Janus v. AFSCME: The Facts

U.S. Supreme Court to hear anti-union Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case

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 our 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.

AFSCME District Council 33

The United States Supreme Court has decided to hear a case called Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which would make the entire public sector “right-to-work” in one fell swoop.


Janus – which the nation’s highest court will take up in the October 2017-June 2018 term – is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people.


The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. However, the people behind this case simply do not believe that working people deserve the same freedoms they have: to negotiate a fair return on their work.


A recent article in The Guardian 
(read it here) highlights how this case is part of a blatant, years-long campaign to weaken unions. In a letter to supporters detailed in The Guardian, the CEO of the corporate-backed State Policy Network (SPN) reveals the true intent of a nationwide campaign of which Janus is a part: to strike a “mortal blow” and “defund and defang” America’s unions.


This case started with an overt political attempt by the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, to attack public service workers through the courts. The merits of the case are clear.


Since 1977, a Supreme Court case called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (more information here) has effectively governed labor relations between public sector employees and employers, allowing employers and employees the freedom to determine labor policies that best serve the public.


AFSCME and three other public service unions – the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – issued a joint statement opposing Janus (read it here).


“This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “The merits of the case, and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law, are on our side. We look forward to the Supreme Court honoring its earlier rulings.”


Pete Matthews, President of AFSCME District Council 33 commented on the Janus case:


“This court case is a direct political attack on the ability of District Council 33 to effectively represent the membership and our ability to negotiate fair contracts," said Matthews. “Now, more than ever, it is important for the survival of our Union to have every member sign a Union recommitment card and become a PEOPLE Committee member, so that we can fight back against the anti-union forces who want to take away our rights and destroy our Union.”