Five years since Janus decision, 35% of Alaska public workers opt out of union dues


Five years ago today, the United States Supreme Court delivered a groundbreaking ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, declaring it unconstitutional for public sector labor unions to compel non-members to pay dues or fees as a condition of employment.

The case, brought by plaintiff Mark Janus, granted public employees the freedom to opt out of union representation and support only the speech they align with. Janus said the unions were supporting candidates and policies he disagreed with.

In 2023, the Janus v. AFSCME decision serves as a powerful testament to empowering workers to exercise autonomy over their hard-earned money, writes Sarah Montalbano, at Alaska Policy Forum, Alaska’s conservative policy think tank.

The origins of the case trace back to 2015 when Mark Janus, a child support specialist employed by the state of Illinois, challenged the mandatory fees imposed by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Before the Janus decision in 2018, public employees in states without right-to-work laws faced limited options: Either become full union members and pay full dues or decline membership and pay mandatory “agency fees,” which were often almost as much as full membership dues, discouraging employees from opting out. Despite not being a union member, Mark Janus was obligated to pay agency fees as a condition of his employment.

With the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Janus, government workers now have a choice.

As a result, Alaska has witnessed a significant decline in union membership — over 35% in the government workforce, Montalbano writes at this Alaska Policy Forum link.

In Illinois, where the case was centered, the Illinois Federation of Teachers has over 16,000 fewer members and fee payers than it did in 2017, yet the union took in over $600,000 more in dues and fees in 2022 than it did in 2017, according to reports it filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, writes Illinois Policy. Unions have partially offset losses by increasing dues on their remaining members, the group noted. And they are becoming more militant, the organization said.

Janus was represented by the Illinois Policy Institute’s litigation partner, the Liberty Justice Center, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Their work ended over 40 years of forced government union payments. Read their five-year report on the impact of the Janus decision at this Illinois Policy link.


  1. Local 71 is the worst. If they even think you are a native they won’t represent you. Their smart aleck goons will even tell ya not to even bother paying dues; they will never represent you and actively encourage egregious mistreatment of you especially if they “think” you are a part native public employees. Never ever pay thems dues for anything!

  2. Another systemic reason you don’t have to worry about Alaskan natives being overly-represented within AK’s pension system but well represented in state relief system for elderly Alaskans. AK personnel system couldn’t work any better in defense of the exclusionary public employees pension system and their lovebugs. It is as if it was designed that way. Hand? Meet management’s collusive Glove.

  3. We need to ban public unions. They are bandits in camouflage. Anchorage needs to not renew any agreements with the unions and recruit people who want to work and we could save money. Why do taxpayers give union workers better jobs and benefit’s than the private sector?

  4. A big reason that employees are dropping out of union membership is the union’s failure and in some cases refusal to fairly represent the employees. It has been my experience with Local 71 that they have failed to take contract negotiations seriously regarding reasonable pay increases for equipment operators for years. While this is primarily the State of Alaska’s fault for not ensuring a highly skilled and trained workforce is maintained for heavy equipment operators within the Department of Transportation, the union has failed to take the matter seriously. The difference in pay for highly skilled heavy equipment operators in the “private sector” versus what is paid for heavy equipment operators in the Department of Transportation is all the proof that is needed. Reading through the recent budget, I don’t see the needed funding to improve the situation across the board.
    The other aspect is that the unions have decided that they will side with the employer instead of the employee in most cases regarding employment disputes, including outright corruption by the State of Alaska in some cases.

    • Reading through wages for public employees it seems you make quite a bit more then what skilled private equipment operators make on Davis Bacon projects. The unions contract is definitely not working for you, lol!

      • The current union contract for private sector 302 operators states group 1A operators are paid $49.64 plus their benefit package. Foreman are to be paid an additional $4.00 above group 1A.
        The current contract for Local 71 states that a new Journey Level II heavy equipment operator in the Wage Grade 53 category will be paid $23.60 plus benefits. The top of the scale in the Wage Grade 49 category for the most highly skilled foreman will be paid $29.47 plus benefits. The state will increase their wages by 3.25% in a few days on July 1, 2023. The State and Local 71 have a long way to go to stop the serious recruitment and retention problems we are suffering around our State.
        The views and opinions expressed by me are my own.

  5. I really could care less if you want to join a private union. But, public unions should go away. As for differences in public vs private contract work. All I know is out here in the Valley we get our roads plowed PDQ, how are the unions working the Los Anchorage roads doing? We all know the answer.

  6. My experiences with the Teamsters was tainted forever when we caught the union stewards going through our employees files. Anytime the Teamsters showed up at our place of work, they behaved like thugs!

  7. Fairbanks westmark is union local 942 I would love to opt out I’d rather have freedom than be a communist

Comments are closed.