|📆 Years active||1980s to present|
|👔 Employer||Illinois Policy Institute, Liberty Justice Center|
|Plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME|
Mark Janus was plaintiff in the June 2018 United States Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME and since November 2018 has been acting as an activist for the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) and co-located Liberty Justice Center.
Mark Janus was a Boy Scout member as a child in Springfield, Illinois.
From the 1980s to 2007, Janus went from government to private-sector to public job. In 2007, Janus became a child support specialist for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, part of the government of the US state of Illinois for eleven years. According to the Libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, his job entailed making sure children receive all financial support available to them and ameliorating the process of divorce for children.
Janus v. AFSCME plaintiff
In 2015, with newly-elected Illinois governor Bruce Rauner sued the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees AFSCME Council 31 (AFSCME Council 31) for First Amendment rights. In 2016, Janus published a commentary in the Chicago Tribune, stating that "When I was hired by the state of Illinois, no one asked if I wanted a union to represent me... I only found out the union was involved when money for the union started coming out of my paychecks." (In 2018, he described his discovery: "There was a line item on my pay check that said 'union dues,' and I'm thinking, 'I'm not a member of the union' and 'What's going on here?'.") Janus filed a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court that contested the paying of union fees. By early February 2018, a rift between Rauner and the Illinois Policy Institute went public over "a report by the Sun-Times and ProPublica Illinois that raised questions about the financial dealings between a web of not-for-profit and for-profit ventures associated with John Tillman, CEO of the Illinois Policy Institute." On 26 February 2018, the Supreme Court case commenced as Janus v. AFSCME. National Review magazine anticipated a court decision that would mean "judgement day for public unions."
(See Janus v. AFSCME.)
On 28 June 2018, the New York Daily News quoted Janus saying :
A lot of these unions have asked for, and received, the ability to inclusively, collectively bargain for everybody... Now that this decision has come down, they’re going to have to come out and sell a product, if you will, and they will have to prove to the individuals that there is a definite benefit for being part of the union."
On 1 July 2018, the Washington Post ran an opinion piece by Janus in which he explained why he had joined the lawsuit:
I watched the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union lobby for higher taxes to pay for higher salaries and benefits for government workers such as me... I have had a raise almost every year I have been working for the state... The raises and benefit increases are pushed by government labor unions that have lobbied for the authority to negotiate on behalf of government workers... Why don’t politicians just say no to the demands of the unions when they know the state can’t afford them?... I would gladly forgo my annual raise.
AFSCME Council 31's executive director Roberta Lynch said:
This case is a blatant political attack by Bruce Rauner and other wealthy interests on the freedom of working people to form strong unions. We are extremely disappointed the Supreme Court has taken the side of the powerful few, but we’re more determined than ever to keep our union strong, standing up for public services and the working people who provide them.
The Illinois State Journal Register reported comments at the state and national level, including: Janus, Rauner, President Donald Trump, US senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, the Illinois Policy Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Democratic candidate for Illinois governor J.B. Pritzger, Illinois state president John Cullerton, Illinois state senators Sam McCann and Andy Manar, Illinois state comptroller Susan Mendoza, Illinois Federal of Teachers president Dan Montgomery, and Illinois Education Association president Kathi Griffin.
Public-sector union officials predicted that they would lose 10-30% membership and tens of millions of dollars in revenue in states affected. As for early 2019, police unions were unsure as to whether they would see more or fewer cases of "blue flu" (strikes) for high wages.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE Local 728 of Burbank, California) noted that "The case’s plaintiff... who works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and is represented by AFSCME... makes an annual salary of $71,000, and is suing over a $45 monthly agency fee to AFSCME." Further, it noted support from the National Right To Work Legal Defense Fund (NRTWLDF) and the Liberty Justice Center (whose founder is John Tillman, also founder of the Illinois Policy Institute). IATSE Local 728 also noted that Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center (and at the Goldwater Institute as well as member of the Federalist Society), served as one of Janus' lawyers and connected the center to the institute to "Koch-linked groups" and the Mercer Family Foundation (which as funded Breitbart News and Milo Yiannopoulos).
News interpretations of the decision varied. Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times called the SCOTUS decision a "blow" to labor unions. Months before the decision, the Chicago Tribune used syndicated commentary from Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. that the case illustrated how conservative interest groups are "using the courts to destroy unions." The Washington Times stated that the "media got the Janus decision wrong" with an interpretation of political aspects of union activities.
Support from IPI, LCJ, SCN, ALEC, and AFP
The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) championed Janus publicly before the case reached the Supreme Court when the case began, during deliberation, and when it ended.
