It’s hard to believe that a full year has passed since one man from a small town in Illinois substantially expanded freedom for public workers across the country.
On that fateful day in 2018, Mark Janus, a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, emerged victorious from the Supreme Court. So, what was the case he brought before the court? Despite not being a member of the government union, the state of Illinois forced Mark to pay a “fair share” fee. Mark believed that this forcible contribution to an organization, which advocated for causes he didn’t believe in, violated his First Amendment rights. He was taking the biggest and most powerful status quo lobby in his state head on.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court agreed with Mark, saying that forcing people to contribute money to fund speech they disagreed with did, in fact, violate his First Amendment rights.
Not only was this decision a big deal for Mark, it was also a big deal for government workers across the nation. This meant public employees could now opt out of paying “fair share” or other similar fees to unions. The Janus decision also allows for public employees to join or leave the union anytime they wish. Previous to the Janus decision, many public employees in non-right-to-work states had to pay some kind of union fee as a condition of employment.
As important as this ruling was for workers at the time, it’s apparent that, a year later, many government employees are unaware of the rights Mark Janus won for them.
A recent national poll commissioned by the American Association of Educators and conducted by YouGov found that less than half of school teachers were aware of the Janus decision.
While the importance of the case makes this poll result sad enough, when asked about the ramifications of Janus, they are even more disappointing. Less than 20 percent of teachers polled knew their rights, if they chose to leave the union.
This may strike many as surprising, given the amount of news coverage at the time of the case and the fact that an entire year has passed. But, once you understand the situation closer to the ground, the results of the poll become much clearer.
Just days after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Janus case, the status quo beneficiaries of forced unionism began working diligently to ensure public employees were unaware and wouldn’t exercise their newly won rights.
States across the country passed laws, saying that public employees could only exercise their rights to leave a union during specific portions of the year, a law that is likely unconstitutional. Lawmakers also made it difficult for groups to obtain union members’ contact information to inform them of their rights, while at the same time providing that information directly to government unions. Given these efforts, is it any surprise that many are unaware of their recently won rights?
The Janus decision is extremely important, both for protecting the rights of workers and for promoting jobs and opportunity for states across the nation. Prior to Janus, many states didn’t have right-to-work laws, which prevents a union card from being a condition of employment. Historically, because many workers don’t want to join a union, they would often forgo working in the public sector entirely. But, thanks to Janus, all public employees now have the rights to join or leave a union as they wish, expanding jobs and opportunity to millions.
On the first anniversary of this landmark First Amendment case, it’s important to exercise your right to speak. Speak out and let public employees across the country know that unions can no longer force them to lend their support to causes they don’t believe in.