Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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A conversation with Mark Janus



The decision by Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson to have the State start enforcing all provisions of the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFCME  decision was met with approval by Mark Janus himself.

Janus is an Illinois man who took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court so he could stop feeding money to the public employee union as a condition of employment.

AG Clarkson announced today that the State of Alaska will take over the role of ensuring workers are truly making free decisions about whether or not to join a public employee union, and that their First Amendment rights are honored.

“That is part of what the decision actually did,” Mark Janus said by phone today. “Everyone is ‘out’ as of the date of the Supreme Court ruling and you have to affirmatively declare if you want to become a member and get back in.”

The Janus decision of 2018 invalidated part of the Alaska Public Employment Relations Act, which allowed the State to enter into agreements with unions that required all employees to pay the union—whether a member or not—as a condition of employment.

While the Walker Administration took some steps to come into compliance with the court ruling, it didn’t fulfill the requirements set forth by Janus.

[Read: Key takeaways from the AG opinion on Janus]

The Supreme Court held that when a government compels its own workers to pay union dues or fees against their will, the workers’ constitutional rights are violated.

While workers could “opt out” of paying for the expressly political union activities, they still have been required to pay “agency fees” to cover collective bargaining. Currently, the unions control the membership process. Therefore, the State cannot guarantee that an employee was given the information they needed to make a free choice without being coerced or improperly pressured into an association with which it disagrees.

The opinion, written by Justice Alito, said that for many workers collective bargaining itself is a political activity.

“A lot of public sector unions are looking at it totally the opposite way, because they’ve had pledge cards for years and years, and people just remain in the unions. It’s a perpetual motion machine and no one ever has the opportunity to say no, they don’t want to be in. Most people currently employed in the public sector never voted to join or be part of a union,” Mark Janus told Must Read Alaska.

Mark Janus said he was unaware of any other state but Alaska finally complying with the famous court ruling that bears his name.

“The Constitution and Bill of Rights are contracts with the people of this country. But some consider these two instruments to be suggestions instead of a contract,” Mark Janus said.

“There have been over 100 pieces of legislation introduced across the country that is anti-Janus legislation to try to circumvent the decision and codify things that are contrary to the decision. There are just a few on the other side trying to codify the decision,” he said. “Unions are working with politicians because unions are inherently political organizations that want to thwart this decision.”

But he was not sure the unions would take it without a fight. There could be a lawsuit, or even an attempt at legislation to reverse the Department of Law’s decision. In fact, the AFL-CIO put out a statement Tuesday saying it would challenge it in court “every step of the way.”

“But Alaska is paramount in setting an example, in my opinion, and this should be the way all states should look at it,” Mark Janus said. He now works advocating for the free speech rights of workers as a senior fellow at the Liberty Justice Center, which represented him all the way to the Supreme Court.

[Read: One year after Janus decision, employees still struggling to exercise their rights]

The Liberty Justice Center is pursuing the repaying of back fees paid by workers who were forced to give part of their paychecks to a government union, even if they weren’t union members, under “fair share” or “agency fees.”

In the Janus decision of June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that these deductions are illegal. Government employees who were not union members prior to June 2018, yet paid non-member fees to the union at their workplace, may be entitled to a refund. Find out more at https://standwithworkers.org/agency-fee-refund

Some 5 million government workers across the country may be impacted by Janus v. AFSCME


  1. Unions, whether public or private, are nothing more than oppressive organizations designed to steal money from the members it promised to protect. The union’s constitution and bylaws are written to protect the union as an entity, and the crooked union officials. The member’s rights are all but nonexistent. Labor organizations and public unions have become political machines and endorsers of Democrat candidates. But the union’s treasuries, especially the retirement funds, are nothing more than bank accounts waiting to be assailed by corrupt union officials. The LMRDA, set up in 1959 by Congress, was to allow union members to have certain rights and recourse against their representative organizations. Unfortunately, that law has no real prosecutorial teeth. Unions rely on their members being stupid and slothful. This makes it easier for the crooked bosses to bilk from the union funds. Unions are bad for our country.

  2. About Time! Back when I worked for the State they threatened to fire me for refusing to pay Union dues to a UNION for which I had zero respect.

    Later the State decided that employees could opt out of the Union, BUT they (we) then had to make payments just like Union members and the State would not explain where those funds would be going.

