Janus v. AFSCME: The Facts

What is this case really about? 

This case is really about taking away the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions to improve our lives and sustain our families. Real freedom is about more than making a living; it’s also about safety on the job, affordable health benefits, having time to care for a loved one who’s ill and dignity in retirement. The wealthy corporate special interests behind this case want to take away our freedom to join together in a union because they simply do not believe that working people should have the same freedoms as they do to negotiate a fair return on our work.

Who is behind this case? 

Bruce Rauner originated this case in a lawsuit he filed against AFSCME Council 31 to try to weaken the union by banning Fair Share fees in state government. When the federal court said Rauner didn’t have standing to bring such a suit, he found a lone state employee—Mark Janus—to allow the legal challenge to proceed in his name.

The suit is backed by the Liberty Justice Center (an arm of the Illinois Policy Institute) and the National Right to Work Foundation which is part of a network funded by corporate billionaires to use the U.S. legal system to rig the rules against the rights of everyday working people. For decades, the super-rich have used their massive fortunes to gain outsized influence in politics, chipping away at the progress people in unions have won for all working families. Now they want the highest court in the land to take away our freedom to come together to protect things our families need like a living wage, retirement security, health benefits and the ability to care for loved ones.

What are Fair Share fees?

When employees (in a legally defined bargaining unit) at a particular workplace have chosen to be represented by a union, the union becomes the legal representative for collective bargaining matters. The union is required by law to represent and negotiate on behalf of all of these workers—and all the workers receive the wage increases, benefits and workplace rights that the union is able to achieve.

Some workers may not want to be a member of the union—and they are not required to do so—but all workers are required to contribute to the cost of representation, whether through membership dues or a “fair share” fee. Because all the workers enjoy the benefits, job security and other protections that the union negotiates, it’s only fair that everyone chip in for the cost of that representation.

Is anyone ever forced to join a union or pay dues or fees that go to political candidates? 

No. The simple truth is that no one is required to join a union and no one is required to pay any fees that go to political candidates. A bargaining unit employee who does not want to be a union member or does not want to contribute toward electing candidates who support working families can choose to be a Fair Share feepayer—and pay a fee that is calculated to exclude any political expenditures. This is already the law of the land—and nothing in this case will change that.

What is the real impact of the Janus case? 

By outlawing Fair Share fees, employees who benefit from the gains that the union makes will not have to pay anything toward the cost of union representation. The wealthy elite behind this case want to drain unions of resources so that working people will not have a powerful voice. When working people have the freedom to speak up together through unions, we make progress together that benefits everyone. We are a nation of people that stand up for our rights, but if the billionaires and corporate CEOs behind this case get their way, they will take away the freedom of working people to come together in a strong union and build power to fight for a better future for ourselves, our families, our communities and our country.