Reason Podcast

Janus v. AFSCME : Will Ending Mandatory Dues Kill Public-Sector Unions?: Podcast

Today's Supreme Court ruling is a win for freedom of association and free speech, but don't expect it to change statehouse politics overnight.


In a highly anticipated Supreme Court ruling, Janus v. AFSCME, the nation's high court said public-sector employees can no longer be forced to pay dues to unions to cover activities in connection with compensation, workplace rules, and related issues. The plaintiff in the case, Mark Janus, is a state employee in Illinois who objected to having $50 taken out of his paycheck and given to a union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The ruling affects workers in the 20 states that had not yet banned the practice.

The decision is being hailed by a wide variety of pro-business groups and many libertarians as a victory for economic freedom and freedom of association. But its long-term impact is not clear.

About 35 percent of public-sector workers belong to unions, a figure that hasn't changed much in the last 25 years. "Unions are probably right to be worried about losing dues-paying members in the aftermath of the Janus ruling," writes Reason's Eric Boehm, who has covered the story closely. "An analysis by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, a union-backed think tank, estimates that 726,000 workers nationally would stop paying dues if they had that choice. The loss of union members and their dues could be particularly challenging in blue states, according to the IEPI report. Public-sector union membership would decrease by an estimated 189,000 members in California, 136,000 members in New York, and 49,000 members in Illinois."

In the newest Reason Podcast, I talk to Boehm about the ruling and its possible implications for public-sector workers, unions, and taxpayers.

Back in February, I talked with Mark Janus about why he brought his lawsuit, what it's like to be at the center of a major Supreme Court case, and more. Listen here.

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Audio production by Ian Keyser

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  1. The Democrat candidates are going to lose tens of millions in political contributions after this.

    Private donations might make up the difference but this is a great win for workers and a great loss for lefties.

    1. I hope it destroys the public unions. They had no right to exist in the first place.

  2. It is arguable that unions have no role in the public sector as the people funding their entire organization have no say in their process.

    Tax payers fund not only the results ‘negotiations’ but all the ‘subscriptions’ to the union. As a DE tax payer I foot the bill for state employee salaries a part of which goes to the union. Further to Janus, I strongly object to my money going to, not only causes to which I do not subscribe, but also to an organization which I derive absolutely no benefit.

  3. Volokh has been arguing all along that this really changes very little as far as unions go. All governments have to do is pay the dues themselves, independently of salary. Whether they lower all salaries by that amount (probably not legal to lower public employee salaries) or just pay the dues out of some general fund, same difference.

    1. With Trump at the helm, one hopes they will be cut off entirely.

      1. This is a state issue. Nothing to do with Trump.

    2. Thats a possibility.

      On the other hand, quite a few states/municipalities are being bankrupted by these same unions, and even some left leaning politicos see the writing on the wall. My guess is, despite their rhetoric, quite a few lefty pols will welcome the demise of these unions, which have rendered some jurisdictions all but ungovernable.

      I concede this could be a wildly optimistic take.

  4. Oh No. The democrats will have to revive the Telethons they ran in the early 70s to raise money. When Cher and the Retirement Village People do their helping the working stiff sketch it should come with a laugh track.

  5. “Will Ending Mandatory Dues Kill Public-Sector Unions?”

    Here’s hoping!

  6. It won’t kill them. But it’s gonna drag them into the alley and give them a beatdown they aren’t used to being on the receiving end of.

  7. Now, the suits they are facing now might neuter them.

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