(The Center Square) — The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled for conference a case that could determine whether public employees will be refunded hundreds of millions of dollars in union dues taken out of their paychecks against their will.
At the conference, scheduled for June 18, justices could discuss whether to schedule a hearing for oral arguments in the followup to the court’s historic Janus vs. AFSCME decision.
Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed their final reply briefs in the continuation of Janus v. AFSCME on May 22.
Mark Janus, a former child support specialist for Illinois state government, won the original Janus v. AFSCME lawsuit. He was represented by the Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
In the case, the Supreme Court ruled that forcing public employees to pay fees to a union they don’t want to join is an unconstitutional violation of their First Amendment right to freedom of association.
In his original case, Janus also sought to recoup the fees he had paid the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31 union over several years. Justices sent that part of the case back to lower courts for review, but it’s now back at the U.S. Supreme Court.
“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,” Janus said in a statement. “It’s time for AFSCME to give me back the money they wrongfully took.”
The matter before the court is expected to impact public employees and unions nationwide. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed across the U.S. by public employees seeking to get back the dues they had been forced to pay unions prior to the Janus vs. AFSCME decision.
“Mark Janus is just one of many public employees whose money was illegally taken by government unions,” said Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center.
The center and foundation argue that another favorable ruling in the case “could have a massive impact” and “set a federal precedent that would be controlling in dozens of other cases seeking refunds of dues taken unlawfully by public sector union bosses.”
The foundation’s staff attorneys are currently litigating more than 30 cases for workers related to Janus violations. The nonprofit charitable organization provides free legal aid to employees “whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses.”
According to a May 31 opinion issued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, “Public employers must ensure that employees consent to a payroll deduction for membership fees or dues in a union or employee organization is collected in a way that ensures voluntariness, such as requiring direct provision of authorization from an employee to an employer. A one-time, perpetual consent to a payroll deduction for membership fees or dues is inconsistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Janus; however, consent for one year from the time given is likely valid and is sufficiently contemporaneous to be constitutional.”
Texas is the second state in the U.S. to issue a clarifying opinion on Janus, following Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s opinion in August 2019, which was followed by an administrative order signed by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy to bring Alaska into compliance with Janus.
At least five other states have filed legislation to take similar action in 2020. The Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Workers for Opportunity initiative expects that more states will follow the example of Texas and Alaska.
Bethany Blankley is a contributor to The Center Square