By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – A former state worker in Illinois who won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case last year striking down mandatory union fees for public employees is now asking a federal appeals court to order the union to refund nearly $3,000 in fees he was forced to pay over the course of his career.
Mark Janus worked as a child support specialist for the state from 2007 until 2018. And although he never joined a union, under Illinois law at the time, he was required to pay a “fair share” fee to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Council 31.
Fair share fees are not membership dues, but rather a fee to reimburse the union for its administrative costs negotiating collective bargaining agreements that govern all members of the bargaining unit, regardless of whether or not they actually belong to the union.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in a 5-to-4 ruling that struck down such mandatory payments as unconstitutional, it was seen as a major blow to public employee labor unions, and a major victory for the so-called “right to work” movement.
That ruling actually reversed an earlier Supreme Court ruling from 1977 that said such mandatory fees were lawful.
In Janus’ case, however, the high court did not order any specific relief, but instead remanded the case back to federal district court in Chicago for further proceedings. Janus then asked the district court to award damages in the amount of fair share fees he had paid prior to the Supreme Court’s decision.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman denied that request and granted a motion by AFSCME to dismiss the claim, saying the union had acted “in good faith,” based on controlling law at the time.
On Wednesday, attorneys for Janus filed an appeal, asking the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to review that decision.
“Mark, and other public employees like him, were harmed when unions unconstitutionally took their money,” Jeffrey Schwab, senior attorney at Liberty Justice Center, which represents Janus in the case, said in a statement. “They are entitled to have that money returned.”
But AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said in a statement that the union does not believe Janus is entitled to any refund of his fair share fees, and suggested the entire lawsuit was part of former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s anti-union agenda.
“Mark Janus received wage increases, health insurance coverage, vacation time and other benefits that the union negotiated during his tenure in state government,” Lynch said. “He never once failed to accept such improvements in his working conditions, nor did he ever object to paying the related fees — until he became the plaintiff in Bruce Rauner’s court case against AFSCME. Janus prolonging this litigation is nothing but a greedy grab for more.”