Giving Ventures Podcast: Taming Unions 5 Years After Janus

Janus Gives Public Workers ‘Ability to Leave Their Union’

The landmark ruling in Supreme Court case Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees found imposing mandatory public-sector-union fees on non-union members is a violation of a person’s free-speech rights. The Court in a 5-4 decision handed down the ruling five years ago today.

“The Janus decision — what it did is — it allowed every public employee in America the ability to leave their union, a right that they never previously had the ability to do — so, what we’ve spent the last five years doing, in telling every public employee in America that they can leave,” says Aaron Withe.

His group, Freedom Foundation, educates public-sector employees about their constitutional rights, including the right to leave a public-sector union and, as a result, forgo paying hefty union fees — union fees that are often used to bankroll political speech many public-sector employees disagree with.

Mackinac Set Its Sights on Worker Freedom ‘Long Before’ Janus Ruling

Joseph Lehman and his team at the Mackinac Center, a Michigan-based public-policy think tank, helped lead the effort that culminated in the Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME. In fact, his team helped lay the groundwork for the landmark decision safeguarding workers’ free-speech rights nationwide.

“We had the decision in view long before it did come down, and that was part of the reason that I think we were able to take a lead role in helping to actually enforce the Janus decision after the ruling came down,” he said, adding his group knows how important it is putting issues before the court.

While Mackinac in a nonprofit research and educational institute focused on many different areas of public policy, its staff members in the 1980s emerged as labor-policy specialists, an area of expertise that became particularly valuable as the Janus case made its way to the Supreme Court.

Public-Sector Employees Want Free Speech But They Want ‘Community,’ Too

While Mackinac brought its labor-policy expertise to bear in the Janus case, the team at Americans for Fair Treatment provide a free membership program to former and current public-sector employees so they can retain the upside they got out of their union membership without compromising their values.

“What we saw, when the Supreme Court handed down the Janus decision, many people were aided by organizations across the country in leaving their union and then they wanted a community — these public employees wanted a community on the other side of that,” says Elisabeth.

Included in the free membership package are retail discounts, professional development scholarships, networking opportunities and support from the team at Americans for Fair Treatment so members have the freedom to exercise their First-Amendment rights without interference from the unions.

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