The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, January/February 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.
Homecare providers challenge mandatory union ‘representation’ as First Amendment violation
SEIU bosses force Teri Bierman (pictured with her family) to affiliate with the union as a condition of caring for her own daughter in her own home.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With free legal representation provided by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a group of homecare providers seeking to care for their sons and daughters without union boss interference have taken their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The providers’ lawsuit, Bierman v. Dayton, challenges a Minnesota scheme that forces thousands of providers under the exclusive monopoly “representation” of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials.
Bierman follows on the heels of Janus v. AFSCME, argued and won at the Supreme Court by Foundation staff attorneys. In Janus, the Court declared forced union fees for public sector employees to violate the First Amendment and opened the door to further cases seeking to uphold workers’ right of freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Teri Bierman and the seven other petitioners provide homecare services to their sons and daughters and receive state Medicaid assistance to help pay for the care.
After Minnesota declared homecare providers to be “state employees” solely for unionization purposes, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota officials moved to put all under the “exclusive representation” of union officials.
Once granted, “exclusive representation” made union officials the state-designated representative of all providers, even those opposed to unionization and who would prefer to represent themselves or be represented by a different organization.
SEIU officials notified the state that, if the union was certified, it would not force non-members to pay union fees, which the U.S. Supreme Court held to be unconstitutional for homecare providers in the Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn decision in 2014. Union officials would still, however, have the power to act as homecare providers’ sole “representative” in lobbying the state.
Concerned that the impending vote could empower union bosses to interfere with their care for their children, the group of nine homecare providers came to Foundation staff attorneys to challenge the encroachment on their First Amendment rights.
In August 2014, SEIU officials won a sham mail-in election in which just 13 percent of the nearly 27,000 care providers voted in favor of SEIU affiliation.
Consequently, even though seven out of eight providers didn’t vote for unionization, SEIU officials are now empowered to deal with the State for all care providers.
“The sparse vote only adds insult to injury for these homecare providers opposed to union affiliation,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse. “It’s wrong, and contrary to the principle of freedom of association, to force them to affiliate with and accept the so-called representation of a private organization they oppose.”
The homecare providers continue to challenge the forced union “representation.” Their legal odyssey has so far taken four and a half years, and is now at the steps of the Supreme Court. In December, Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition for certiorari with the High Court, asking it to hear the case.
By asking the Court to declare it a First Amendment violation to force homecare providers to submit to union officials’ sole power to speak for them to the state, Foundation staff attorneys seek to build on the Janus victory in June 2018. In Janus, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion for the Court: “Designating a union as the employees’ exclusive representative substantially restricts the rights of individual employees.”
Foundation staff attorneys are litigating another challenge to union officials’ monopoly bargaining privileges in Mentele v. Inslee, brought by Washington homecare providers. Mentele was argued at the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in December.
“Forcing folks who care for their relatives into forced union representation is a slap in the face of fundamental American principles we hold dear,” continued LaJeunesse. “If the Supreme Court agrees to hear Bierman, these homecare providers will be one step closer toward vindicating their rights and establishing First Amendment protections for thousands of other individuals.”
The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, November/December 2018 edition.
Cases seek to strike down laws that let union bosses block workers from stopping dues payments
Foundation staff attorney William Messenger argued Janus at the Supreme Court. The Foundation’s victory must be vigilantly enforced.
SPRINGFIELD, VA – Since the 2012 passage of Right to Work legislation in the Wolverine State, Foundation staff attorneys have provided free legal assistance to Michigan workers in more than a hundred cases. With 41 ongoing cases and another 61 closed as of the publication of this article, Michigan cases continue to make up a disproportionate amount of the Foundation’s caseload of approximately 220-230 active cases at any given time. Developments in Foundation legal cases in recent months show that despite dozens of victories for workers, Michigan union bosses continue to attempt to force workers to pay dues despite the Right to Work laws.
These federal lawsuits are among dozens of legal actions workers have pursued, with the assistance of Foundation staff attorneys, to enforce the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling. As decades of Foundation litigation has amply demonstrated, without relentless enforcement, Big Labor ignores precedent and violates the rights of rank-and-file workers.
