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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