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State

Illinois state worker, plaintiff in landmark anti-union ruling, joining right-wing think tank

Mark Janus poses for a photograph outside the State Capitol building Feb. 7 in Springfield.
Mark Janus poses for a photograph outside the State Capitol building Feb. 7 in Springfield.

The state worker behind the lawsuit that led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that eliminated “fair-share” fees paid by nonmembers of public employee unions is joining the group that oversaw his legal battle.

Mark Janus, a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, is joining the Illinois Policy Institute and its Liberty Justice Center on Aug. 1 as a “senior fellow,” the conservative think tank announced.

In June, the Supreme Court decided Janus v. AFSCME, which reversed a four-decade-old ruling that nonmembers had to pay to unions a “fair share” fee for the nonpolitical costs of collective bargaining. The court’s 5-4 majority essentially contended that all public union activity is political.

Now, government employees in nearly two dozen states can choose not to pay for union efforts to bargain for wages, pensions, healthcare benefits and other services. The decision was a setback for organized labor nationwide.

Janus was represented in the case by the organization he’s now joining. He objected to the roughly $45 per month deduction from his paycheck that went to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. rejected the unions’ argument that allowing employees to not pay fees would permit “free riders” who benefit from the unions’ work without shouldering any of the cost. Instead, Alito cast Janus as “not a free rider on a bus headed for a destination that he wishes to reach but is more like a person shanghaied for an unwanted voyage.”

In an op-ed in the Tribune in 2016, Janus said he “went into this line of work because I care about kids.” Upon announcing his departure from the state, Janus praised the policy institute and legal center in a statement.

“Every day, their staff is working to turn around the state of Illinois, and I am grateful for the opportunity to spend the remainder of my career doing something I believe in,” he said. “I look forward to helping make a difference for workers in the state and across the U.S.”

Policy institute CEO John Tillman said Janus “will be touring the country to make sure workers understand their rights and to share with workers and other people interested in his Supreme Court case what the Janus win means.”

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