WORKER ADVOCATE APPLAUDS ALASKA’S DECISION TO ENFORCE ‘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.
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.
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.