Massachusetts Educators Ask State High Court to Take Legal Challenge to Public Sector Forced Union Dues
Case argues forcing state employees to subsidize union officials’ speech violates First Amendment protections
Boston, MA (June 27, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Massachusetts educators are asking the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to hear their case challenging payments they are currently forced to make to union officials.
In 2014, four University of Massachusetts and Hanover School Committee educators filed a series of prohibited practice charges with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations (DLR) against their employers and the union that holds monopoly bargaining contracts at their facilities. The charges challenge the constitutionality of the compulsory union fees that they are forced to pay.
The four plaintiffs have chosen to refuse union membership, but all must pay fees to National Educators Association union officials as a condition of their employment. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Dr. Ben Branch, is a Finance professor. His colleague and fellow plaintiff, Dr. Curtiss Conner, is a Chemistry professor, both at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Plaintiff Dr. Andre Melcuk is Director of Departmental Information Technology at the Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at the University. Dr. Melcuk was born in the Soviet Union and opposes the union based on his dislike of collectivist organizations.
Plaintiff Deborah Curran is a long-term teacher in the Hanover Public Schools. She had the union officials who supposedly “represent” her attempt to invalidate her promotion to a position mentoring new teachers and push to have her investigated and suspended. She ultimately spent nearly $35,000 of her own money battling union officials just to protect her job.
All of these employees believe they would be better off without union representation and desire to be released from paying for the unwanted representation. Their charges at the Massachusetts DLR were dismissed on February 23, 2015, but only recently did the DLR formally transmit the record to the Court of Appeals.
Foundation staff attorneys now seek direct review of the educators’ case by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Ultimately the issue of the constitutionality of forced union fees for public employees will have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“These are dedicated teachers and professors who are being forced to pay dues and fees to union bosses who do not have their best interests in mind,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The fact that one of these educators had to pay forced fees to union officials, while the same officials were pushing for her termination, demonstrates the injustice of mandatory union payments for employees who never asked for or wanted union officials’ so-called ‘representation.’”
In addition to this case, Foundation staff attorneys have six other cases in federal court seeking a ruling that forced union payments for public employees violate the First Amendment. One of those cases, Janus v. AFSCME, is currently at the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari.
Court Rejects Misleading Ballot Language in Big Labor Attempt to Overturn Missouri Right to Work Law
With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Missouri workers have just won a victory in their fight to defend the new Missouri Right to Work law from Big Labor attempts to repeal the new law through misleading ballot measures.
In the ruling that was just issued by Cole County Circuit Court Judge Green, the AFL-CIO union-backed repeal referendum ballot language was deemed “improperly, unfairly, and insufficiently constructed…” Judge Green further noted that “The People [of Missouri] are entitled to consider a question which is phrased in a grammatically-competent manner.”
Patrick Semmens, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, issued the following statement on the ruling:
“Union bosses know that giving workers a choice when it comes to union membership and payment of union fees is popular. This is why they are so intent on misleading the public about their attempts to overturn Missouri’s Right to Work law. Today’s ruling is an important step in defending the right of Missouri employees to work without being forced to pay tribute to a union boss.”
Foundation Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse’s commentary on Janus v. AFSCME featured on The Federalist Society Website
With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, an Illinois state employee’s legal challenge to forced union dues and fees for public sector workers has garnered significant media attention nationwide since the petition to the Supreme Court of the United States was filed on June 6. Recently, Foundation Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse wrote a blog post on The Federalist Society’s website about the case, Janus v. AFSCME. An excerpt is below.
Twice in the past five years the United States Supreme Court has questioned its holding in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977) (6-3 decision on this issue), that the First Amendment allows a government to force its employees to pay “agency fees” to a labor organization that is their “exclusive representative” for purposes of “collective bargaining” with the government.
To read the whole post please click here.
On June 6 the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation petitioned the Supreme Court to hear Janus v. AFSCME a case that could end forced union fees for all public sector employees. The case has generated a lot of media attention. Here are just some samples. Please click the link in the publication name to read the full article.
