Skip Navigation
We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience, provide ads, analyze site traffic, and personalize content. If you continue to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies.
NEA News

What You Need to Know: How the 'Janus' Case Threatens Working People

When unions are strong, our communities are strong. They provide a path to the middle class and economic security.
Published: 02/15/2018

janus caseIt is no accident that more and more Americans are struggling to get ahead and provide economic stability for their families. For too long, corporate special interests and politicians who do their bidding have rigged the economy against working people - educators, nurses, firefighters, sanitation workers and other public service employees - to favor the wealthy and powerful.

Now those same special interests have brought a court case to divide and limit unions members’ collective bargaining power. Janus v. AFSCME, now before the U.S. Supreme Court, threatens working people's rights and freedom to join together in strong unions. It is part of a multi-year, multi-million effort to rig the economy in their benefit—at the expense of the middle class and our communities.

When unions are strong, our communities are strong. They provide a path to the middle class and economic security, especially for women and people of color. Unions have helped build great public schools for students. Collective bargaining ensures educators can advocate for small class sizes, guaranteed recess, modern textbooks, and the technology that students need to succeed.

What is this case really about?
Janus v. AFSCME aims to take away the freedom of – and opportunity for – working people to join together in strong unions to speak up for themselves, their families and their communities. When educators, nurses, police officers, firefighters and other public service workers are free to come together in strong unions, they win benefits like collective bargaining, better working conditions, better wages, health care, clean and safe environments and retirement security. But the CEOs and corporate special interests behind this case simply do not believe that working people should have the same freedoms and opportunities as they do: to negotiate a fair return on our work so that we can provide for ourselves and our families. They are funding this case through the so-called National Right to Work Foundation because they view strong unions as a threat to their power and greed.

What is the real impact of this case?
When working people have the freedom and opportunity to speak up together through unions, we make progress together that benefits everyone. If the billionaires and corporate CEOs behind this case get their way, however, they will take away the freedom of working people to come together and build power to fight for the things our communities need: everything from affordable health care and retirement security to quicker medical emergency response times and smaller class sizes in our schools. The CEOs and billionaires want to use the highest court in the land to take away our freedom to create the power in numbers to win better lives for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country.

What have people in unions won for all of us?
People in unions continue to win rights, benefits and protections not only for union members, but for all working people and their communities in and outside of the workplace. When nurses, firefighters, 911 dispatchers, and EMS workers belong to strong unions, they fight for staffing levels, equipment and training that save lives. When educators come together in strong unions, they can ensure small class sizes, guaranteed recess, modern textbooks and the technology that students need to succeed.

When union membership is high, entire communities enjoy wages that represent a fair return on their work and greater social and economic mobility. Without the freedom to come together, working people would not have the power in numbers they need to make our communities safer, stronger and more prosperous.

Who is behind this case?
The National Right to Work Foundation is part of a network funded by corporate billionaires to use the courts to rig the rules against everyday working people. For decades, the corporate CEOs and billionaires funding this case have used their massive fortunes to pay politicians and corporate lobbyists to chip away at the freedoms people in unions have won for every single one of us. Now they want the highest court in the land to take away our freedom to come together to protect things our families need: a living wage, retirement security, health benefits, the ability to care for loved ones and more.

Where did this case come from?
This case originated from a political scheme by billionaire Bruce Rauner, Governor of Illinois, to take away freedom and opportunity from working people to join together in strong unions so that he could advance an agenda benefiting corporations and the wealthy. Rauner launched a political attack on public service workers immediately after taking office, filing a lawsuit on his own behalf to bar the collection of fair share fees by public service unions. A federal judge ruled that Rauner could not bring this action because he was not himself an employee paying fair share fees. But the legal arms of the National Right to Work Committee and the Liberty Justice Center were able to carry the case forward by planting plaintiffs as stand-ins for Rauner in the federal lawsuit. The district court dismissed the case, based on long-standing precedent. The plaintiffs asked the lower court to fast-track their appeal and rule against them in order to more quickly get the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

How is this case different from Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association?
Both cases deal with the same issues. Because Friedrichs was decided by a 4-4 decision after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the lower court’s decision went into effect and fair share fees were upheld. Having failed, the National Right to Work Coalition then backed the Janus case to try and limit working Americans’ freedom to join a strong union.

What are fair share fees and why are they important?
Unions work because we all pay our fair share and we all benefit from what we negotiate together. That's how we have the power in numbers to make progress that benefits everyone. Corporate CEOs don't want working people to have that power; that's what this case is all about.

Is anyone ever forced to join a union or pay for politics?
No. The simple truth is that no one is forced to join a union and no one is forced to pay any fees that go to politics or political candidates. That is already the law of the land. Nothing in this case will change that. This case is about taking away the freedom of working people to come together, speak up for each other and build a better life for themselves and their families.

Find out more about the Janus case, the Working People's Day of Action, and how you can get involved at

National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.