Special Legal Notice to Rhode Island Public Employees: Supreme Court’s Janus Ruling Means You Can Resign from Union & Cut off Dues at Any Time
Legal group that won Janus case denounces Rhode Island union bosses and public officials who are misleading workers about their rights
RHODE ISLAND (October 11, 2018) – In response to reports that the Rhode Island Attorney General and Ocean State union officials are misinforming teachers and other public employees of their legal protections under the Foundation-won Janus decision, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have issued a Special Legal Notice for all Rhode Island teachers who wish to exercise their right to stop financially supporting a union.
The notice can be found here: Setting the Record Straight on Teacher Rights in Rhode Island after Janus v. AFSCME Council 31.
The notice comes after Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin – who signed onto an anti-Janus brief at the Supreme Court and received major support from union officials in his runs for public office – made the false claim that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling “only affects non-union members” and does not apply to union members.
The Attorney General is wrong. Under Janus all government employees have the right to resign their union membership and immediately stop any financial payments to union officials. Because the Supreme Court decision made it clear that public workers must opt-in to any union payments and explicitly waive their constitutional rights, union members cannot be restricted if they seek to resign from the union and stop the payment of any union dues or fees.
The Bristol-Warren Education Association (BWEA) and the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) also issued a letter blatantly misleading teachers about their Janus rights. The letter claims that union nonmembers must pay a NEARI attorney to file a grievance against the union. However, as the Foundation’s notice states, unions are legally obligated to provide grievance service to both members and nonmembers as part of its exclusive monopoly bargaining status.
The BWEA and NEARI union officials’ letter also incorrectly claims that nonmembers are unable to request days from the Sick Leave Bank, even though the BWEA’s monopoly bargaining agreement establishes the Sick Leave Bank for all teachers, including nonmembers, covered by the agreement.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, released the following statement regarding the notice:
“It’s shameful that the Attorney General of Rhode Island and union officials in the state are attempting to mislead public employees about their legal protections. Under Janus, any public sector employee can at any time exercise the First Amendment right to stop paying union dues and fees to a union they do not wish to support. Any suggestion to the contrary is false and is simply a cynical union boss money grab.
“Union officials ought to focus on earning the trust and support of the workers they claim to represent. Instead, they and their political allies are attempting to wield their unique monopoly bargaining privileges to discriminate against workers who seek to exercise their Janus rights. Any Rhode Island public teacher or other public employee who has been blocked from stopping union payments as is their right under Janus can turn to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal assistance.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are already representing workers in lawsuits across the country who have been wrongly blocked from exercising their rights under Janus.
Because of the numerous requests from workers for information about their rights under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME decision, the Foundation established MyJanusRights.org to educate public employees about their protections under Janus.
The site also enables workers to request free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation if their rights are not being respected by union officials.
Citing Janus, Pennsylvania Public School Teachers Ask Federal Court to Strike Down Unconstitutional Law Authorizing Forced Dues
Teachers who sued to challenge forced union fees file motion asking court to apply the Supreme Court’s Janus decision to Keystone State law authorizing forced fees
Harrisburg, PA (October 9, 2018) – In an ongoing case challenging the constitutionality of mandatory union payments, a group of Pennsylvania teachers have asked a federal judge to apply the recent landmark Janus Supreme Court precedent by striking down the portions of Pennsylvania law that authorize forced union dues.
This case, Hartnett v. Pennsylvania State Education Association, was originally filed in March 2017 in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in the state capital of Harrisburg. Teachers Gregory Hartnett of the Homer-Center School District, Elizabeth Galaska of the Twin Valley School District, and Robert Brough Jr. and John Cress of the Ellwood City Area School District, with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation and the Pennsylvania-based Fairness Center, filed the case as a First Amendment challenge to the state law which gives public sector union officials the power to compel non-union teachers and other government workers to pay union fees to keep their jobs.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Illinois state worker Mark Janus, whose case was briefed and argued by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys. In Janus, the Supreme Court ruled that, unless public sector workers affirmatively consent to paying union dues or fees and knowingly waive their First Amendment right not to subsidize a labor union, the collection of dues or fees violates their constitutional rights.
