The nation’s high court is being asked to take up the issue of whether government employees should be forced to pay dues and fees to government unions.
The case Janus v. AFSCME originated in Illinois. Mark Janus and several other Illinois state employees say they don’t want to be forced to pay union dues. Their case was struck down by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in March, which opens up the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.
National Right To Work Foundation represents the plaintiffs. They filed a petition Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.
Foundation President Mark Mix said this is about compelled speech vs. free speech.
Mix said what’s happened is there’s “a private institution in between taxpayers and elected officials and [the union] is able to speak for government employees that, heretofore, never asked for, never wanted, and in fact stand back and say, ‘I don’t want you to speak for me,’ as [plaintiffs] have said in this case,” Mix said.
An outcome in their favor would be good for public sector workers across the country, Mix said.
“If the court takes it and rules the way we think they should and the way we hope they will, then government employees across the country could no longer be compelled to pay dues or fees to a union to keep their job,” Mix said.
Multiple messages seeking comment from the national AFSCME union were not returned.
Back in March, when the case was struck down by the 7th Circuit, AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement that if plaintiffs win, it would “make it harder for public service workers like teachers, firefighters, nurses, and public safety workers to speak up together for better public services, stronger communities, and wages and protections that benefit all Americans.”
Mix said Saunders “might be damaged by it because he has a pretty neat business model right now where he can compel people to pay him as a condition of them working for government.”
Many states don’t have exclusive union monopoly bargaining privileges, Mix said.
“The fact is, this is a question of union monopoly power and further, to add insult to injury, while we give them the right to – ‘quote, unquote’ – speak for workers that don’t want them to speak for them, we also unfortunately gave them the privilege to compel people to pay fees for taking away their right to speak for themselves,” he said.
“Saunders and the bosses at AFSCME would be troubled by this, but the workers who wanted to voluntarily join the union, participate with the union, could all do that” if the case goes in the plaintiffs’ favor, Mix said.
The plaintiffs are also represented by Liberty Justice Center.