In California, Foundation staff attorneys are assisting Mark Smith, a court worker in Contra Costa County, who attempted to exercise his new protections days after the Janus decision.
Mr. Smith submitted his resignation from membership in American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2700 and told union officials they did not have his authorization to deduct union dues from his paycheck.
AFSCME officials continued siphoning Mr. Smith’s hard-earned money without his consent and despite his multiple attempts to resign. When Mr. Smith sent his resignation via certified mail, postal service records show union officials left the delivery unclaimed.
After his requests were repeatedly ignored, Mr. Smith came to Foundation staff attorneys for free legal aid in filing a federal lawsuit against AFSCME officials and his government employer.
In the complaint, Mr. Smith challenges union officials’ violation of his First Amendment rights and a California law requiring public employers to deduct dues at the union’s request, even if the worker revokes authorization. This egregious law, enacted mere hours after the Janus decision, also blocks public employers from informing employees of their Janus rights.
In Pennsylvania, school bus driver Michael Mayer attempted to exercise his rights under Janus just weeks after the ruling. He resigned his membership in the Teamsters union on July 20 and hand-delivered a notice in August demanding that his employer stop deducting membership dues from his paycheck.
However, Teamsters Local 312 officials refused to honor his resignation, and his employer, Wallingford-Swarthmore School District, continued withdrawing union dues from Mr. Mayer’s hard-earned wages.
Teamster bosses claimed Mr. Mayer only had a 15-day window to escape from the union’s new monopoly bargaining contract under a section of Pennsylvania’s Public Employee Relations Act (PERA). Such a policy directly conflicts with the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, which held that dues taken without workers’ clear and knowing affirmative consent violate the First Amendment.
When dues continued to be seized from Mayer’s paycheck in September, Foundation staff attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against the Teamsters union and the school district for violating his rights.
The lawsuit seeks a refund of the dues that the Teamsters conspired to take without his consent after his resignation and asks the court to rule that the PERA violates his First Amendment rights by restricting his ability to resign union membership and stop paying dues.
“Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, 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,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “These cases likely won’t be the last challenging attempts to prevent workers from exercising their Janus rights.”
The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, November/December 2018 edition.
Foundation attorneys seek to overturn Obama-era ruling that traps workers in union after abuse-prone “card check”
Foundation staff attorneys have asked the Trump NLRB to repeal Obama-era rulings that granted coercive powers to union officials, such as AFL-CIO top boss Richard Trumka (right), at the expense of worker freedom.
WASHINGTON, DC – Since 2011, a Big Labor-friendly ruling by the Obama National Labor Relations Board has barred workers from holding secret ballot votes to remove an unwanted union from their workplace.
Foundation staff attorneys have urged the new Trump NLRB to overturn the case called Lamons Gasket to restore employees’ protections against union officials’ coercion. The latest appeal, the third this year brought by staff attorneys, is on behalf of Seattle hotel housekeeper Gladys Bryant.
Bryant works at Embassy Suites. UNITE HERE Local 8 union officials unionized the workplace through a card check drive, which bypasses an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election and is often characterized by manipulation and intimidation. Union organizers misled Bryant and her fellow workers into signing cards, and then counted those cards as “votes” toward unionization.
When Bryant realized what had happened, she led a group of colleagues in filing an NLRB petition for a secret ballot decertification vote with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys.
However, the election petition was dismissed by a regional career NLRB official using the Lamons Gasket ruling.
Under the Foundation-won Dana decision, workers could collect signatures to request a secret ballot election during a 45-day window following notice that they had been forced under union representation via card check. Dana had provided an important, although limited, protection for workers against coercive card check drives. However in the 2011 Lamons Gasket ruling, an Obama-selected NLRB overturned Dana. This means that no matter how many workers sign a petition seeking to oust a union, they can be barred for one year before they can file for a secret ballot vote.
