Supreme Court Could Consider Compulsory Illinois State Worker Union Dues

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The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to take up the case of an Illinois state worker who objects to paying public sector union dues.

Plaintiff Mark Janus works for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and is represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees trade union. Janus argues he should not be required to pay “fair share” dues, a lower fee than the full membership cost. Union supporters claim Janus gave his consent to pay union dues when he accepted the position.

AFSCME described the case as a “renewed effort by corporate and special interest groups to upend the longstanding rights of people who work in public service.”

The Illinois Policy Institute’s Liberty Justice Center is representing Janus before the High Court. IPI President Kristina Rasmussen expects Janus will prevail on the basis of the First Amendment.

“If Mark Janus’ First Amendment rights are upheld in this case,” Rasmussen says, “then that would be applied to public servants across America.”

Currently, 28 states have “Right to Work” laws which face their own legal opposition from public and private sector unions. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Janus v. AFSCME could settle a string of other pending suits and potentially make “Right to Work” the law of the land.

If Janus prevails, Rasmussen says, “There would still be unions. There would still be collective bargaining. But they would truly be voluntary associations instead of forced associations.”

Nonmember “fair share” dues can vary depending on the government agency. According to 2015 figures, Janus saw $29.38 deducted from each paycheck, while full members paid an additional $7.81 per check.

AFSCME claims the nonmember dues are spent only on collective bargaining and administrative costs, not on political activities. On average, state workers who are nonmembers see more than $500 deducted from their paychecks annually.

If Janus wins, he would be in line to keep those funds, and a flood of public sector union members around the country could join him in refusing to pay union dues. Roughly one in five AFSCME workers are nonmembers, but it remains unclear how many of them would opt-out if given the chance.

The Supreme Court could begin hearing oral arguments this fall and issue a potential ruling sometime before the 2018 election. Justice Neil Gorsuch will likely cast the deciding vote. The eight-member bench split down the middle in a similar 2016 case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

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