The Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case: What is it and what does it mean?

Background on the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic ruling against public-sector unions and the rights of working people on June 27 in Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) Council 31.

On the same day, Florida Education Association (FEA) President Joanne McCall issued this statement in response to the ruling:

“This decision was expected, but we’re still very disappointed to see the court side with the big-money interests backing Mark Janus, with the corporate billionaires determined to destroy unions and take away workers’ rights. The good news is, this should be a great motivator for working people everywhere. The harder they come after us, the harder we fight, and here in Florida we’ve been fighting for a long time. We’re already a “right-to-work” state where paying dues is voluntary. Despite that, the Florida Education Association is the largest union in the Southeast, and we’re adding members every day.”

At issue in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 was whether government employees who are covered by and benefit from a union contract, though not union members, should have to contribute to the union’s costs for contract negotiations. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mark Janus, an Illinois social worker who is covered by a collective agreement but is not a union member. As a result, unions are expected to lose the ability to collect “fair share” fees from non-members.

Florida is a “right-to-work” state, so the Janus decision will not have the same impact on the Florida Education Association and local unions statewide as it may have on other states’ unions. In our state, paying union dues is voluntary and has been since the 1970’s. 

However, the FEA stands with public sector unions nationwide in opposing the Janus ruling, which threatens to take away the rights and freedom of working people to join together in strong unions and speak up for themselves and their communities. From the beginning, the objective of the Janus case was to divide and limit union members’ collective bargaining power.

The case was bankrolled by the National Right to Work Foundation, which is part of a network funded by corporate billionaires and aims to use the courts to rig the rules against working people. It is part of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort to weaken unions and to chip away at the progress unions have won for all working families.

The untold story is that the state of our union is solid – and getting stronger – despite the unprecedented attack on working people by special interests behind the Janus decision.

Public opinion of teachers unions is robust. According to a recent NPR/Ipsos poll, two-thirds of those polled approve of teachers’ unions and just 1 in 4 believe educators in this country are paid fairly. 

Bottom line: We are on the right side of history. Americans hear our struggles, agree with our demands and support our rights to union membership.

Today, the Florida Education Association remains the largest labor union in the Southeast. And we are not done yet. We are not sitting idle to prepare for the future. The FEA is one of the fastest growing unions in the country – and Florida is a “right to work for less” state!

News Coverage

There have been a number of news articles that articulate what this case really aims to do: Silence the voices of working families. Please continue to share and amplify these well-researched, well-written news articles and editorials whenever possible

I Work with Mark Janus. Here’s How He Benefits from a Strong Union, Labor Notes (May 11, 2018)

Editorial: West Virginia Teachers Give a Lesson in Union Power, New York Times (March 2, 2018)

Standing Up for the Rights and Freedoms of Working People to Organize, (Feb. 27, 2018)

Editorial: We All Must Live With Mitch McConnell's Proudest Moment, New York Times (Feb. 26, 2018)

Behind a Key Anti-Labor Case, a Web of Conservative Donors, New York Times (Feb. 22, 2018)

Fears grow as rightwing billionaires battle to erode US union rights, The Guardian (Feb. 24, 2018)

Unions Helped Integrate America. The Supreme Court Could End That This Year, The Daily Beast (Feb. 10, 2018)

It's ON: Here's what we just told the Supreme Court about collective bargaining, (Jan. 19, 2018)

Rightwing alliance plots assault to 'defund and defang' America's unions, The Guardian (Aug. 30, 2018)


A number of highly respected organizations have issued reports, studies and other research that chronicle how strong unions benefit all of us. Below is just a sampling of resources supporting our position that the greatest path to the middle class is through a union.

American Constitution Society for Law and Policy:

Economic Policy Institute:

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU):

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