In light of the Janus decision, the teachers filed a motion for summary judgement last month, asking the court to take into account the Janus precedent and rule for the teachers. The motion asks the Court to invalidate Pennsylvania state law provisions which conflict with the teachers’ rights under Janus, striking down any authorization for mandatory union payments. On Friday, the teachers filed their opposition to the unions’ motion to dismiss the case.
The case isn’t the only one brought by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys for workers challenging Pennsylvania law. In a case filed just last month, Foundation staff attorneys represent Pennsylvania school bus driver Michael Mayer, who sued after Teamsters union officials rejected his attempts to exercise his rights under Janus by resigning his union membership and informing the union it lacks his authorization for deducting dues from his paycheck.
“Thanks to the historic Foundation-won Janus precedent, teachers and school employees across the country are finally free to exercise their constitutional rights and decide for themselves whether or not union officials deserve a portion of their paycheck,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, it is critical that any authorization for public sector forced dues be permanently removed from state law, so unscrupulous union bosses cannot use unconstitutional provisions to attempt to deceive workers about their right not to fund a labor union.”
To inform workers of their legal rights under Janus, and ensure they know they can turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid if union officials attempt to obstruct them from exercising those rights, the Foundation launched a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
October 5, 2018 – Officials of UNITE HERE have ordered Marriott employees out on strike across the country.
The situation raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike. Employees have the right under federal labor law to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for you to be informed about that right before you do so.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WORK DURING A STRIKE READ ALL OF THIS SPECIAL NOTICE BEFORE RETURNING TO WORK – IT MIGHT SAVE YOU THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS!
UNITE HERE union officials have a decades long history of disciplining, fining and abusing workers who do not kow-tow to their dictates, as these reports show:
For this reason, Marriott employees may want to contact the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation to learn how they can avoid fines and other vicious union discipline for continuing to report to work to support themselves and their families. Much of the important information about your rights can be found on our website here:
The Foundation wants you to learn about your legal rights from independent sources. You should not rely on what self-interested union officials tell you. For over four decades, Foundation attorneys have worked in the courts to protect and expand the rights of individual employees in situations such as strikes. It is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuse.
Marriott employees should know they have the following rights:
1) You have the right to resign your membership in the union. If you don’t support this union, you can send it a letter resigning your membership. You cannot legally be required to be a union member.
2) You have the right to go to work even if the union bosses order a strike. Union officials can (and often do) levy onerous monetary fines against union members who work during a strike. So, you should seriously consider resigning your union membership BEFORE you return to work during a strike, which is the only way to avoid these ruinous union fines and discipline. See Union Discipline and Employee Rights. Your resignation letter must be postmarked THE DAY BEFORE you return to work, or be hand delivered BEFORE you actually return to work, ideally with a witness.
3) If you become a nonmember, you will have the right to become a "Beck objector" and pay only reduced "financial core" fees instead of full membership dues. If you become a Beck objector, you will not be forced to pay for the UNITE HERE union’s far left political and social agenda.
4) You also have the right to revoke your dues check-off and stop allowing the union hierarchy to automatically collect money from your paycheck every week while no contract is in effect. You can send letters to the union and your employer revoking your authorization to have union dues deducted from your paycheck.
5) If you wish to eject an unaccountable union hierarchy from your workplace, you have the right to sign and circulate a decertification petition to obtain a secret ballot election to do so. See Decertification Election.
Here is a sample letter for employees who wish to resign their union membership and become Beck objectors.
NOTE: Although not legally required, it is a better practice to send your letter to the union by certified mail, return receipt requested, and save a copy of your letter and the return receipt to prove delivery. If you hand deliver a letter, make sure that you have a reliable witness to the delivery. In our experience, angry and dishonest union officials often pretend they did not actually receive resignations and initiate discipline against non-striking workers anyway. A copy of the letter should also be delivered to the employer’s human resources or payroll department.
Labor Board charge: Despite Right to Work law, UFCW is illegally attempting to force Rite Aid employee to pay union dues
Grand Rapids, Michigan (October 1, 2018) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys a Michigan pharmacy worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 951 union for illegally forcing her to pay union dues.
Worker Kolby Klopfenstein-Snyder exercised her right to resign her membership from Local 951. However, as her charge filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) states, UFCW union officials have rebuffed her attempts to stop payments of union dues. The same charge was filed with the NLRB against Rite Aid, for continuing to collect union dues at the behest of UFCW officials.