New York Times – “Last year, the Supreme Court seemed poised to deal a sharp blow to public sector unions. Then Justice Antonin Scalia died and the court deadlocked, granting the unions a reprieve. It may not last long.”
One News Now – “The Janus case is a very important step in our efforts to end the forced payment of fees to a union as a condition of employment,” says Mark Mix of National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The Janus case specifically deals with government employees. Interestingly enough, if we win at the Supreme Court, which we fully intend to do, it would protect every government employee in America from being fired for failure to tender dues or fees to a labor union.”
Washington Free Beacon – “The Supreme Court could revisit a 40-year-old precedent that allows government agencies to force public sector workers to pay union dues, an issue the court deadlocked on in 2016 following the sudden death of Antonin Scalia.”
Illinois News Network – “Foundation President Mark Mix said this is about compelled speech vs. free speech.Mix said what’s happened is there’s “a private institution in between taxpayers and elected officials and [the union] is able to speak for government employees that, heretofore, never asked for, never wanted, and in fact stand back and say, ‘I don’t want you to speak for me,’ as [plaintiffs] have said in this case,” Mix said.”
Foxnews.com – “It’s the state’s burden to justify infringing on a worker’s association rights,” he said. “The key is there’s no difference between collectively bargaining with the government and lobbying the government. If you can’t force people to pay to lobby the government, then you can’t force them to pay union dues or exclusively bargain with them.”
SCOTUSBLOG – “With Justice Neil Gorsuch now on the bench, however, Janus hopes that the Supreme Court will seize its third opportunity to reverse Abood. ”
Washington Examiner – “The case, called Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, asks whether an Illinois state government employee can be forced to pay a so-called “security fee” to the union as a condition of employment. Such fees are common provisions in public-sector union contracts. Losing them would be a severe financial blow to the unions.”
Workers’ case follows up on Supreme Court split on constitutionality of mandatory union fees for government employees
Minneapolis, MN (June 8, 2017) – Assisted by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, two Minnesota court employees are filing a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced dues powers. The case being filed today argues that the state requirement that the plaintiffs pay union fees as a condition of government employment violates the First Amendment.
Carrie Keller is a Court Administrative Assistant, and Elizabeth Zeien is an Accounting Technician; both are employed by the State of Minnesota Court System. When they started working for the State, neither was a union member, and they both negotiated their own terms and conditions of employment and salaries, free from union interference.
In 2015, union officials started proceedings to force a number of state employees who were not in monopoly bargaining units into union ranks, where they could be required to pay union dues and fees. Ultimately, in March 2017, Minnesota state officials complied with the Teamsters’ demands and added a number of employees, including Keller and Zeien, to a Teamsters controlled bargaining unit without the employees’ permission or desire. Keller, Zeien and the other employees were never given a vote on whether they should be part of the union bargaining unit, and they objected to the new scheme.
Before being summarily forced under the union contract, Keller and Zeien had negotiated pay scales and benefits for themselves that equaled or exceeded what they received under the union-mandated contract. The lower compensation under the union contract and the imposition of mandatory union fees led Keller and Zeien to approach the National Right to Work Foundation for assistance in challenging the forced unionization scheme.
“These two workers were happily working and successfully representing themselves in dealing with their employer until Teamsters officials sought to bolster they forced dues ranks even though it meant a step back in their working conditions,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case is a prime example of the power of worker freedom being destroyed by union boss interference and why it is wrong to force employees to pay money to a union for representation they don’t want and never asked for.”
Nearly 40 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that public-sector workers could be compelled as a condition of employment to pay union fees. However, in two recent National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court decisions, Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), the High Court suggested it is ready to revisit the 1978 precedent in Abood, expressing skepticism about the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced-dues privileges.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys currently have seven other ongoing cases challenging the mandatory union payments as a violation of the First Amendment, including Janus v. AFSCME – on behalf of a Illinois government employee Mark Janus who is forced to pay fees to AFSCME union officials – which is currently before the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari.
