Illinois state worker Mark Janus said his fight is not about the money but rather helping all workers. Janus made the comments Thursday while discussing his case to outlaw mandatory union dues in the public-sector.
Janus works as a child support specialist for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. His fight against organized labor began when he was forced to fund a union he doesn’t support. But for him it’s not just about the fees he is forced to pay, it’s about all workers stuck in a similar situation. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear his challenge Feb. 26.
“It’s that lack of choice that I’m fighting against, and it’s not just for me, it’s for all public-sector workers,” Janus said when asked by InsideSources. “It’s the fact that you have to stand up for something because if we didn’t have principals, where would we be as a country.”
Janus was speaking at a dinner hosted by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) and the Liberty Justice Center (LJC) – which have been assisting him in his lawsuit by providing legal assistance. The groups hosted the dinner to give a handful of reporters, who have closely followed the case, a chance to meet him.
The U.S. Supreme Court found that unions could require fees from nonmembers during the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. That decision also found that unions must also provide nonmembers the option of paying a fee which can only cover the cost of representing that worker – and not political activities.
The lawsuit argues that public-sector collective bargaining and political lobbying are indistinguishable. Public-sector unions negotiate with the government because of the workers they represent. Thus, the lawsuit asserts, all public-sector union dues and fees should be optional because they are inherently political.
Janus also wanted to make clear that he is not against unions themselves. He believes there is a place for unions and collective bargaining. Rather he simply believes that workers should have a choice on whether they want to be associated with and fund such an organization.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the specific union being challenged, argues that mandatory payments are needed to ensure unions are able to properly protect workers and their workplace rights. The union also argues the lawsuit is an attack by corporate interests to hurt that mission.
Labor unions argue that the nonpolitical fee helps to discourage workers from free-riding off the benefits they fight for. They have to represent every worker regardless of whether they pay once they get voted in as an exclusive representative for a workplace. But critics contest the workers are being forced to accept those so-called benefits – which many might not even want because they don’t believe it helps them.