Michigan’s Right to Work law makes it illegal to require union membership or payment of any union dues or fees as a condition for employment, thus permitting employees to choose for themselves whether to join or financially support a labor union. Despite the law, UFCW union bosses continue to insist that Klopfenstein-Snyder pay dues even after she resigned her membership.
The union dues deduction card UFCW officials are attempting to enforce only obligates a worker to pay as a result of union forced dues clause in a union monopoly bargaining contract or as a result of the UFCW’s internal union constitution. This means that even if the card’s language was legal, it doesn’t obligate nonmembers like Klopfenstein-Snyder to pay any dues, because Michigan’s Right to Work law bars contracts that include mandatory payments, and nonmembers are not subject to the terms of a union constitution.
This NLRB charge is not the first time that Local 951 officials have run afoul of protections for workers who choose not to join or support the union. Foundation staff attorneys assisted Rite Aid pharmacy technician Laura Fries with filing NLRB charges against UFCW Local 951 in November 2015.
According to her charge, which NLRB investigators found meritorious, Local 951 union officials threatened to have Fries fired unless she joined Local 951 and paid back union dues. Only after the NLRB issued a formal complaint against the union did UFCW officials quickly settle the case in April 2016 to avoid federal prosecution.
“Once again, rather than work to secure the voluntary support of the workers they claim to represent, UFCW union bosses have resorted to coercive tactics to attempt to stuff their pockets with forced union dues,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “As the dozens of cases Foundation staff attorneys have filed for Michigan workers demonstrate, Michigan union bosses continue to attempt to systematically undermine workers’ protections under Michigan’s popular Right to Work laws.”
“Fortunately for Michigan employees, the National Right to Work Foundation will continue defending their rights as long as union bosses continue attempting to illegally force them to pay union dues,” added Mix.
Since Michigan’s Right to Work protections were passed in late 2012, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed more than 100 cases for hundreds of Michigan workers to enforce their legal rights.
PA School Bus Driver Sues Teamsters Union and School District for Blocking him from Exercising Rights under Janus Precedent
Wallingford-Swarthmore school bus driver seeks return of forced dues seized in violation of Supreme Court First Amendment decision
Philadelphia, PA (September 27, 2018) – Yesterday afternoon, a school bus driver in Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation against Teamsters Local 312 and his employer, the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District, for violating his constitutional rights by continuing to seize forced dues from his paycheck in violation of the Supreme Court’s recent Janus v. AFSCME decision.
The driver, Michael Mayer, is seeking a refund of union fees automatically taken out of his paycheck after he resigned his union membership, along with an injunction against the school district.
Mr. Mayer resigned his union membership on July 20, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Janus decision. The Court ruled that requiring public employees to pay mandatory union dues or fees violates the First Amendment. In August, Mayer exercised his rights under Janus by hand-delivering to his employer a notice revoking his authorization for the District to deduct dues from his paycheck.
However, the Teamsters union refused to honor his resignation, and the District continued withdrawing dues from Mr. Mayer’s paycheck. Union officials cited a section of the Pennsylvania Public Employee Relations Act (PERA), which states that employees may only resign membership within fifteen days before a new monopoly contract is signed. Mayer’s lawsuit says this section of the PERA violates his rights as recognized by the Janus decision.
In the Janus case, which was briefed and argued at the Supreme Court by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, the Supreme Court ruled that, unless public sector workers affirmatively consent to paying union dues or fees and knowingly waive their First Amendment right not to subsidize a labor union, the collection of dues or fees violates their constitutional rights.
In a similar case filed earlier this month, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys sued for a California state court employee who, like Mr. Mayer, resigned his union membership to exercise his rights under Janus only to be blocked from doing so by union officials and his government employer. In addition, Foundation staff attorneys are assisting workers in over a dozen legal actions across the country enforcing employees’ rights under Janus.
“Thanks to the Foundation-won Janus decision, workers like Mr. Mayer are finally free to exercise their constitutional rights and make their own decisions on whether or not to support a union,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Unfortunately, though not unsurprisingly, rather than work to earn the voluntary support of the workers they claim to represent, union officials coast-to-coast are resorting to illegal schemes to block workers from exercising their rights under the Janus decision.”