Instead of ceding her workplace voice when her secret ballot vote petition was dismissed under Lamons Gasket, Bryant continued the legal battle with help from Foundation staff attorneys.
Foundation attorneys have submitted an appeal to the NLRB asking the Board to overturn Lamons Gasket and restore workers’ protections against the coercive tactics union officials use to force their monopoly bargaining privileges onto employees.
Such protections are especially important for workers in states like Washington that lack Right to Work protections. In those states, private sector employees can be forced to pay fees as a condition of employment to a union about which they never even had the chance to vote.
“Ms. Bryant’s situation reveals the coercive nature of a card check drive, and why the Trump Labor Board must end the Obama Board’s disastrous precedent,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse. “The Lamons Gasket decision means that workers can be forced to pay union fees even if the majority of the workplace wants to vote out the union. Workers must be allowed to fight back against this coercive process.”
Foundation staff attorneys also filed unfair labor practice charges, still under NLRB investigation, for Bryant against the union and hotel management for coercive tactics used in the union card check process.
The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, November/December 2018 edition.
Foundation legal action still critical to enforcing Wolverine State Right to Work Laws
Foundation staff attorneys represent a number of Michigan workers, including public school teacher Susan Junak, defending their rights under the state’s Right to Work laws.
MICHIGAN – Since the 2012 passage of Right to Work legislation in the Wolverine State, Foundation staff attorneys have provided free legal assistance to Michigan workers in more than a hundred cases. With 41 ongoing cases and another 61 closed as of the publication of this article, Michigan cases continue to make up a disproportionate amount of the Foundation’s caseload of approximately 220-230 active cases at any given time. Developments in Foundation legal cases in recent months show that despite dozens of victories for workers, Michigan union bosses continue to attempt to force workers to pay dues despite the Right to Work laws.
After Michigan’s Right to Work Law covering government employees went into effect, school district employees Ryan Woodward and Susan Junak each attempted to exercise their rights under the law by submitting union membership resignations and dues check-off authorization revocations to the Michigan Education Association (MEA) union, only to have their dues revocations ignored. Indeed, MEA officials threatened to collect the dues with lawsuits.
With free legal representation from Foundation staff attorneys, Woodward and Junak won settlements from the MEA. Both settlements require the MEA to end attempts to collect the dues from the two workers. In addition, the union is required to take steps to repair the workers’ credit, if it had been damaged by the union bosses’ attempts to collect the supposedly-owed dues via collection agencies.
Another Foundation Right to Work enforcement victory was won for plaintiff Gordon Alger against 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. Rather than be prosecuted, Teamsters officials agreed to refund about $300 that was taken from Mr. Alger in violation of his rights under Michigan’s Right to Work protections.
Despite Michigan union bosses repeatedly being caught trying to illegally extort forced dues from workers, one recently filed case further shows that union officials in the state continue to violate the rights of independent-minded Michigan employees.
On September 6, two EMTs in Flint filed a class action lawsuit in Michigan state court against United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 708 and their employer to enforce their rights under the state Right to Work law making union membership and dues payments strictly voluntary. Foundation staff attorneys helped the workers file the lawsuit, which seeks refunds of over $25,000 in illegally seized union dues and fees.
The lawsuit asks for injunctive relief and the return of three years of dues and fees that were collected by UAW officials in violation of Michigan’s private sector Right to Work Law. In addition to the illegal forced dues, the workers were required to be dues-paying members of the UAW – in violation of the law.
UAW bosses weren’t the only Michigan labor officials on the receiving end of Foundation litigation brought in September for a worker seeking to exercise his or her rights under the state’s Right to Work law.
Days after the lawsuit against the UAW was filed, Rite Aid employee Kolby Klopfenstein-Snyder hit United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 951 with a federal unfair labor practice charge for illegal dues seizures. Klopfenstein-Snyder exercised her rights under Michigan’s Right to Work Law by resigning her union membership only to have union officials refuse to stop seizing union dues.
