Litigation in the wake of Janus

On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, finding that public-sector unions cannot require non-members to pay agency fees to cover the costs of non-political union activities. Since then, a number of related lawsuits have been filed. Listed below in reverse chronological order are five of the most noteworthy cases.

  • AFSCME Council 61 v. Iowa and Iowa State Education Association v. Iowa: In two separate rulings issued on May 17, 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a 2017 law that amended collective bargaining rights for the state’s public-sector workforce. The court ruled 4-3 in the state’s favor in both cases.
    • At issue: The 2017 law mandated that collective bargaining units with fewer than 30 percent public-safety personnel (defined generally as firefighters and police officers) cannot negotiate insurance, hours, vacations, holidays, overtime, and health and safety issues unless their employers elect to do so. Collective bargaining units exceeding the 30-percent threshold are exempted from these restrictions.
    • Complaint: The plaintiffs—AFSCME and the Iowa State Education Association—argued these provisions violated their equal protection and associational rights under the state constitution.
  • California v. Azar: On May 13, 2019, attorneys general in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
    • At issue: On May 6, 2019, HHS issued a final rule barring states from making Medicaid payments to third parties on behalf of individual home health care providers. The rule applies to voluntary payroll deductions made to pay union dues.
    • Complaint: The state attorneys general allege the rule “would undermine laws and agreements that have improved the provision of homecare to the States’ residents … [and] would disrupt well-established collective bargaining relationships and weaken an organized workforce infrastructure.”
  • Leitch v. AFSCME Council 31: On May 1, 2019, nine current and former Illinois state workers filed a class-action lawsuit against AFSCME Council 31 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to recover more than $2 million in agency fees previously paid by approximately 2,700 state workers.
    • At issue: Plaintiffs allege that, after May 1, 2017, AFSCME Council 31 “should have known that its seizure of [agency fees] from non-consenting employees violated the First Amendment.”
    • Complaint: The plaintiffs seek to recover for themselves and for all affected workers the full amount of all fees deducted from their wages between May 1, 2017, and June 27, 2018, plus interest.
  • Janus v. AFSCME (distinct from the original Janus): On March 18, 2019, Judge Robert Gettleman, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, ruled that public-sector unions cannot be required to refund agency fees paid to them before the Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus.
    • At issue: Harris v. Quinn (2014) struck down an Illinois statute compelling a specific class of home health care workers to pay fees to the Service Employees International Union. In this case, the workers in question were not employed directly by the state, but did receive state funds indirectly via subsidy payments.
    • Complaint: The plaintiff (Mark Janus, also the plaintiff in Janus) argued that Harris suggested the ultimate unconstitutionality of agency fees. Janus also argued unions were not acting in good faith when they continued to collect agency fees and should be held liable for refunds.
  • Miller v. Inslee: On Feb. 26, 2019, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a Washington state policy granting exclusive bargaining rights to a union does not violate workers’ First Amendment rights.
    • At issue: In 2006, the state authorized child-care providers working under a state-subsidized program to select an exclusive representative for the purposes of collective bargaining. The workers chose Service Employees International Union Local 925. Workers are not required to join the union, but SEIU Local 925 has the exclusive right to represent this class of workers.
    • Complaint: The plaintiff, child-care worker Katherine Miller, alleged that this practice, in light of Janus, violated her First Amendment rights because it authorizes SEIU Local 925 to speak and negotiate on her behalf without her express consent.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 101 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

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Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

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Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions on relevant bills since the beginning of the year. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state and then by bill number.

  • Maine LD1451: This bill would grant collective bargaining agents greater access to employees and employee information. It would also authorize unions to use government buildings for meetings.
    • Senate and House passed June 18.
  • Maine LD900: This bill authorizes certain classes of public-sector employees to strike.
    • Carried over to any special or regular session June 20.
  • Pennsylvania HB785: This bill would require public employers to inform non-union employees and new employees that they do not have to join or pay fees to a union as a condition of employment.
    • Removed from table June 19.
  • Rhode Island H5259: This bill would authorize unions to impose fees on non-members for administrative matters.
    • Recommitted to House Labor Committee June 20.
  • Rhode Island S0712: This bill would authorize unions to impose fees on non-members for administrative matters. It would require employers to notify unions within five days of hiring new employees. It would also require employees to file written notice with the state controller in order to discontinue dues payroll deductions.
    • House Labor Committee recommended passage of substitute bill June 19.