Janus v. AFSCME: A Case to Protect Public Employees’ First Amendment Rights.

Press Releases, Op-eds, Articles, and Statements from State Policy Network Affiliates

The Buckeye Institute’s press release

Washington Freedom Foundation in The Washington Examiner and press release

Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s press release

SCOTUS Blog list of amicus briefs, including those filed by state think tanks

Washington Policy Center statement on Washington state impact of the case.