This week, lawyers for storied Illinois government worker Mark Janus filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. They are seeking a refund of union “fair share fees” that Janus paid to AFSCME in Illinois over a five-year period from 2013 to 2018.
Thanks to Mark Janus’ willingness to fight forced unionism in 2018, government workers who don’t join their workplace union are no longer required to pay “non-member” union fees as a job requirement. Following his win in Janus v. AFSCME, Janus filed another lawsuit to get back the money he paid unconstitutionally to AFSCME.
In November 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected his and another worker’s claim. That’s why Janus is taking his case to the highest court in the land.
The two public interest law firms who represent him, the National Right to Work Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center, say they are “currently litigating more than 30 Janus-related cases, including seven jointly, that collectively seek over $120 million in refunds for government workers.”
So far, these “clawback” cases have not gotten far. On February 24, the Sixth Circuit denied Ohio teacher Sarah Lee’s appeal for a fee refund. In December 2019, the Ninth Circuit similarly shot down a refund case filed by three Washington state workers.
A main reason these cases have not succeeded so far is that a 1977 Supreme Court decision established fair share fees, so unions charging them was legal precedent for over 40 years. We don’t know if Mark Janus will win again in the U.S. Supreme Court, but we remain grateful for his work—and 2018 victory—in protecting workers’ freedom of association.