News and Commentary

Man Whose Case Ended Mandatory Union Fees Asks Supreme Court: Get My Money Back From Union
Plaintiff Mark Janus passes in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after a hearing on February 26, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee arguing that the public-sector union that collected fees from him had no right to do so as he had refused to join the union because he opposed many of its positions, including those taken in collective bargaining.

The Court ruled, “States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees. The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from nonconsenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them. Accordingly, neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”

Now Janus is asking the Supreme Court to order recompense from the union for the fees they took from him. As Fox News reports, Janus issued a press release through the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation that stated, “The Supreme Court agreed that the union taking money from nonmembers was wrong but the union still has the money it illegally garnished from my paycheck.” A brief filed by his legal team states, “Under Janus, a union deprives public employees of their First Amendment Rights by taking their money without affirmative consent. A union’s intent when doing so is immaterial.”

Patrick Hughes, president of the Liberty Justice Center, which also represents Janus, stated, “Mark Janus is just one of many public employees whose money was illegally taken by government unions. Workers across the country are rightfully asking for their money back. It is time for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on this issue and finally hold unions accountable for their years of unconstitutional behavior.”

The Supreme Court would have to overturn the decisions by the district court and the Seventh Circuit which concurred that the union, AFSCME, did not need to pay Janus the money taken from him. The Seventh Circuit wrote, “Until [the Janus decision] said otherwise, AFSCME had a legal right to receive and spend fair-share fees collected from nonmembers as long as it complied with state law … It did not demonstrate bad faith when it followed these rules.”

Fox News notes, “A ruling against the unions again could open the floodgates to more lawsuits from workers who also want a refund of their agency fees that were collected before 2018. While Janus is only seeking about $3,000 in his claim, the groups backing Janus’ suit said in a press release that they are working on over 30 cases similar to this one, totaling a whopping $120 million in requested refunds.”

Seventh Circuit Judge Daniel Manion had warned the unions to consider themselves lucky, writing, “Even though the Supreme Court reached the wrong result in Abood 41 years before Janus II, the unions justify their acceptance of many millions of dollars because they accepted the money in ‘good faith.’ Probably a better way of looking at it would be to say rather than good faith, they had very “good luck” in receiving this windfall for so many years. Since the court is not holding that the unions must repay a portion of the windfall, they can remind themselves of their good luck for the years ahead.”