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Texas leads the way on ‘Janus’ rights

Jul 8, 2020 by AFP

Should you be forced to join and contribute financially to an organization whose fundamental principles you don’t agree with?

That’s what Mark Janus had to do as a condition of keeping his job. As an Illinois state employee, he was required to pay fees to a government union, even though he didn’t agree with many of the union’s beliefs.

In the Janus v. AFSCME decision of 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court saw this for what it was: a violation of Americans’ First Amendment rights of speech and association. It was a landmark decision that upheld our basic liberties — specifically, the right of U.S. citizens to speak or not speak and to join or not join an organization.

The Supreme Court made the right choice. Unfortunately, opposition persisted and questions about implementation remained. For example, there was no way to verify that an employee freely consented to paying union dues without being coerced.

Now there is. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion on June 1 providing guidelines for applying the Janus decision to state public employee payrolls.

What are the guidelines for applying the Janus decision on the state level?

These guidelines advise Texas governments to:

  • Obtain employees’ consent to deduct union dues from their paychecks.
  • Inform employees that such consent waives their First Amendment rights and must be renewed on a regular basis.
  • Allow employees to revoke that consent at any time.

Paxton’s opinion can serve as a model in other states and is much needed. In New Jersey, a group of public school teachers sued after being required to join their local teacher’s union. Unfortunately, their case was dismissed at the end of last year and neither have received any refund.

This example illustrates exactly why Paxton’s opinion is so necessary, especially in states where Americans are still fighting for their Janus rights.

The impact of Janus on unions

Being pro-worker and pro-freedom does not mean being anti-union.

In fact, after Janus, unions had a greater incentive to be more connected and responsive to current and prospective members. Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, described the aftermath of the decision as “an opportunity … to go out and have thousands of conversations face-to-face about what our members liked and valued in their union.” She added, “We’re just a better union because of that.”

Janus and Paxton suggest a better path forward: one that recognizes workers know their individual situations better than anyone else and can decide whether a particular union meets their specific needs.

The freedom to choose what is best for one’s situation is especially important now that millions of people across the country are struggling to make ends meet as a result of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only by protecting that freedom can Americans get back on their feet.

Texans understand what is at stake—our most essential rights as Americans. Enforcement of Janus gets us closer to a freer society and can light the path for other states throughout the country.