CAPITOL HILL—Millions of workers are forced to pay fees to a union if they want to keep their jobs. Some say that violates their most basic constitutional rights. And one of them has taken the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Every American has First Amendment rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of association. But in the case Janus vs. AFSCME, Illinois child service specialist Mark Janus argues those rights have been violated because he's forced to pay into the union AFSCME, the American Federation for State, County and Municipal Employees.
Janus told CBN News, "I'm not allowed to free associate because I'm forced to pay these mandatory fees to the union. They didn't ask me. It comes out of my paycheck. And if I don't pay it, I lose my job."
Patrick Hughes' Liberty Justice Center represents the Illinois state worker.
"Our client just wants to be able to make a choice about whether he supports the union," Hughes stated. "Currently, he's being forced to support the union. And nobody in our country, no matter what walk of life they're from or what they do for work, should be forced to associate with a group that they don't want to associate with. It's un-American."
Unions say if workers like Janus can get away without paying, the unions will be collective bargaining for them for free. But Janus says in a bankrupt state like Illinois, he doesn't want their help because he politically disagrees with their agenda.
"What the union does when they negotiate with the government is, in essence, they're lobbying," Janus explained. "And when they lobby, that becomes political."
Hughes said if workers don't want to back the union's lobbying, or if they do want to, they should be free to decide.
"If they want to do that, they can join the union, and God bless them," the Liberty Justice Center president stated. "Or they can support it in another way. My client and so many other people don't want to be forced to participate."
The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME could affect some five million state and local employees. The money involved here for these workers isn't just chicken feed. Those union fees can cost them up to a thousand dollars a year.