Summary: In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government employees cannot be compelled to pay agency fees to government worker unions. This historic decision in the case of Janus v. AFSCME essentially made all state and local governments “right to work” jurisdictions by overturning Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which previously stated that government workers could be forced by state law to pay for union representation. CRC sits down with Mark Janus, the Illinois child support specialist who stood up for the First Amendment rights of government workers across the country.
Your case affirmed public-sector workers’ rights to free speech, but some argue that by weakening the union, if you would have stayed a state employee you would have endangered your own job. What do you say to this? If your job had been outsourced or privatized, would this case still be worth it?
Janus: I don’t subscribe to the rhetoric that my job was endangered if I had stayed as a state employee. I did my job and I performed well.
Unfortunately, unions protect good workers and low performers. I saw people being moved from job to job within state government because the union protected them when they simply couldn’t do their job. That isn’t fair to other hardworking state employees.
The item that most people forget is that state employees are also taxpayers. As taxpayers, many of us were a bit disgusted by the protection the union provided for bad employees.
In the end, this case was worth the effort and the sacrifice. Frankly, I never feared for my job because I was raised to always do my best.
What made you quit working for the state of Illinois? What will you be doing in your next role?
Janus: After the decision and as I returned to work, the flood of misinformation being propagated by the government unions was surprising, but not unexpected. Stories were being reported that government workers were facing obstacles exercising their newly reaffirmed constitutional right to stop paying agency fees or withdraw their union membership.
There were stories of people resigning, but the union said you could not withdraw except in a certain time “window.” But when asked what that “window” was, the union couldn’t tell you. At the Liberty Justice Center and our Stand With Workers website, there were inquiries and requests for help. There was one story of a union posting resigned members’ names on their Facebook page to shame them.
Once I saw the difficulties people were having, I knew it was my responsibility to help them. What could I do to let people know they now have rights under the Janus decision?
I had conversations with Pat Hughes and Diana Rickert at Liberty Justice Center, and we decided that coming on board as a senior fellow at LJC would be an excellent way to be part of the post-Janus effort. Now I’m advocating for workers and letting them know they have a choice and a voice in their decision to resign from a government union or stop paying agency fees. I’ve called people who are having difficulties to let them know it can be done. I did it, so can they. Sometimes these people just need to hear from someone like them. Someone who has stood up for their rights. Someone they can relate to.
I’m also traveling around the country speaking to groups to let them know about the struggle they may face and to provide facts about the Janus decision. The Liberty Justice Center is here to help workers exercise their constitutional rights.