Mark Janus is seeking to complete his mission. And the U.S. Supreme Court soon will let him and other dissenting public-sector union members know where they stand. Two weeks from now, on June 18, the High Court will decide whether to grant legal standing to a petition by Janus, a former Illinois state employee, to recover dues payments dating back several years collected by an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Two years earlier the Court concluded that a government employee union cannot deduct partial dues (“agency fees”) from a nonmember paycheck without the affirmative consent of the employee. A grant of certiorari could open the door to similar nonmember actions, including a class action suit in Minnesota seeking a $19 million refund on behalf of about 8,000 employees.
Public-sector unions, long accustomed to getting their way, received a rude awakening this morning. By 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 that nonmember state and local government employees are not required to pay partial dues (“agency fees”) to a union representing them. The decision overturns over 40 years of union monopoly power now practiced in nearly two dozen states. In so doing, it will hamper the ability of public-employee unions to route dues collections toward political activism. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, stated, “States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees.” Union officials fear that millions of workers now will be able to choose whether or not to pay dues. Frankly, such a prospect should be welcomed, not feared.