Mark Janus is the man at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court case Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31. The case challenges the authority of states to permit public sector labor unions to collect “fair share” fees from people who choose not to join.
Janus was not the original plaintiff in the lawsuit. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner filed the case on Feb. 9, 2015.
In the next few months, Janus and two other non-union state workers asked to be added to the case. Janus by then had connected with the Liberty Justice Center in Chicago and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Springfield, Virginia, and lawyers from those organizations began to represent Janus.
In May, 2015, a judge said Rauner had no legal standing to bring the case.
If the lawsuit were to continue, another plaintiff — a state non-union employee who objected to paying “fair share” or “agency” fees to the union — had to be allowed to intervene.
Janus’ attorneys eventually secured permission from the court allowing Janus to intervene in the lawsuit. The other two state workers left the lawsuit. That’s why the case is Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31.
Who is Mark Janus?
- Janus is a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services who says he’s a little overwhelmed by the attention his case has generated. AFSCME Council 31 is one of the unions that represents State of Illinois workers.
- Janus, 65, is the divorced father of two adult children, a son and a daughter.
- He lives in Springfield, where he was raised.
- In 1975, he graduated from Illinois College with a major in business administration.
- In the 1980s through early 1990, Janus worked in program administration for the state Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. At that time, he was not covered by AFSCME and not required to pay fees to the union. In 1989, his last full year, he grossed $29,746, according to State of Illinois Comptroller records.
- After that, Janus worked at a Springfield printing company and later started his own business selling spiral binding.
- He returned to working for the state of Illinois in 2007 in the job he now holds today. The position is covered by AFSCME, representing union and non-union members. Janus chose not to join the union.
- In 2017, Janus grossed $71,000, according to State of Illinois Comptroller records.
- An Eagle Scout, Janus continues to be active in scouting.
Janus was at the Supreme Court for the Feb. 26 oral arguments.
Since being tossed off the case, Rauner has had no role in the legal proceedings.
In Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31, the justices were asked to overturn a 1977 high court opinion that public employee unions could, without violating First Amendment free speech rights, collect “fair share” or “agency fees” since the unions have a legal obligation to represent all workers, regardless of whether they chose to be members.
Janus on unions
In a posting on a Liberty Justice Center website, Janus describes in his own words why he got involved in the case.
In the 1980s, I worked in a government job and was not required to pay money to a union. Then I worked for a private company. When I returned to the public sector in 2007, the union automatically deducted money from my paycheck even though I was not a union member. That’s when I learned that state government in Illinois had granted AFSCME – a politically powerful government union – the power to exclusively represent more than 90 percent of state workers in Illinois. . . .
It turned out that I was one of millions of American workers who were forced to support a government union as a condition of employment. This is a gross violation of my First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association. So I’ve asked the U.S. Supreme Court to end this practice.
I’m not anti-union. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to form a union, or be part of a union. But what is unfair and unconstitutional is forcing me – and millions of other American workers – to pay to advance policies we oppose just so we can serve our communities and our state.
In an op-ed last year in his hometown newspaper, The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Janus wrote, “In more than half of the states, including all of Illinois’ neighbors, people who work in government can choose whether they want to pay money to a union. Why shouldn’t all government workers have that right? Our Bill of Rights is crystal clear on the topic. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of association. I should not be forced into association with a union that claims to represent my interests when it really doesn’t.”