Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Background: Janus v. AFSCME Council 31: Janus v. AFSCME began as a political scheme by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who shortly after taking office issued an executive order and filed a lawsuit trying to ban fair-share fees. This case did not have standing because it had not stated a claim upon which relief could be granted. Mark Janus, Brian Trygg and Marie Quigley filed motions to intervene as plaintiffs on the side of the governor. The judge dismissed the governor from the case, but allowed the intervenors to bring their claims.
Who has brought this case? The National Right To Work Legal Defense Team on behalf of Mark Janus, a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Janus is a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The National Right to Work Legal Defense Team argues that, because issues like salaries, pensions and benefits for government employees are inherently political, agency fees - even if characterized as the costs of contract negotiations- are supporting "speech designed to influence governmental policies." Therefore, he maintains, requiring him to pay an agency fee isn't actually any different from forcing him to subsidize a group that lobbies the government. Indeed, he observes, an agency fee may require state employees to "subsidize advocacy that they oppose and that may harm their interests." In his words, "The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of association. Mark Mix, President of the National Right To Work Foundations, states, "This is a violation of providers' freedom of association."
What is this National Right To Work Legal Defense Team? The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF) is the legal arm of the National Right to Work Committee(NRTWC), a non-profit organization. The RTWLDF was established in 1968. According to the NRTWC website, "Its mission is to eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs." The NRTWC has deep financial connections with the Koch brothers. Reed Larson, who led the NRTWC groups for over three decades,became an early leader of the John Birch Society, which was founded by Fred Koch, father of David and Charles Koch. Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries have supported numerous ultraconservative political candidates and causes. In 2012 Koch's Freedom Partners group funneled $1 million to the NTRWC.