Illinois State Employee Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Hear First Amendment Challenge to Mandatory Union Fees
Janus v. AFSCME could free all government workers in the U.S. from being forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment
Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2017) – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to hear a case that could free government workers from being forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
Forcing government employees to pay money to union officials to keep their jobs violates the First Amendment, argues plaintiff Mark Janus in the case Janus v. AFSCME. Janus is a child support specialist from Illinois, whose lawsuit was brought by attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center.
The request for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case follows a March ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which upheld forced dues and fees based on the Supreme Court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. The plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME argue that Abood was wrongly decided and should be overturned, especially in light of subsequent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have applied strict scrutiny to mandatory union fees. A copy of the petition is available here.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, issued the following statement about the case:
“For too long, millions of workers across the nation have been forced to pay dues and fees into union coffers as a condition of working for their own government. Requiring public servants to subsidize union officials’ speech is incompatible with the First Amendment. This petition asks the Supreme Court to take up this case and revisit a nearly half-century-old mistake that led to an anomaly in First Amendment jurisprudence. By applying the principles the Court laid out in two recent cases brought for workers by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys – Knox and Harris – the Court can end the injustice of public sector forced dues by the end of next term.”
Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, described what is at stake in the Janus case:
“People shouldn’t be forced to surrender their First Amendment right to decide for themselves what organizations they will and won’t support just because they decide to work for the state, their local government or a public school. This case gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to restore to millions of American workers the right to choose whether to support a union with their money.”
Mark Janus works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and is forced to send part of his paycheck to AFSCME. He said, explaining why he brought the case:
“I went into this line of work because I care about kids. But just because I care about kids doesn’t mean I also want to support a government union. Unfortunately, I have no choice. To keep my job at the state, I have to pay monthly fees to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public employee union that claims to ‘represent’ me. I’m filing this case on behalf of all government employees who want to serve their community or their state without having to pay a union first.”
In addition to Janus v. AFSCME, six other ongoing cases brought by workers with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation are challenging public sector forced dues. These cases represent the full spectrum of public employees, including teachers in Pennsylvania, school aides in Kentucky, university professors in Massachusetts, medical center technicians in California, school electricians in New York and state troopers in Connecticut.
Janus’ case is the first of that group to reach the Supreme Court. The case is on track for the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear it at its first conference of the term beginning in the fall. If four justices agree, the Supreme Court could announce soon after its September 25 conference that it will hear the case.
Background: Janus v. AFSCME’s journey to the Supreme Court
The case now called Janus v. AFSCME began on February 9, 2015. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies from requiring nonmember state employees to pay union fees, and directed that instead any such fees deducted be put in escrow pending the resolution of litigation.
On the same day, Rauner filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against the collection of forced fees from state employees, asking for a declaratory judgment that the forced fee provisions violate the First Amendment and that his executive order was valid.
On March 23, 2015, staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center filed a motion for Mark Janus to intervene in the case. Janus’s complaint requested not only a declaratory judgment but also an injunction and damages from the unions for the compelled fees.
Although the court then ruled that Rauner did not have standing necessary to pursue his lawsuit, the challenge continued because the judge granted Janus’ motion to intervene. The case was renamed Janus v. AFSCME. On July 2, 2015, the Illinois Attorney General asked the district court to stay the case pending the Supreme Court’s decision in a case with similar constitutional issues at stake, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The district court granted a stay on July 8, 2015.
According to most legal observers, the Supreme Court appeared ready to rule for the teacher plaintiffs in Friedrichs and declare that forced union fees for public sector workers violate the First Amendment. However, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, the court ultimately deadlocked 4-4 on Friedrichs. Soon after, a district court judge dismissed Janus, allowing the case to be appealed to the 7th Circuit.
