July 20, 2018
By Mitchell Armentrout
Less than a month after he won a Supreme Court case to preserve his First Amendment rights as a state worker not to pay union fees, Mark Janus has announced he's quitting his job for a position with the conservative think tank that helped bankroll his case.
Janus will start Aug. 1 with the Illinois Policy Institute as a senior fellow, the think tank announced Friday night.
"I've respected the work of the Illinois Policy Institute and the Liberty Justice Center since first connecting with them in 2015," Janus said in a statement. "As I've worked with them more closely over the years, I've come to admire both the staff and the mission of the organizations. ... Every day, their staff is working to turn around the state of Illinois and I am grateful for the opportunity to spend the remainder of my career doing something I believe in."
The Supreme Court issued their 5-4 decision on Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 on June 27, ruling that non-union government employees' First Amendment rights shield them from having to pay fees to a union to cover costs to represent them. It dealt a serious financial blow to unions, which rely on membership dues to stay solvent.
"Once again it's clear that this court case was never about Mark Janus, but about billionaires like Bruce Rauner and big-money corporate funders launching a political attack on the freedom of working people to speak up together through a strong union," AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall said. "While IPI tries to dupe workers into quitting their union, AFSCME members will continue doing what they've always done: providing important public services and building their union to speak up for themselves, their families and communities."
The Illinois Policy Institute and its affiliated Liberty Justice Center supplied Janus with the legal firepower to bring the case to the nation's highest court. It resulted in their biggest policy win to date -- and potentially bolstered their political influence.
Janus, 65, had worked as a $71,000-per-year child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services in Springfield.
"I love my job," Janus had said in statements before the ruling. "Serving others is part of who I am. But in order to do this type of work, I am forced to check my First Amendment rights at the door."
Gov. Bruce Rauner had been the initial plaintiff in the case when it was filed in February 2015, but a judge ruled Rauner had no legal standing and Janus was allowed to intervene to object to paying "fair share" or "agency" fees to the union.
Rauner had a public split last year with the Illinois Policy Institute after signing a bill protecting abortion in the state, but he stood alongside the think tank's CEO John Tillman and Janus on the steps outside the Supreme Court after their win.
As a senior fellow, Janus will serve as a spokesman and workers' rights advocate, according to the think tank, which didn't disclose his salary.
"We are thrilled that Mark has decided to bring his invaluable insight to our team after a long, hard fight at the Supreme Court," Tillman said in the statement. "He is articulate, courageous and committed to the cause of empowering workers. He will be touring the country to make sure workers understand their rights and to share with workers and other people interested in his Supreme Court case what the Janus win means."
Editor's note: Some organized-labor groups have ownership stakes in Sun-Times Media, including the Chicago Federation of Labor; Construction and General Labors District Council of Chicago and Vicinity; Operating Engineers Local 150; SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana and SEIU Local 1.