  3. The “key takeaways…” link to the Policy Center site has an error: Private sector employees have no greater right than public sector employees to refrain from joining a union. In the so-called “right to work” states no employee, private or public, can be compelled to pay dues as a condition of employment. The Janus decision essentially makes all states right to work states for public employees, but in the union states, about half the states, private sector employees can still be compelled to join a union as a condition of employment. If it ever gets taken up successfully, it is likely that compelled dues in the private sector also violate the 1st Amendment, but the state of the law today is that compelled dues remain constitutionally permissible in the union states in the private sector.

    • Art,

      The way I understand it the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is that they are a set of negative rights, meaning they restrain government. The very reason Janus was successful was because the nature of the 1st Amendment and how it restrains government, that being that government cannot infringe upon the 1st Amendment rights, the private sector not being government is not bound by the 1st Amendment. Therefore a challenge using the same argument for the private sector would not hold.

      • Not quite, at least not if you look at the early cases under the National Labor Relations Act that countenance union shops. The thinking there is that it is government policy that countenances union shops, not a private employer’s act. Therefore the existence of a union shop is a governmental act and thus subject to Constitutional constraints.

  4. I remember a picture in the Anchorage Daily News in the mid 1970’s of a 2 or 3 story log building down over the edge of the bluff in Anchorage that said “Carpenter’s Union” with a huge fabric banner with the words, “United Socialist Workers of America” also attached to this log building. That was a real wake-up call to me because I had joined the Carpenter’s Union in Kodiak in 1965 and was then living on the Kenai Peninsula and had transferred to the Anchorage Carpenter’s Union in 1969. I very soon learned that all Unions were started by the Communist Party by the back door. I continued to work as a Union Carpenter until my retirement in about 2001 because I didn’t know anything else to do. That is a very sorry situation to be involved in. I continue to learn more and more every day. We The People are about to loose our country to this SOCIALIST movement but the only way to loose everything is to just GIVE UP AND SURRENDER. I WILL NEVER DO THAT!!!!! The People need to stand up and forget all fear because FEAR CONQUERS ALL. I see this fear right here on this website. What else but fear makes people talk here without revealing their full names????? It is far to late for fear because if you will not stand up now and be counted you have already surrendered.
    Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

    • Didn’t being in the union make your job better? Didn’t you get better pay? Better benefits? Better safety? Did you have to compete with anyone else who happened to show up with a hammer and saw who would work for a wage so low you couldn’t live on it?

      And just exactly what is this Socialist movement I keep hearing about? Do you believe the Capitalists are your savior…you know, the multi-billionaires, the ones who worship profits…never enough profits, do you think they have your best interests in mind?

  5. I would have paid into the union willingly, but it is a partisan hack organization with evil politics. They use your money for nothing but brain washing and sustaining itself. Every time they go to the table for negotiation, us workers get screwed and the state itself does too. Throw it out.

  6. Benefits,retirement and vacations and wages are bargained for by our unions. The benefits above are not given for free especially by corporate america. The union is made up of the people that belong to it and if your not an active voice in your union than u have no podium to speak badly about them. The decisions made recently because of the people against there unions opened the gates of hell for the average working person .Unions help set precedence across the playing field for better wages, medical and retirements and safety related issues. I hate to say this but putting these anti union laws in place is ending our workers right protections and our livelihood.

    • “The benefits above are not given for free especially by corporate america.”

      The government isn’t a corporation.

    • In Alaska public sector unions do not bargain retirement and benefits are generally uniform between represented and non-represented employees. Leave is bargainable but is generally standardized to the statutory leave and wages don’t deviate much from statutory except in monopoly industries such as the maritime industry. Try again!

  7. Public sector unions should be eliminated. FDR, the liberal’s icon, said they shouldn’t exist at all. When you can use significant human and financial resources to elect the people that vote to approve your contracts, there is an inherent conflict of interest.

  8. I’ve been in good unions and in bad ones. The good ones did good work for all the workers under their roof, members or not. The bad ones didn’t. In that respect, they are like miniature governments.

    And like governments, they attract a few freeloaders along the way.

  9. When unions collaborate with employers, results can be positive. This only occurs in a competitive environment. Unionized restaurants, stores and construction companies have non-unionized competitors. Not so with government unions. Without a competing non-unionized government to compel competitiveness, the government is left in a weak negotiating position. JFK instituted unionization of government employees; it remains his worst legacy. In summary, it is inappropriate for government employees to be unionized. That includes teachers, police, firemen, all of them.

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