Labor News From Our Region
Mark Janus quits state job for conservative think tank gig after landmark ruling
Springfield, IL – Less than a month after he won a Supreme Court case to not to pay union fees, Mark Janus has announced he’s quitting his job for a position as a senior fellow with the Illinois Policy Institute, the conservative think tank that helped bankroll his case, the Chicago Sun-Times reported
The Supreme Court issued its 5-4 decision on Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 on June 27, ruling that non-union government employees’ First Amendment rights shield them from having to pay fees to a union to cover costs to represent them. It dealt a serious financial blow to unions, which rely on membership dues to stay solvent.
The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) and its affiliated Liberty Justice Center supplied Janus with the legal firepower to bring the case to the Supreme Court.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner had been the initial plaintiff in the case when it was filed in February 2015, but a judge ruled Rauner had no legal standing and Janus was allowed to intervene to object to paying “fair share” or “agency” fees to the union.
“Once again, it’s clear that this court case was never about Mark Janus, but about billionaires like Bruce Rauner and big-money corporate funders launching a political attack on the freedom of working people to speak up together through a strong union,” AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall said. “While IPI tries to dupe workers into quitting their union, AFSCME members will continue doing what they’ve always done: providing important public services and building their union to speak up for themselves, their families and communities.”
Janus, 65, had worked as a $71,000-per-year child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services in Springfield.
Starting this month, Janus, 65, will be a senior fellow, spokesman and “workers rights advocate” around the country, according to IPI, which did not say how much he’ll be paid.
NO CAKE FOR YOU
In Springfield, AFSCME Local 2600, which includes the people who worked with Janus, held a special retirement party for him. Unfortunately for Janus, it was members only, so he wasn’t able to attend. The icing on the cake read, “There is no union with ‘U.’ “
Seventy-six workers showed up, including three who recently signed their union membership cards.
The Rauner Administration wasted no time in trying to confuse state workers and entice them into resigning from their unions, creating a webpage entitled “Change Union Membership Status.”
The webpage points out that workers don’t have to pay fair-share fees anymore, but then goes further to argue that unions “are still obligated to fairly represent all employees in collective bargaining, whether they are members of the union or not … you will NOT lose your employment benefits if you opt out of the union.”
It then provides a handy link to let workers notify the state if they want to opt out – essentially inviting them to become contract free-riders.
Labor Professor Robert Bruno of the University of Illinois said the web page reaches far beyond the Janus ruling.
“The most that the state should do, if it’s complying with the letter and the spirit of the court’s decision, is to simply notify employees that fair-share designation no longer exists,” he said. “Who are they talking to? Who is the audience? Well, the audience is not fair-share members. The audience for this is union members. Clearly, clearly the state should not be involved in a campaign to solicit union defections.”
AFSCME FIGHTING BACK
AFSCME said it has trained 25,000 members to conduct 800,000 face-to-face conversations nationally. In Illinois, Council 31 was encouraging fair-share members to sign cards as full members.
“The powerful interests behind this case have tens of millions of dollars to pour into their political agenda of trying to silence us. But we aren’t afraid and we aren’t going anywhere,” President Roberta Lynch said. “We’re making certain that every union member knows the real intent of this case is to defund unions, then drive down wages and benefits of public service workers. We’re not going to let that happen.”