Fact Sheet on Janus v. AFSCME

What is Janus v. AFSCME? On November 21, 2016, the National Right to Work Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center filed a brief with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Mark Janus and two other Illinois government employees challenging the Illinois law that requires government employees to pay a "Fair Share" or "agency fee" to the union that represents them. The plaintiffs allege that where public employee unions are concerned, all advocacy is "political" in nature and under the First Amendment, citizens cannot be compelled to support any form of political speech. This case ultimately seeks to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in Detroit Board of Education.

What is Abood? Abood v. Detroit Board of Education is an important case that the Supreme Court decided unanimously in 1977. In Abood, the Court affirmed that it is constitutional for public sector unions to collect Fair Share fees (also sometimes called agency fees) from employees who choose not to join a union, but whom the union is legally required to represent in negotiations with the employer.

Who is trying to undermine the collective bargaining rights of working people? Corporate CEOs and wealthy special interests want to further tilt the economic rules in their favor by making it even harder for workers to come together, speak up and get ahead. They also want to destroy the ability of unions to be active in electoral politics or political advocacy. This case, which deals with public service workers, is just the latest tactic by the same wealthy special interests that have been attacking working people for decades. The best way for working people to get ahead is to band together to win better wages, working conditions and benefits. This case is not about worker freedom; it’s about weakening the unions workers depend on to advocate for their interests.

What are Fair Share fees? Everyone can choose whether or not to join a union at work and nothing in this case will change that. When the majority of people vote to form a union, however, the union is required by law to represent everyone in the bargaining unit, whether that employee is a union member or not. As all public employees enjoy the benefits, job security and other protections the union negotiates, it is only fair that all employees contribute to the cost of securing those benefits and protections. Currently, public employees who don't want to belong to a union only have to contribute to the costs of the representation they receive, including the cost of negotiating and maintaining contractual benefits, protections and rights. No public employee is required to join a union or pay any fees that support political candidates or a union's political or ideological activities.

What's at stake if unions lose this case? If we get a worst-case decision that allows employees to be free-riders, the possibility exists that some members will make a very short-sighted decision to "give themselves a raise" by not paying dues. If enough members choose that path, it is possible that your union will not be able to function effectively as an advocate for members - or possibly not be able to function at all. In that case, the union could be decertified and, if that occurs, your collective bargaining agreement would remain in effect for only.a year. After that you would not have a contract. That would mean no more salary schedule, no requirement of the district to provide or contribute to health insurance, no rules about working conditions, no grievance procedure and so on. In other words, all employees would become at-will employees who are completely subject to managerial discretion on everything concerning their employment. Pretty much like it is now in many Right-to-Work states where there is no collective bargaining. If and when that happens, the "savings” achieved by not paying dues will be seen for what it really is - a very bad bargain. But by that time it will be too late to do anything about it.

What has the union ever done for me?

That's the question greedy, anti-union billionaires will be urging you to ask yourself if the Supreme Court rules against unions and declares Fair Share fees (a.k.a. agency fees) to be unconstitutional. They're hoping you'll say your union doesn't do anything for you and drop your membership.

We think they're greatly underestimating the common sense of our members. Think about some of the gains your local union, NYSUT and our national affiliates, AFT and NEA, have won for you over the years. The many benefits, protections and rights you enjoy weren't gifts from a benevolent employer or a kindly government. Your union and the union members who went before you fought hard for them. And they can disappear quickly if your union's ability to effectively represent you is destroyed. Many of the following are rights and benefits you have now ... and don't want to lose.

These are just some of the things your union has done for you. Every one of these rights and benefits - and many others - could be taken away if your union is weakened or destroyed. The billionaires are hoping you won't think about that until it's too late.

  • Right to collectively bargain terms and conditions of employment
  • Defined work day and work year
  • Limits on the number and size of classes
  • A strong DEFINED BENEFIT pension system
  • Salary schedules providing automatic annual wage increases
  • Employer-provided health, dental and vision plans
  • Paid vacations, holidays, sick/family sick leave, bereavement leave and personal leave
  • Post-retirement health insurance
  • Defense of tenure and other due process rights
  • Right to representation in all disciplinary proceedings
  • Seniority protections against arbitrary layoffs and involuntary transfers
  • Stipends for extracurricular activities and other work beyond the contractual work day
  • Health and safety provisions
  • Anti-discrimination protections
  • Grievance and arbitration procedures to protect against violation of contractual rights
  • Protection against diminishment of pension benefits
  • Right to examine and reproduce materials in your personnel file
  • Voluntary overtime, overtime pay and shift premiums for hourly employees
  • Paid professional development
  • Terminal leave payments and retirement incentives
  • Sick bank rights
  • Welfare funds
  • Fighting for adequate and equitable funding for public schools, higher ed and health care
  • Fighting for a fair evaluation system


 Union workers participating in job-provided health insurance. 1 79%
 Nonunion workers participating in job-provided health insurance. 49%

Union workers participating in guaranteed (defined-benefit) pension plans.76%
Nonunion workers participating in guaranteed (defined-benefit) pension plans.16%

Union workers with paid sick leave.83%
Nonunion workers with paid sick leave.62%

Union workers’ median weekly earnings. 2$980
Nonunion workers' median weekly earnings.$776

Young (ages 16-24) union workers’ median weekly earnings.$616
Young (ages 16-24) nonunion workers’ median weekly earnings.$482

Union women’s median weekly earnings.$928
Nonunion women’s median weekly earnings.$697

African American union workers’ median weekly earnings.$800
African American nonunion workers’ median weekly earnings.$617

Latino union workers’ median weekly earnings.$862
Latino nonunion workers’ median weekly earnings.$586

Asian American union workers’ median weekly earnings.$1,094
Asian American nonunion workers’ median weekly earnings.$977

1U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau .of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in the United States, March 2015.

2U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Union Members 2015, January 2016.

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