The appeal was filed in October 2016, and oral argument was held on March 1, 2017. On March 21, the 7th Circuit upheld the district court’s decision, ruling that the Abood v. Detroit Board of Education precedent applied to Janus v. AFSCME. That expected decision by the 7th Circuit allowed Janus’ attorneys to file a certiorari petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Recent Supreme Court victories set stage for Janus case
Janus follows a series of decisions that demonstrate a willingness by the Supreme Court to reconsider the constitutionality of forced union fees. In 1977, in Abood, the High Court had held that although union officials could not constitutionally spend objectors’ funds for some political and ideological activities, unions could require fees to subsidize collective bargaining and contract administration with government employers.
In the 2012 Knox v. SEIU case, brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, the Supreme Court began to question Abood’s underpinnings. The Court there held that union officials must obtain affirmative consent from workers before using workers’ forced union fees for special assessments or dues increases that include union politicking.
In the opinion Justice Samuel Alito authored, the door was left open to challenge all forced union fees as a violation of the First Amendment. Alito wrote, “By allowing unions to collect any fees from nonmembers and by permitting unions to use opt-out rather than opt-in schemes when annual dues are billed, our cases have substantially impinged upon the First Amendment rights of nonmembers.” Additionally he said, “Unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of nonmember-employees.”
Two years later, the Foundation assisted a group of Illinois home care providers, including Pam Harris, a mother taking care of her disabled son, in challenging a state scheme authorizing Service Employees International Union officials to require the providers to pay union dues or fees. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys took the case to the Supreme Court, which held that the forced dues requirement violated the First Amendment. The Liberty Justice Center filed an amicus brief in support of Pam Harris and the other plaintiffs with the Supreme Court.
In its Harris ruling, the Court heavily criticized the reasoning of Abood and refused to extend Abood to the “new situation” before it, “[b]ecause of Abood’s questionable foundations, and because the personal assistants are quite different from full-fledged public employees.” The decision held Illinois’ scheme unconstitutional and cracked the door even further open for the Court to revisit Abood and the constitutionality of forced union fees. Justice Alito wrote for the Court, “Except perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”
Last year, it appeared that the Supreme Court was ready to strike down forced union fees for public sector workers for good in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case. The case was brought by Rebecca Friedrichs and eight other teachers who argued that Abood should be overturned because the forced collection of union fees is a violation of the First Amendment. In that case, attorneys for the Liberty Justice Center filed an amicus brief for Mark Janus and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed a separate amicus brief. Both asked that the High Court strike down compulsory union fees for public employees as a violation of the First Amendment.
Most legal observers agreed that Scalia was set to cast the deciding fifth vote in favor of the plaintiffs. However, his death just weeks before the case was to be decided resulted in a deadlocked court and left Abood in place for the time being. Now, Janus provides another vehicle for the Supreme Court to revisit the constitutionality of compelled union fees for public employees.
To lean more about Janus v. AFSCME please visit .
Illinois Care Providers Ask Supreme Court to Take Case Challenging Forced Union ‘Representation’ Law
Home and Childcare Providers ask the court to strike down unwanted ‘representation’ as a violation of the First Amendment
Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Illinois-based Liberty Justice Center staff attorneys, six personal care and child care providers today petitioned the Supreme Court to strike down a compulsory unionism scheme that grants Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials exclusive monopoly “bargaining” powers with state government for thousands of Illinois caregivers – including many who never joined the union and oppose the union’s so-called ‘representation.’
In the brief, Foundation staff attorneys contend that the state law infringes on the providers’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to associate with a union they do not wish to join or support. Granting the union exclusive power to deal with the State of Illinois over caregiving practices violates the caregivers’ right to choose with whom they associate to petition their own government.
The caregiver’s petition to the Supreme Court in Hill, follows the Right to Work Foundation’s landmark 2014 Supreme Court victory in Harris v. Quinn, which was also filed on behalf of several home-based Illinois care providers. That decision prohibited union officials from collecting mandatory dues or fees from home-based caregivers.
The Hill petition argues that although the Harris case dealt with compelled fees, because the Court ruled that the state’s justification for mandatory fees was insufficient under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court should strike down the compelled association on the same grounds. The petition asks the Court to take the case so that it can apply the same standard to the First Amendment infringements created when state law forces home care providers to accept a government-appointed monopoly union agent against their will. Foundation staff attorneys have also helped home and childcare providers challenge similar schemes in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Washington State.