The Illinois Policy Institute is an "affiliate" (member) of the State Policy Network, an American nonprofit organization that functions primarily as an umbrella organization for a consortium of conservative and Libertarian think tanks that focus on state-level policy. SPN serves as a public policy clearinghouse and advises its member think tanks on fundraising, running a nonprofit, and communicating ideas. Founded in 1992, it is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, with member groups located in all fifty states. SPN opposes public-sector trade unions.
SPN played a significant role in Janus v. AFSCME. SPN affiliate the Freedom Foundation helped "build the legal and intellectual case for the Supreme Court's eventual ruling," which also supports right to work arguments. Janus himself received "representation and funding" from IPI, another SPN affiliate. SPN and affiliates (e.g., the Mackinac Center) plan to expand on the Janus v. AFSCME victory. Those plans include "running tailored opt-out campaigns in a number of blue states" to foster union members in dropping out of union because "it is now possible to take a 'free ride' off union benefits without paying dues."
In turn, IPI's umbrella organization SPN is itself a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which drafts and shares state-level model legislation for conservative causes, and ALEC is an associate member of SPN. SPN is among the sponsors of ALEC. A 2009 article in an SPN newsletter encouraged SPN members to join ALEC, and many SPN members are also members of ALEC. ALEC is "SPN's sister organisation," according to The Guardian. SPN member think tanks aided the Tea Party movement by supplying rally speakers and intellectual ammunition.
Another SPN affiliate is Americans for Prosperity, an influential libertarian/conservative political advocacy group in the United States funded by David H. Koch and Charles Koch.. AFP leaders view the organization as a counterbalance to the progressive movement's unions and activist organizations.
Janus also received representational support from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRWLDF), part of the National Right to Work Committee, as noted by the Chicago Tribune and The Nation magazine. National Review separately reported that Janus was in effect paying lawyers to argue against him during his part in the case, since his union dues contributed to union lawyers.
Illinois Policy Institute advocate
On the day of the SCOTUS decision, Janus stated he had no immediate plans for his future other than go home and mow the grass and then go back to work.
On 20 July 2018, the Illinois Policy Institute announced that, effective 1 August 2019, Janus had became a fellow and "advocate and spokesperson for workers’ rights." The Liberty Justice Center has published "Mark's Story" online through a website and project its sponsors called "Stand With Workers." It quotes Janus as saying, "I’m not anti-union and neither was my case" but does oppose "forcing" union members "to pay to advance policies we oppose just so we could serve our communities and our state." Janus makes no mention of how his advocacy will help advance pay or benefits for union or non-union members, nor does the Liberty Justice Center, which says only that opposes unions which speak politically for its members (that is, it supports "millions of government workers across the country [who] were forced to fund union politics and policies with which they disagreed, granting enormous political power and leverage to government unions.").
On 23 July 2018, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees criticized the decision as "a blatant political attack to further rig our economy and democracy against working people" and accused Janus of being "recruited to lend his name to a lawsuit".
On November 29, 2018, Janus spoke on the topic of "Taking Action" at a Washington convention of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). "Hailed as a conquering hero... he urged legislators at the conference to champion ALEC’s 'very, very positive' model bills that would further restrict public and private unions' power in their states."
In February 2019, The Guardian newspaper called Janus a "union buster" for "trying to persuade his former fellow state employees to drop their union membership". On February 4, 2019, Janus spoke before an Illinois college chapters of the Federalist Society and John Locke Foundation. On February 20, 2019, National Review magazine announced it would make an award to Janus in March 2019. On February 22, 2019, Janus appeared in Albuquerque, New Mexico in support of a New Mexico State House vote on a bill to bar counties in New Mexico from enforcing local right-to-work ordinances. Janus stated "“We’re not here to be anti-union, we’re not here to be anti-collective bargaining – we just want workers to have a choice." That same day, a 23-year-old man from Omak, Washington, was charged with making on-line threats against a local sheriff, President Donald Trump, and Mark Janus.
As Janus was not a public figure until his name became attached to the case that became Janus v. AFSCME, to date it remains difficult to determine either his background, his beliefs, or his agenda. On the one hand, his current employers portray him as "advocate and spokesperson for workers’ rights," which makes no mention of his stance on unions (without mention of "union"). On the other hand, Janus has made statements that against unions. For example, during a February 2018 podcast interview, he criticized unions with regard to usage of dues for politicking versus other activities (e.g., union bargaining): "From what we have been able to determine, it's very difficult to determine where they [unions] are spending their money and exactly what they're doing... It's hard to discern where my money is going." (The reference for "we" is unclear in the interview.)
