Mark Janus is the lead plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME that mandatory government union fees are illegal. Mark Janus is arguing AFSCME should refund the illegal dues he was forced to pay.
The article below by Mark Janus appeared January 5, 2016, in the Chicago Tribune.
As a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, my job is to fight for the little ones.
Sometimes when parents aren’t together anymore, kids get caught in the crossfire. These scars can last well beyond childhood, and they often mean that kids don’t get the resources they need to live a decent life.
So I advocate for these children, hoping that maybe if this process goes a little bit smoother, their futures will be just a little bit brighter.
I went into this line of work because I care about kids. But just because I care about kids doesn’t mean I also want to support a government union.
Unfortunately, I have no choice. To keep my job at the state, I have to pay monthly fees to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, a public employee union that claims to “represent” me.
But for the first time in my many years as a public employee, I have hope. Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. “Friedrichs” in this case is Rebecca Friedrichs, an elementary school teacher who is the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit brought by a group of 10 California teachers and the Christian Educators Association. Friedrichs is a lot like me: someone who loves her job but is forced against her will to pay money to a union, just to stay in the classroom.
If Friedrichs wins her case, it would mean freedom for government workers like me. Freedom to choose whether we want to belong to or financially support a union in our workplace.
When I was hired by the state of Illinois, no one asked if I wanted a union to represent me. I only found out the union was involved when money for the union started coming out of my paychecks.
I don’t see my union working totally for the good of Illinois government. For years it supported candidates who put Illinois into its current budget and pension crisis. Government unions have pushed for government spending that made the state’s fiscal situation worse.
How is that good for the people of the state? Or, for that matter, my fellow union members who face the threat of layoffs or their pension funds someday running dry?
The union voice is not my voice. The union’s fight is not my fight.
But a piece of my paycheck every week still goes to the union.
I am not anti-union. Unions have their place. And some people like them.
But unions aren’t a fit for everyone. And I shouldn’t be forced to pay money to a union if I don’t think it does a good job representing my interests.
When I bring this up, people often tell me I’m not forced to pay for union politics, meaning the extra amounts that some employees choose to give toward political action groups that make candidate donations. (This implies that it is acceptable to force people to pay private organizations for other reasons.)
In half the states, including Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, people who work in government can choose whether they want to pay money to a union.
Why shouldn’t all government workers have that right? What are the unions so afraid of?
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of association. I don’t want to be associated with a union that claims to represent my interests and me when it really doesn’t.
I may be in the minority of Illinois government workers on this issue, but it doesn’t mean my rights matter any less.
Good luck, Rebecca Friedrichs. There are a lot of us out here rooting for you.
Read the article in the Chicago Tribune.