Less than a month after he won a Supreme Court case that allows public employees not to pay union fees to support collective bargaining agents that represent them, plaintiff Mark Janus announced he’s quitting his job for a position with the conservative think tank that helped bankroll his case.
Janus will start Aug. 1 as a senior fellow with the Illinois Policy Institute, the think tank that supplied the legal representation, along with its affiliated Liberty Justice Center, to bring the case to the Supreme Court.
The case, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, is the group’s biggest victory and it will increase their political influence.
Janus was accompanied by billionaire Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and the think tank’s CEO John Tillman , on the steps outside the Supreme Court following the decision in his case on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.
Rauner was the plaintiff in the case when it was initially filed in February 2015, but a judge ruled the GOP governor had no legal standing and Janus was allowed to intervene to object to paying “fair share” or “agency” fees to the union.
The nation’s highest court further weakened organized labor by asserting that states can’t force government workers to pay union fees, even if they receive benefits from collective bargaining agents. The decision means that public sector employees can now choose to not pay fair share dues to the unions that secure for them fair wages and safe working conditions.
Janus, 65, had worked as a $71,000-per-year child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services in Springfield, but the conservative organization did not disclose the salary he will make as an employee of thee group, which is funded by corporate interests that want to make it harder for workers to stand united.
Opponents of the landmark Illinois case reacted to the ruling calling it a serious financial blow to organized labor and America’s working class.
“This case is a blatant political attack by Bruce Rauner and other wealthy interests on the freedom of working people to form strong unions,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “We are extremely disappointed the Supreme Court has taken the side of the powerful few, but we’re more determined than ever to keep our union strong, standing up for public services and the working people who provide them.”
“In Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner has made it clear that he favors corporations and special interests over Illinois workers and their families,” said Sen. Dick Durbin. “He has repeatedly pushed an agenda of hostility to unions. This agenda is hurting workers across Illinois. And now, Governor Rauner has spearheaded a litigation effort, which has resulted in the Supreme Court overturning a 40-year-old precedent and further rigging the economy against hardworking Americans across the country.”
“As income inequality rises and middle-class wages lag behind, we need to do everything we can to make it easier for working Americans to join a union and negotiate for fair wages and a better workplace,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth. “Unfortunately, this decision by the Supreme Court will do the opposite, overturning decades of precedent to make it harder for unions to effectively protect and support working people trying to achieve their own American Dream.”
“I’m disappointed that the court sided with the anti-union activists and well-funded corporations who want to chip away at workers’ rights, but I will continue to stand up to those who want to lower wages, roll back workplace protections and restrict entry into America’s middle class, said Duckworth.
The US labor movement was once the core institution fighting for average workers but since 1980, its ranks have been decimated. The share of the private sector workforce that is organized has fallen from 35 percent to approximately 6.5 percent today.
By the mid-1950s, unions successfully organized approximately one out of every three non-farm workers in the US, which helped expand the middle class to include 65 percent of America’s population.
President Reagan’s public firing of striking air traffic controllers vividly weakened labor movement and the ranks of unionized workers shrank in subsequent decades.
Anti-union politicians repeatedly blocked all union-backed efforts to re-balance the playing field, most recently in 2008-2009, with the successful Senate filibuster of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made organizing efforts somewhat easier.
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