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Anchorage, Alaska – Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mark Janus in the Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) case, stating that no public employee can be compelled to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The decision overturned Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), in which the Court ruled that unions can require workers to pay fees to cover collective bargaining costs.
Americans for Prosperity-Alaska State Director Jeremy Price issued the following statement:
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a major victory for public employees who will no longer be forced to fund political activity against their will. It also affirms the First Amendment right of every American and protects against employees being coerced to fund political speech with which they disagree simply to keep their job.
“If workers want to be represented by a union and pay dues, that’s their choice. But at least now, one in five working Alaskans will truly have that choice. Hopefully this decision and the expansion of worker freedom will persuade more workers to stay in Alaska. We will continue working to protect the free speech rights of every American.”
At issue in this case was the power of labor unions to collect “fair share” or “agency fees” from public employees who have opted out of the union in their workplace. Mark Janus – a public employee in Illinois – challenged the constitutionality of the law compelling him to pay these union fees, arguing it violates his right to free speech because collective bargaining with the government affects public policy issues and thus is inherently political in nature. Thus, these mandatory dues to fund collective bargaining constitute forced political speech.
An article from Governing.com, using 2014 census data, found that Alaska is home to over 28 thousand state and local government workers, about 392 workers per capita (10K), which ranks second highest in the nation behind Wyoming.
28 American states have passed right-to-work laws. Since 2012, AFP has been actively involved in efforts to pass these laws in 6 states including Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri – which is more than passed right-to-work in the previous fifty years prior to 2012.
Prior to the ruling, in the 22 states that don’t have a right-to-work law – including Mark Janus’ home state of Illinois – public employees who opted out of union membership were still forced to fund union collective bargaining through so-called agency fees. Not only are agency fees used for collective bargaining that affects public policy, they are also spent on activity that is overtly political in nature, such as donations to politically motivated nonprofit organizations or funding events with a political message.
In 2015, AFSCME itself estimated that about half of its membership would consider no longer paying dues if they were given the freedom to make that choice. Earlier this year, Politico reported on the National Science Foundation’s General Social Survey findings that 23 percent of unionized government employees don’t believe workers need strong unions.
Americans for Prosperity: How Janus v. AFSCME Could Expand Worker Freedom