Workers' rights (right to work)
As he began his new jobs with the Illinois Policy Institue and the Liberty Justice Center, Janus took a step beyond his former position: "I love my job... but in order to do this type of work, I am forced to check my First Amendment rights at the door."
As "advocate and spokesperson for workers’ rights," Janus has received notice generally notice with regard to a specific worker right, namely "right to work." Right to work, that is a human right to work or engage in productive employment and protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights In early 2018, National Review claimed, "The supposed constitutionality of this compelled speech rests on the fiction that these fees pay only the costs of collective bargaining, from which the fee-payers benefit." The magazine also denounced labor leaders for excessive salaries.
The Illinois News Network, an organ of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, commented on the SCOTUS decision:
The union claims it's his "fair share" to pay for the collective bargaining done on his behalf... Janus was right. And thanks to his courage, millions of workers' rights have been restored.
On the day of the SCOTUS decision, Janus told NPR Radio Illinois:
I do not think it's anti-union at all. I have no beef with the union. I am not anti-union. I just feel that union has to be transparent, and I think as a worker we have to have the right to make a decision on our own to join or not join. And I do not think it has to be mandated by law or anywhere else that says that, just because you are a public sector worker, you have to turn over a portion of your paycheck to the union.
Janus noted that some federal unions did not mandate membership by federal workers.
In late 2017, before Janus v. AFSCME went before the Supreme Court, the epithet "two faces" began appearing for Mark Janus. Mary Bottari, a deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), decried Janus for wearing "two faces" (like the Roman god Janus) because, on the one hand Janus and his backers oppose "forced unionization," while on the other hand "the language they use is relentlessly pro-worker." During a March 2018 interview, Bottari explained further that "one face of Janus, that’s in mainstream media" is that of a "nice child support worker, who’s a Boy Scout," but whose other face has "very little to do with this person or his particulars" and instead with a "long history" of "deep-moneyed assault." She claimed that 13 of 19 amicus curiae came from SPN current or former members, and all but perhaps one of the rest are subsidiaries of the SPN members, i.e., essentially one united interest group stands behind the face of Mark Janus.
By Spring 2018, conservative organizations began to attack the "two faces" epithet. Conservative newspapers joined by June 2018. EducatedTeachersMN, which calls itself "project" of Center of the American Experiment (which calls itself "Minnesota’s leading public policy organization"), started its arguments by stating that the god Janus "was usually depicted as having two faces, not because he was perceived as deceitful." SPN-affiliate the Freedom Foundation wrote, "Possessing two faces on his head – one facing forwards and one facing backwards – Janus could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other. In many respects, Janus v. AFSCME was destined to change United States labor law."
- Janus v. AFSCME
- John Tillman
- Illinois Policy Institute
- "Mark Janus - Senior Fellow". Illinois Policy Institute. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
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Janus video / audio
- Reason: Meet Mark Janus, Whose Supreme Court Case May End Compulsory Union Dues (23 February 2018)
- C-SPAN: Mark Janus and Jacob Huebert on Janus v. AFSCME (26 June 2018)
- C-SPAN: Plaintiff Mark Janus on Supreme Court Victory (27 June 2018)
- NPR Illinois: Interview With Mark Janus After SCOTUS Ruling (27 June 2018)
- C-SPAN: Mark Janus and Jacob Huebert on Supreme Court Ruling on Government Unions (29 June 2018)
- New York Times: Behind a Key Anti-Labor Case, a Web of Conservative Donors (25 February 2018)
- Unionist: Meet the Money Backing Mark Janus and his Case v AFSCME (5 March 2018)
- American Prospect: The Radical Roots of Janus (27 February 2018)
- National Law Journal: Marcia Coyle (26 February 2018)
- Commonweal: Labor's Existential Crisis (23 July 2018)
- The Unrepentant Marxist: Mark Janus vs. AFSCME and the need for a real trade union movement (28 February 2018)
- PBS Chicago Tonight]: Illinois Case Could Deal Major Blow to Public Sector Unions (27 February 2018)
- C-SPAN: Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 Oral Argument (26 February 2018)
- C-SPAN: Stephen Mittons on Janus v. AFSCME (26 February 2018)
- C-SPAN: Josh Eidelson on Supreme Court Union Case (26 February 2018)
- PBS Washington Week: SCOTUS season: Some of the Supreme Court's most significant decisions this year (27 February 2018)
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