To inform workers of their legal rights under Janus, and ensure they know they can turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in the event union officials attempt to obstruct them from exercising those rights, the Foundation launched a special website: MyJanusRights.org
Oregon Government Employees Bring Class-Action Suit Seeking Return of Millions of Forced Union Fees Seized in Violation of First Amendment
Citing Janus precedent, lawsuit demands three largest Oregon public sector unions refund all mandatory union fees taken from thousands of nonmembers
Salem, Oregon (September 20, 2018) – Today, a group of Oregon public employees filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the state’s three largest public sector unions, a smaller union, and their affiliates. The suit seeks the return of millions of dollars of forced union fees collected in recent years by union officials from thousands of public sector employees who opted out of union membership or never joined to begin with.
The case was filed at the United States District Court for the District of Oregon by twelve public employees with free legal representation from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Freedom Foundation.
The suit names as defendants the three largest public employee unions in Oregon – Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503; American Federation of State, Local, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 75; and the Oregon Education Association (OEA) – along with the Association of Engineering Employees (AEE) of Oregon and their affiliated unions that received forced fees. The legal action follows the landmark United States Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME in June, which found that forcing public employees to fund a labor union as a condition of government employment violates the First Amendment.
Janus, which was briefed and argued at the Supreme Court by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, ruled that unless public sector workers affirmatively consent to paying union dues or fees and knowingly waive their First Amendment right not to subsidize a labor union, collection violates their constitutional rights.
Before the landmark Janus ruling, government workers in Oregon and more than twenty other states were forced to pay so-called “agency fees” even if they declined to become union members. The Oregon workers’ lawsuit seeks the return of millions of dollars taken by the defendant unions from nonmembers over the last six years, as allowed by the applicable statute of limitations.
In July, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys secured the first such refund of forced fees under the Janus decision for Oregon state employee Debora Nearman. As part of a settlement, SEIU Local 503 refunded the Department of Fish and Wildlife worker almost $3,000 that had been collected as mandatory union fees in recent years.
“For decades union officials violated workers’ constitutional rights by seizing union fees from them without their consent,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Now, thanks to the Foundation’s Janus victory, workers all across the country are standing up for their rights and demanding back their money that was taken from them in violation of the First Amendment.”
“This lawsuit simply seeks to secure the justice Debora Nearman won for thousands of other workers whose rights Oregon union bosses violated,” Mix added.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed similar class-action lawsuits seeking the return of illegally seized dues in California, Connecticut, and Illinois, and are receiving more calls every day from workers seeking to exercise their rights under the Janus precedent. To assist public employees in learning about their First Amendment rights under Janus, the Foundation established a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
Three Michigan Workers Win Settlements from Union Officials in Cases to Enforce Michigan Right to Work Protections
MEA officials forced to relinquish claims for back dues after resignations, Teamsters forced to refund dues seized in violation of state law
Michigan (September 19, 2018) – In three separate legal victories, Michigan workers succeeded in defending their rights under Michigan’s Right to Work laws. All three workers resigned their union membership and sought to end any union dues payments, only to have union officials continue seizing dues.
Two of the cases involved the Michigan Education Association (MEA). After Michigan’s Right to Work law covering government employees went into effect, school district employees Ryan Woodward and Susan Junak each submitted union membership resignations and dues authorization revocations to the MEA union, only to have their revocations blocked and MEA officials threaten to collect the dues with lawsuits.
Mr. Woodward informed union officials of his resignation both verbally and twice via e-mail. Despite his repeated notifications, the MEA filed a collection lawsuit against him in Michigan state District Court in an attempt to collect more than $800 in dues for the period after his resignation. In a similar situation, Ms. Junak resigned her MEA membership by way of certified mail, but MEA officials disregarded the notice and sent her a collection notice for over $600 in dues. In both instances, MEA officials alleged that the back dues were a debt owed to the union, which could then be used to damage the workers’ credit ratings.
Both settlements required the MEA to officially recognize the resignations and end attempts to collect the dues from the period following the resignations. Additionally, the settlement requires the MEA to take proactive steps to bear the costs of restoring the credit of both school employees, because the unauthorized dues collection attempts may have improperly damaged both of their credit scores.
The third case concerns a similar situation between Gordon Alger and Teamsters Local 214. Alger, a building maintenance worker, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) when the Teamsters union continued to deduct dues from his paycheck after he revoked his deduction authorization. The settlement requires the Teamsters officials to refund $300.
