Government Unions One Year after Janus v. AFSCME

Download PDF

In Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court freed nearly 330,000 Pennsylvania public sector workers from paying union fees if they choose not to become union members. The ruling’s significance will take years to develop. However, several trends have appeared one year after the decision: unions lost significant fee-based revenue, fee-payers largely remain non-union, and existing members—frequently unaware of the ruling or restricted from resigning—often maintain membership.

Pennsylvania Government Unions

Pennsylvania’s six most prominent public sector unions report losing 26,500 fee-payers and 1,600 active members—or between 2-21% overall member/fee-payer declines per union. This deprived union leaders of an estimated $12.5 million in annual dues and fees.

  • AFSCME 13 experienced the largest overall decline (21.9%), driven by the loss of over 14,000 fee-payers and a minimal 50-member increase.
  • AFT-Pennsylvania lost 1,900 fee-payers and gained 350 members, a 5.8% decline.
  • PSEA lost 6,500 fee-payers and 1,200 members, a combined 5% decline.
  • SEIU Healthcare and State Council lost 1,500 active members and 350 fee-payers. SEIU 668 gained 700 active members, yet with 3,400 lost fee-payers, they experienced a larger 14% combined decline.

Amidst membership fluctuations and fee-payer losses, union leaders continued spending dues on “political activities and lobbying.” AFSCME 13 decreased political spending by $100,000 and AFT-Pennsylvania and PSEA’s spending remained largely unchanged. SEIU locals all increased political spending by a combined $1.9 million.

Office of Open Records requests reveal unions representing state government workers (exempting the unions listed above) and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh school district employees experienced an additional net 3,500 loss (mostly fee-payers) and $1.64 million less in annual dues and fees.  

  • Active membership remained stable, with an overall 1,100 gain. However, the loss of fee-payers from generally small unions caused between 12% increases and 53% decreases in membership/fee-payers per union.
  • UFCW, representing liquor store workers, experienced the largest fee-payer loss at 1,450, slightly offset by a 500-member gain.
    • A member sued UFCW after they misrepresented his legal rights and rejected his resignation.
  • Unions representing the School District of Philadelphia gained 1,000 members—half the number of lost fee-payers.

Unions representing Pittsburgh Public Schools lost 46 members and 338 fee-payers.

National Government Unions

Collectively, the four largest national unions gained 31,100 active members, but lost 381,000 fee-payers.

  • AFSCME, AFT, and NEA gained between 8,400 and 15,400 active members each, while SEIU lost 4,500 members. The overall decrease in combined active members/fee-payers ranged between 2-9%.
  • AFSCME and SEIU nearly doubled their political spending amidst a 10% decrease in representation funding. NEA reduced political spending among overall budget constraints, and AFT’s expenditures held constant.

Overall Trends

Post-Janus impacts vary by union; for instance, SEIU increased political spending amidst the most significant membership losses. Generally, however, active membership remained stable while the severity of fee-payers losses fluctuated. A further underlying factor for every union is policies and laws confining members in their unions.

  • Less than half of teachers know they can leave a union without paying a fee, according to recent polling,[1] reflecting a union member poll taken shortly after the Janus decision.[2]
    • Workers cannot exercise a right of which they are unaware, underscoring the need to inform public workers of their legal rights via the Employee Rights Notification Act.
  • Union maintenance of membership contract provisions—or brief “opt-out windows”—block members’ resignation attempts. Pennsylvania workers have filed over 10 lawsuits to leave their unions.
    • Proposed House Bills 624 and 506 can protect workers’ right to resign.

Infographic: Union Membership Trends

[1] Teacher Freedom, “One Year After Janus: Teacher Attitudes on Unions & Membership,” June 2019,

[2] CorCom, Inc., Carnegie Mellon University, “The Janus Juncture,” August 2018,