“It is outrageous that across the country state laws force home and child care providers to accept unwanted ‘representation’ from a union they have no interest in joining or supporting,” commented Foundation President Mark Mix. “This is a clear violation of providers’ freedom of association and we are hopeful that this case will build on the Foundation’s landmark 2014 victory in Harris v. Quinn and end these corrupt forced unionism schemes for good.”
New Mexico Worker Hits Employer and Union with Federal Unfair Labor Practice Charges for Coercion and Threats
Worker was threatened with termination unless she signed a dues ‘checkoff’ card and paid full union dues
Albuquerque, NM (June 2, 2017) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Rio Rancho school cafeteria worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Sodexo, Inc (SDXAY:US), and the Western States Regional Joint Board Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Yumiko Traylor is employed by a subsidiary of Sodexo, Inc, as a cafeteria cook in the Rio Rancho, New Mexico, public school system. Currently SEIU officials have a monopoly bargaining agreement with the Sodexo subsidiary, SDH Education West, LLC, that employs Traylor.
On March 8, 2017, Traylor was told by Sodexo that her employment would be terminated if she did not sign a union membership card to join the SEIU and allow Sodexo to deduct union dues and fees from her paycheck and deliver the money directly to the SEIU. Traylor refused to sign the membership card. Because New Mexico is not a Right to Work state, nonmember workers can be forced to pay a portion of union dues as a condition of employment. However, employees who exercise their right to refrain from membership cannot be forced to pay the portion of union dues that goes towards union boss politics and lobbying activities.
On April 28, Sodexo issued Traylor a written warning that she would be terminated unless she signed the membership card. A week later on May 5, Sodexo told Traylor that unless she joined the SEIU and paid dues, it would issue a second written warning that signing the union membership card is a condition of employment. Afraid that she would lose her job for exercising her federally protected right to refuse to join a union, Traylor signed the membership card under protest. At no point did Sodexo or SEIU officials explain her rights and options to remain a nonmember, not sign a membership or ‘checkoff’ card, and pay a reduced fee instead of full union dues.
Traylor approached the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for assistance, and filed federal unfair labor practice charges in mid-May. The charges will now be investigated by the NLRB Region 28 office in Albuquerque.
“No worker should be afraid to exercise their federally protected right to join, or in this case, refuse to join a union,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Rather than attempting to attract the voluntary support of the workers they claim to ‘represent,’ we frequently see union officials attempt to trap workers into dues payments with threats and coercion.”
“Cases like this show why New Mexico needs a Right to Work law to protect workers from coercion and intimidation by union bosses and their crony company officials,” concluded Mix.
Foundation President Mark Mix’s exclusive op-ed on Ending the Obama Labor Board Majority was published in the Friday print and e-print edition of The Washington Times
Below is an exert from the piece. Please click here to read the full op-ed.
“Elections have consequences, or at least they are supposed to. Unfortunately for the rights of independent workers who don’t want to associate with a labor union, more than 100 days have passed since Barack Obama left office, but the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) remains in the hands of an Obama majority intent on pushing the limits of Big Labor’s forced unionism powers. It doesn’t need to be that way.
The five-seat NLRB, with two vacancies, remains controlled by a two-to-one Obama majority. Until two new members are nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate, the Big Labor majority will continue to issue rulings to expand union boss powers.”
Newsmax published Foundation President Mark Mix’s op-ed on the Obama National Labor Relations Board’s assault on independent-minded workers over the past eight years and its effects today. Below is an exert from the piece.
Maureen Madden is a bookkeeper at Lakeside Foods, a unionized independent grocery store located in greater Chicago. Early this March, Madden filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), cosigned by every other unionized employee at the store, asking that United Food and Commercials Workers (UFCW) Local 1456 be “decertified.”
In plain English, that means that not a single one of the employees wanted UFCW officials to continue wielding monopoly power to negotiate their terms and conditions of employment.
To read the rest of the op-ed please click here.