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BOZEMAN, MT – The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Mark Janus today in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The court held that no public employee can be compelled to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
“This ruling upholds a fundamental constitutional principle. It is great news for Montana’s public workers who will no longer be forced to fund political speech to keep their jobs,” said Americans for Prosperity- Montana State Director David Herbst. “AFP-Montana will continue to advocate for policies that protect freedom of speech and association.”
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.
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.