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Janus v. AFSCM Explained

Janus v. AFSCM

Case: Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31

(Janus v. AFSCM)

Focus: Labor Unions

Summary: In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that employees at a unionized company may be subject to union fees, even if they themselves are not part of the union. In 2018, Mark Janus was a non-union employee who did not want to pay union fees. He took this to several courts getting rejected before the Supreme Court took on his case. The Janus v. AFSCM case asks if that court decision should be overturned so employees not belonging to a union do not have to pay union fees. In a 5-4 vote, Janus v. AFSCM overruled Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.

Why did the court rule in favor of Janus?

  • Abood was poorly reasoned

In the decision to make non-consenting parties pay for union expenses, they thought this would negate the free-rider issue. Unionized employees did not want non-union employees to reap the benefits of their work without paying. If everyone paid and everyone got benefits, things would stay nice and peaceful.

  • Violation of the First Amendment

Because of that reasoning, it was ruled that non-consenting parties would have to pay. This is in violation of the First Amendment principles because it forces people to subsidize ideas they do not endorse.

  • This ruling will still permit unions without agency fees

The court in the Janus v. AFSCM stated that union ideals could still be upheld without agency fees, a fee deducted from a non-unionized employees check for the purpose of funding the union.

Why was there resistance to the ruling?

  • Unions might not be as effective

People worried that if there was less funding, the unions would not be as effective in achieving their goals.

  • 20 states had elaborate statutory schemes built on the Abood decision

  • Many contracts rely on Abood laws

  • Government services provided by affected employees would impact the lives of millions of citizens


Most of the opposition came from a place of convenience. Meaning these decisions were already in place, why disrupt society now? It would be easier to keep this ruling in place because laws were in place that had been built off this ruling. When it got overturned, new guidelines had to be set in place. In contrast, the ruling in favor of Janus, was not out of convenience, but because there was a corrupt law that violated his consent and rights, ultimately, he won.



“Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31.” Accessed March 5, 2020.

“Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, 585 U.S. ___ (2018).” Justia Law. Accessed March 5, 2020.

MarvitFellow, Moshe, Moshe Marvit, Julie Kashen, Levi Bohanan, Andrew Stettner, Jen Mishory, Jamila Taylor, et al. “The Legal Arguments of Janus v. AFSCME Explained.” The Century Foundation, February 21, 2018.

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