Favorable Janus v AFSCME decision would be first step to restoring workers’ constitutional rights
WASHINGTON, DC – The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) today praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear Janus v. AFSCME in 2018.
“Every worker in America should have the right to choose – without fear or coercion –whether or not to join or fund a union. Unfortunately, many states do not recognize this right and teachers and public sector workers are forced to pay for union activities they disagree with,” said CIR President Terry Pell.
“We have been fighting to restore this right – first with Friedrichs v. CTA and now with Yohn v. CTA – and we are glad to hear that the court will be considering the constitutional rights of workers when it takes up Janus next year,” continued Pell.
Janus v. AFSCME is the first in a series of cases aimed at protecting American workers and their right to free speech. If decided favorably, compulsory union dues would be struck down. Like the Janus case, Yohn v. CTA argues that forced union dues violate workers’ free speech rights, but also asks the court to rule that unions can only collect dues from employees that have affirmatively opted-in to the union. Teachers and other public sector workers have long been required to opt-out rather than opt-in to union membership, a process which unions often make very difficult for workers through methods like imposing a limited two-week window for opt-out, lengthy forms to do so, and other requirements to keep workers from easily exercising choice.
Pell added, “The Janus case is an important step and we are pleased the court is taking it up. We are watching closely and hopeful that Janus will receive a favorable ruling, opening the door for Yohn to help end – once and for all – the unconstitutional practice of compelled support for unions for millions of public sector workers.”
Background on Yohn v. CTA:
On February 6, 2017, CIR filed a lawsuit against the California Teachers Association (CTA) on behalf of eight California teachers and the Association of American Educators. The suit challenges the constitutionality of California’s “agency shop” law, which violates the First Amendment by forcing public school teachers to fund controversial, political, an ideological issues they disagree with. The suit also asks that unions be required to obtain an “opt-in” from teachers to join the union rather than automatically enrolling them against their will. The case is currently pending before a federal district court in Los Angeles.
In 2016, CIR represented Rebecca Friedrichs and other teachers in a similar case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case. It was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on January 11, 2016, but ultimately ended in a tie by an equally divided court. Friedrichs left in place the laws in 23 states that unconstitutionally burden the free speech and association rights of tens of thousands of public employees.
The Supreme Court questioned the continued constitutionality of “agency shop” laws as recently as 2014. Writing for the Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn, Justice Samuel Alito said, “Agency-fee provisions unquestionably impose a heavy burden on the First Amendment interests of objecting employees.” As he further explained, it is a “bedrock principle that, except perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”
Read more about Yohn v. CTA here. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
For further questions or to speak with Terry Pell, please contact Katherine Bathgate at (303) 478-8444 or Katherine@school-forward.com
About The Center for Individual Rights
The Center for Individual Rights is a nonprofit public interest law firm that defends individual rights, with particular emphasis on civil rights and free speech. CIR provides free legal representation to deserving clients whose individual rights are threatened. Learn more about CIR’s work at cir-usa.org.