The Janus Decision

On June 27th, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Mark Janus is an Illinois State Employee who argued that paying agency fees to AFSCME amounted to “compelled speech” and violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In 1977, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Ed., which made a distinction between mandatory “agency fees” and voluntary union dues. At that time, the Court concluded that employees could not be compelled to pay union dues that might be used for lobbying or other political activities, but states could allow for contracts that charge agency fees and require all workers in a bargaining unit to contribute to the cost of bargaining and union representation.

In the Janus decision, the Court concluded that negotiations by public sector unions are inherently political and compelling an employee to pay any union dues violates their free speech rights. As a result, the Court overturned the Abood decision and ruled that States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees.


Jennifer has over 20 years of legislative and government relations experience. She served as staff counsel to the Senate and House Transportation Committees, the Government Relations Director for the Washington State Department of Transportation, and Governor Christine Gregoire’s Legislative Director and Transportation Policy Advisor. She is the owner of Jennifer Ziegler Public Affairs, representing both public and private sector clients.

Latest posts by Jennifer Ziegler (see all)