On October 13, 2020, Mark Janus. the main plaintiff in the pivotal Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, submitted an amicus brief in Belgau v. Inslee. In the case filed, a group of Washington State employees are taking on an arrangement that union bosses cooked up to restrict employees’ ability to exercise their First Amendment Janus rights to abstain from subsidizing a union to only 10 days per year.
Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and Liberty Justice Center submitted the brief. Janus used to work as an Illinois child support specialist and received legal representation from both organizations.
The brief was submitted for Janus by staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center. Janus, a former Illinois child support specialist, was represented at the Supreme Court by attorneys from both organizations, with Foundation attorney Bill Messenger presenting the oral argument.
In Janus, the Supreme Court ruled that compelling public workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment violates their First Amendment rights. The Court also held that union dues can only be taken from the paychecks of public workers if they clearly and affirmatively waive their right not to pay, with Justice Samuel Alito writing in the Court’s decision that “such a waiver cannot be presumed.”
In the Belgau case, lead plaintiff Melissa Belgau and six other Washington State employees filed a lawsuit against Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) union for enforcing an “escape period” scheme that is considered to be unconstitutional. The plaintiffs all withdrew their memberships and demanded that they no longer be subject to dues payments a couple months following the Janus decision. Regardless, dues continued to be confiscated from their paychecks following their request.
The lawsuit requests state and union officials to stop impeding workers’ ability to assert their First Amendment right to not financially back the union. In addition, it demands the union return all dues confiscated from any worker who attempted to stop dues deductions following the Janus decision. However, the escape period policy denied workers the chance to exercise these rights.
In September, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling against the workers. However, their attorneys submitted a petition for an en banc rehearing of the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Janus’ amicus brief stresses how an en banc hearing is needed due to the fact that the three-judge panel “gut[ted] the Supreme Court’s holding” by discovering that it is “constitutional for a state and a union” to continue seizing payments “for union speech from objecting, nonmember employees” until an arbitrary 10-day period. The brief contends that the Constitution does not allow “states and public-sector unions” to “prohibit employees from exercising their First Amendment right to not subsidize union speech for 355-56 days of every year.”
Staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation and Liberty Justice Center are in the process of litigating over thirty Janus-related cases. In seven of these cases, they are working together. This includes the continuing case of Mark Janus in which a second writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court is being pursued. Janus is attempting to receive a ruling that will compel AFSCME union bosses to return forced fees taken from him in violation of the First Amendment. Such a ruling would establish a precedent in which union officials are required to refund hundreds of millions of dollars from nonmember public employees all over the country.
“It is shocking that despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus, government employers and private political organizations, unions, continue to place limitations on Americans’ constitutional rights,” declared Jeffrey Schwab, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “All government workers must be able to exercise their First Amendment right not to pay a union.”
“Mark Janus and his attorneys defended the First Amendment rights of public employees at the US Supreme Court and are now protecting those same freedoms by helping to challenge this egregious limitation on workers’ Janus rights,” continued National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It is outrageous to claim any government or public sector union boss policy can limit a worker’s constitutional rights to just 10 days each year.”
The National Right to Work Committee goes out of its way to fight against the excesses of forced unionization, especially for public sector unionization. If there is one form of unionization that needs to go, it’s public sector unions. Taxpayers should not be held hostage by unions that continue to live off the public trough.