Michigan is a Right to Work state, which protects workers’ freedom to join a union and outlaws forced dues and fees as a condition of employment. All three settlements were made possible by the state’s Right to Work protections.
“These three cases show the importance of Right to Work protections in ensuring that worker rights are not abused by union officials,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Clearly, Big Labor bosses will reject or deliberately ignore resignations of their members just to keep extracting every penny of dues from workers. Thanks to Michigan’s Right to Work law, these workers are able to stand up to greedy union bosses and enforce their legal rights.”
Original Janus Plaintiff Moves to Intervene in IL Union Lawsuit Seeking More Power to Discriminate Against Nonmembers
Worker’s motion: Illinois AG Madigan fails to present adequate legal arguments against union lawsuit challenging state bargaining law
Chicago, IL (September 14, 2018) – An Illinois state employee has filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit brought by an International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) local that seeks to expand union officials’ ability to use their government-granted monopoly bargaining powers to discriminate against workers who exercise their constitutional right to refrain from union membership and not pay union dues. Accompanying the motion to intervene is a motion asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to dismiss the IUOE lawsuit.
Brian Trygg, an engineer with the Illinois Department of Transportation and one of the original plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME, filed the motion to intervene in the lawsuit with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys. Trygg was a plaintiff with Mark Janus in the Janus case, until being removed from the lawsuit on a technicality because he had previously sought relief from union fees on different grounds.
n a memorandum accompanying Trygg’s motions, his Foundation staff attorneys argue that IUOE officials “seek to ‘have their cake and eat it, too’” by taking advantage of their choice to represent all employees, even union nonmembers, in their bargaining unit while claiming they should also be free of longstanding legal doctrine prohibiting them from using their monopoly representation to discriminate against nonmembers.
IUOE officials filed the lawsuit in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus case, which was briefed and argued by Foundation staff attorneys and ended in a ruling that compulsory union dues and fees for government employees violate the First Amendment. Trygg seeks to intervene to dismiss the IUOE case, or alternatively, to file an amicus curiae brief to support the state defendants’ motion to dismiss.
His filings cite Trygg’s compelling interest in the case that, if IUOE’s suit is successful, he would be unable to negotiate with his employer by virtue of the union’s monopoly bargaining status while the union would have the power to discriminate against him and ignore the legal doctrine known as the “duty of fair representation.” That duty was created by the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent overt discrimination by union officials against nonmembers and others.
Trygg’s briefs also note that Defendant Attorney General Lisa Madigan has failed to protect his interests, as her legal representation in the case “is inadequate and bordering on malpractice” with incomplete responses to IUOE’s claims and failure to cite binding authority. Trygg argues that Madigan has conflicts of interests through her opposition to and strong criticism of the Janus ruling and her actions to limit its application to Illinois public employees.
The filings also highlight that the union appears to be calling for the overturning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Steele v. Louisville and Nashville Railway Co. precedent, a 1944 case which challenged union officials’ attempt to use their monopoly bargaining privileges to discriminate against black workers. That decision observed that monopoly bargaining would be unconstitutional absent a legal limitation on union officials using their monopoly bargaining power to discriminate.
Trygg’s filings also argue that the union lawsuit is fundamentally flawed because, even if union claims were valid, the solution would be eliminating union monopoly bargaining powers over nonmembers, not giving union officials wider berth to discriminate against those who exercise their First Amendment rights protected by the Janus decision.
“The root of Big Labor’s coercion has always been its government-granted power to impose its so-called ‘representation’ on workers who don’t want it and never asked for it,’” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This lawsuit demonstrates that, despite Big Labor’s claims, union officials’ ultimate desire is to keep their extraordinary monopoly powers over workers and then to wield them to discriminate against any worker who refuses to toe the union line.”
“Ultimately, if union bosses find their obligation not to discriminate against nonmembers under their ‘representation’ so burdensome, they can simply relinquish their government-granted monopoly bargaining powers over nonmembers like Brian Trygg,” added Mix.
California Court Worker Sues State of California and AFSCME Union for Blocking Him from Exercising Janus Rights
Court employee resigned and attempted to end all union payments, only to have union officials reject his union resignation and court officials continue seizing dues
San Francisco, CA (September 11, 2018) – With free legal assistance by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Mark Smith, an employee of the Superior Court of Contra Costa County in California, has filed a lawsuit against his employer and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2700 after his requests to resign from the union and stop paying dues were repeatedly rebuffed.
In Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 27, 2018 that mandatory union payments violate public sector workers’ First Amendment rights. Days after that, Mr. Smith moved to exercise his Janus rights. Smith submitted a resignation of his union membership, and told union and court officials they did not have his authorization for deducting union dues from his paycheck. Nonetheless, the court and AFSCME continued to siphon Smith’s hard-earned money without his consent.
When Smith sent his resignation via certified mail, the AFSCME Local 2700 officials left the delivery “unclaimed” according to postal service records. After the union officials’ repeatedly refused to honor Mr. Smith’s resignation requests, Smith filed a federal lawsuit against both his government employer and AFSCME at the United States District Court for the Northern District of California for violating his First Amendment rights under the Supreme Court’s Janus precedent.
The lawsuit also will challenge a California law which requires public employers to deduct dues from workers at the union’s request, even if the worker, as Smith did, revokes any authorization for dues. That law was enacted just hours after the Supreme Court ruled in Janus and also blocks public employers from informing employees of their rights under Janus.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME protects public sector workers’ First Amendment right to refrain from being required to subsidize a labor union as a condition of employment. In the landmark case, the Supreme Court agreed with arguments made by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, who briefed and argued the case for Illinois state worker Mark Janus. In addition to striking down forced union fees, the Justices ruled that any union dues or fees taken without a public employees’ affirmative consent violates a worker’s Constitutional rights.
“As we’re seeing in Mark Smith’s case and others across the country, in their greed for more forced union dues, union bosses are apparently willing to ignore even a landmark Supreme Court ruling like Janus v. AFSCME,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Rather than respecting the rights of the workers they claim to represent, it will inevitably take litigation coast to coast to enforce public employees’ rights under Janus.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has established a special website, MyJanusRights.org, for public sector employees who have questions about or are looking to exercise their Janus rights.
Minnesota Court Employees Win Full Refunds of Forced Union Dues Seized in Violation of Supreme Court’s Janus Decision
Teamsters officials forced to return every dollar, plus interest, of fees seized by the union from the court workers
Minneapolis, MN (September 10, 2018) – A federal First Amendment lawsuit brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for two Minnesota court employees against a Teamsters local union has ended with the workers winning a settlement that will return to the workers all forced union dues seized by union officials. The refund is a result of the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision, which held that the First Amendment prohibits mandatory union fees for public sector workers.
Carrie Keller and Elizabeth Zeien, employees of the State of Minnesota Court System, filed the lawsuit after Teamsters Local 320 union officials and Minnesota state officials forced them into union ranks without a vote and against their desire.
When Keller and Zeien starting 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, Teamsters union officials started proceedings to force a number of state employees who were not in monopoly bargaining units into union ranks, in which they could be required to pay union dues and fees.
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. Keller and Zeien were never given a vote on whether they should be part of the union bargaining unit, and they objected to the scheme.
Before being forced under the union contract, Keller and Zeien had pay scales and benefits for themselves that equaled or exceeded what they received under the union-mandated contract. The lower potential compensation and the imposition of mandatory union fees led them to approach the National Right to Work Foundation for assistance in challenging the forced unionization scheme.
The Foundation-won Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME overturned the erroneous 1977 ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that public sector workers could be compelled as a condition of employment to pay union fees for bargaining-related purposes. In Janus, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require government workers to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Additionally, the Court clarified that no union dues or fees can be taken from workers without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right not to financially support a labor union.
Deciding to settle the lawsuit after the Janus decision, Teamsters union officials will refund to Keller and Zeien the entirety of the unconstitutionally seized union dues plus interest. They and the Court System will not collect any dues or fees from the employees’ future wages unless either affirmatively chooses to become a member of Teamsters and authorizes such deductions.
“These two workers are among the first of millions of government employees to finally receive justice for the violation of their rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Thanks to the Foundation’s Janus Supreme Court victory, public sector workers can no longer be coerced into signing away their First Amendment rights to keep their jobs. The Foundation will continue to hold union officials accountable when they attempt to force workers into unconstitutional forced-fees schemes.”
The Foundation has created a special website, MyJanusRights.org, to assist public employees in exercising their rights under Janus, which was successfully argued by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger.