Sept. 30, 2017
By Mark Janus
Becoming an Eagle Scout taught me about public service.
It means caring for your neighbor. It means being an active member of your community. And it means standing up for what you believe in. I’ve tried to pass those lessons along to the Scouts I’ve led in Springfield. The problem is, public service comes with a catch in Illinois.
As a state worker, I’m forced to pay money to one of the most powerful political interest groups in Illinois. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees takes a piece of every paycheck I earn.
Thankfully, on Sept. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear my case on why I think that should change.
I went into this line of work because I care about kids. In my job at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, I assist children caught in the crossfire of their parents’ divorce.
But just because I care about kids doesn’t mean I also want to support a government-worker union.
Yet, I have no choice. I have to pay monthly fees to AFSCME to keep my job.
The union claims to represent me and my interests. But it doesn’t. The union’s fight is not my fight.
AFSCME does not always fight for the good of Illinois. For years, it supported politicians who put the state into its current budget and pension crises. They have racked up debts that now weigh on the shoulders of the young men and women who I want to see flourish here, not pack up and leave like so many others.
That’s not public service.
But when I was hired by the state, no one asked if I wanted a union to represent me. I only found out AFSCME was involved when money for dues started coming out of my paychecks.
I’d prefer those dollars go toward the Scouts or other civic groups in Illinois that need help. Not AFSCME.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-union. Unions have their place and many people like them. But I shouldn’t be forced to pay money to a union if I don’t think it does a good job representing my interests.
Case in point: Some union officials have accused workers like me as wanting to become “free riders.” They say we just don’t want to pay the cost of our representation in collective bargaining.
My answer to that? Let me out. I’ve negotiated my own salary and benefits at plenty of jobs before I started working for the state. And I’d be more than happy to do so again. This union argument does not hold water, and it insults the work ethic and intelligence of many government workers such as myself.
Let us out.
In more than half of the states, including all of Illinois’ neighbors, 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?
Our Bill of Rights is crystal clear on the topic. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of association. I should not be forced into association with a union that claims to represent my interests when it really doesn’t.
For the sake of our state and government workers like me, I hope the Supreme Court agrees.
— Mark Janus is the lead plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Illinois law that requires state workers to pay union dues or fees.