Joseph A. McCartin

Joseph A. McCartin teaches history at Georgetown University.  He is the author of Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America.

Recent Articles

The Radical Roots of Janus

The attorney whose arguments were heard in the Supreme Court yesterday—a decade after his death—actually wanted all unions outlawed.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington bureau, appears outside the Supreme Court in support of unions as the Court hears arguments in Janus v. AFSCME. A s the Supreme Court heard the pivotal union case, Janus v. AFSCME, on Monday, an unacknowledged presence haunted its chambers: that of Sylvester Petro, who conceived the argument on which the case turns. Although he died in 2007, this ideologically driven, anti-union law professor originated the legal strategy behind this case. His radical vision illuminates Janus ’s profound implications. Petro was the first to contend that public-sector collective bargaining was simply a form of politics, and that therefore, any effort to require government workers to pay “agency fees” to a union in return for its representational work amounted to compelled political speech that infringed on their First Amendment rights—the argument that Illinois public employee Mark Janus embraced in this case...