(The Center Square)—It was five years ago this week that a major U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving an Illinois case changed the landscape for public employee unions around the country.
Mark Janus worked for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services when he objected to paying fees to a union because doing so constitutes paying for political speech with which he disagrees. At the time, under Illinois law, state government could require its employees to pay fees to a government union as a condition of employment.
Janus v. AFSCME eventually made it to the nation’s highest court. Janus was represented by the National Right to Work Foundation and the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center.
In a 5-4 ruling on June 27, 2018, the justices declared that forced union dues violated the First Amendment rights of Janus and other government employees. The high court concluded workers were free to choose whether to pay the unions in their places of work.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, said despite the ruling, some unions are still trying to skirt the rules.
“While the Janus ruling is clear, unfortunately though predictably, we’ve seen widespread attempts by government union bosses to subvert the ruling and implement schemes to block government employees from exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Mix.
Mix’s organization has represented several employees around Illinois that were being forced to accept union representation.
Following the Supreme Court ruling, Janus left his job with the state of Illinois to join the Illinois Policy Institute, a free market think tank.
The ruling affected union participation around the country. According to the Freedom Foundation, over a quarter of a million workers have left the four largest public unions since the Janus decision, which is a decline of about 10 percent. After the ruling, AFSCME Council 31, the union Janus sued, saw nearly a 20% drop in membership.