A year after the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, government workers face steep obstacles exercising their rights

This week marks one year since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that government employees cannot be required to pay fees to government unions at their workplace. The ruling was a major victory for workers’ rights, free speech and freedom of choice.

The Liberty Justice Center represented plaintiff Mark Janus, and since the Janus ruling has filed lawsuits across the country on behalf of workers unable to quit their unions

CHICAGO (June 26, 2019) – This week marks one year since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that government employees cannot be required to pay fees to government unions at their workplace. The ruling was a major victory for workers’ rights, free speech and freedom of choice.

In the year since the Janus ruling, public sector workers across America have exercised their “Janus rights” and resigned union membership. At the same time, government unions unhappy with the High Court’s ruling have refused to let many workers resign – continuing to deduct union dues against these workers’ wishes, trapping them in long contracts or in some cases threatening to have workers fired for not supporting the union.

“The impact of the Janus decision has been monumental. But our work is not done; the ruling in the Janus case in 2018 marks only the beginning of this fight,” said Pat Hughes, co-founder and president of the Liberty Justice Center, which represented Mark Janus in Janus v. AFSCME. “Many government unions and government employers are blatantly violating the Supreme Court’s ruling and resorting to any means necessary to trap government workers in membership. What’s worse, politicians across the country are helping them. The Liberty Justice Center is committed to the full implementation and enforcement of the Janus ruling.”

Here is a look at where the issue stands today:

  • It’s estimated that 400,000 government workers paid mandatory union fees prior to the Janus ruling, even though they were not union members. Union fees generally cost between $500 and $1,000 annually. According to recent reports, most of these workers are no longer being charged union agency fees – this is a good thing.
  • All across the country government employees are exercising their Janus rights – choosing to resign from their union and halt union dues or fees deductions from their paychecks.
  • Unfortunately, government unions unhappy with the Supreme Court’s decision are putting up obstacles for government workers seeking to exercise their Janus rights. Here are some of the tactics unions are using to continue deducting union dues against workers’ wishes: telling workers they cannot resign from the union until a future date; telling workers they will lose employer-provided benefits if they resign from the union; threatening workers who do not want to be in the union with termination.
  • The good news is that in the face of this pushback, employees are not backing down:
    • When Cara O’Callaghan, sports club finance manager at the University of California, Santa Barbara, tried to exercise her Janus rights the union said she must continue paying union dues until 2022! She fought back and has filed a federal lawsuit against the Teamsters. See Cara’s story here: https://standwithworkers.org/who-is-cara-ocallaghan;
    • Shalea Oliver, an income maintenance caseworker for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, attempted to resign from SEIU Local 668 but was ignored and rebuffed. She filed a federal lawsuit to fight for her rights. See Shalea’s story here: https://standwithworkers.org/who-is-shalea-oliver;
    • Tommy Few is a special education teacher in Los Angeles. He tried resigning from his union three times – the final time hand-delivering a letter to the union president. The teachers union would not let him out – until attorneys got involved. Tommy’s story­: https://standwithworkers.org/few-v-utla.

Nearly 1,000 workers have asked Liberty Justice Center for help exercising their Janus rights. We’ve filed 11 federal lawsuits on behalf of workers in six states, and have more lawsuits forthcoming:

  • California:
    • Few v. UTLA et al.;
    • O’Callaghan et al., v. Regents of the University of California et al.
    • Sweet v. California Association of Psychiatric Technicians et al.
    • Wolf v. UPTE et al.
  • Hawaii
    • Grossman v. HGEA et al.
  • Illinois
    • Bennett v. AFSCME et al.
    • Mandel v. SEIU et al.
  • New Mexico
    • Hendrickson v. AFSCME et al.
  • Ohio
    • Hannay et al., v. Kent State et al.
  • Pennsylvania
    • Adams et al., v. Teamsters Local 429 et al.
    • Oliver v. SEIU et al.

In May 2019, attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center filed a class-action lawsuit to help AFSCME workers in Illinois recoup millions of dollars they were forced to pay in unconstitutional union agency fees. If successful, hundreds of thousands of government workers across America could be entitled to refunds of union dues or fees paid prior to the Janus ruling. This week, the Liberty Justice Center will file a similar case in New York.

Plaintiff Mark Janus retired from his job in Illinois state government, and has spent the past year traveling the country advocating for workers. Mark had this to say regarding the one-year anniversary of victory in his case: “The Supreme Court’s decision says government workers have the right to control their money and relationship with the union, but government unions aren’t relinquishing their control over workers. I hear the same story from government workers across the country – ‘I want to resign but the union won’t let me.’ My job isn’t done until every government worker can freely and easily exercise their right to stop supporting a union if they choose.”