Her charge, filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), says UFCW officials are violating her rights by continuing to take her dues, even though the union’s own dues deduction card does not authorize the taking of dues from non-members.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, UFCW Local 951 officials are no strangers to violating workers’ freedom of choice protected under the Right to Work law. In 2015, Foundation staff attorneys assisted Laura Fries after she was threatened with the loss of her job by UFCW officials. When she brought the case before the NLRB, which issued a complaint against the union, UFCW officials quickly backed down and reached a settlement.
“Unfortunately for the workers Big Labor claims to represent, Michigan union bosses show no signs of voluntarily complying with Michigan’s popular Right to Work Laws and seeking to earn workers’ support voluntarily,” said Ray LaJeunesse, vice president and legal director of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “As demonstrated by the more than 100 cases filed in Michigan since Right to Work was enacted there, the Foundation’s legal aid program remains vital to protect workers from being forced to fund a union they oppose.”
Teamsters officials forced to return every dollar of fees seized, plus interest
Elizabeth Zeien (left) and Carrie Keller were forced into union ranks and compelled to pay union fees. Thanks to Janus, the two Minnesota state workers have won refunds of their hard-earned money.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Two more workers have received refunds of unconstitutionally seized union fees under the Janus precedent. After being forced into union ranks and required to support a union they oppose, Carrie Keller and Elizabeth Zeien have won a settlement against Teamsters union officials for violating their First Amendment rights.
The refund is a result of the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision, which held that no public sector worker can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
Now that union officials have settled their lawsuit, Keller and Zeien are the second and third public sector employees to win refunds in lawsuits under the new Janus precedent of unconstitutionally seized union fees.
Neither Keller nor Zeien, employees of the State of Minnesota Court System, was a union member when they started working at the court. They both negotiated their own terms and conditions of employment and salaries free from union interference.
In 2015, Teamsters Local 320 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 gave in to the Teamsters’ demands and added a number of employees, including Keller and Zeien, to a Teamsters-controlled bargaining unit. The workers were never given a vote on whether they wanted to be part of the union bargaining unit.
The pay scales and benefits Keller and Zeien had as unrepresented employees – and were forced to give up – equaled or exceeded what they now received under the union-mandated contract. To add insult to injury, the two workers were forced to pay compulsory union fees for this unwanted “representation.”
To challenge the forced unionization scheme, the two workers came to Foundation staff attorneys for free legal aid in filing a lawsuit.
In the Foundation-won Janus ruling, issued on the last day of its term on June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to force government employees to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The Court also 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 were obligated to refund Keller and Zeien the entirety of the unconstitutionally seized union dues plus interest. No further union dues or fees will be collected from the workers’ wages unless either affirmatively chooses to become a union member and authorizes deductions.
Keller and Zeien join Debora Nearman as the first three government employees who, with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, have received their hard-earned money back under Janus. In July, SEIU officials settled with Nearman to return nearly $3,000 in forced-fees refunds.
“These 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 Vice President Patrick Semmens. “The Foundation will continue to hold union officials accountable when they attempt to force workers into unconstitutional forced-fees schemes.”
Foundation fights to enforce SCOTUS victory and return illegally seized union fees to employee victims
Foundation staff attorneys are already litigating more than a dozen cases for public sector employees previously forced to pay union fees in violation of their First Amendment rights, and receive more requests daily.
SALEM, OR – After years of being forced to financially support a union, public sector workers across the country are finally free from compulsory union fees as a result of the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision. Enforcing the monumental victory, Foundation staff attorneys are providing free legal aid to thousands of government employees to reclaim their hard-earned money through class action lawsuits.
In Janus, briefed and argued by Foundation staff attorneys, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that charging any government employee union fees as a condition of employment is a violation of the First Amendment. Unions may collect fees when an employee gives their clear and affirmative consent.
Government employees are now looking to hold union officials accountable for money unconstitutionally seized before the Janus decision. Foundation staff attorneys have filed several class action lawsuits for workers.
Together, the suits seek more than $170 million to be reclaimed from union officials’ coffers and returned to the individuals who earned it in the first place. That amount will continue to grow as Foundation staff attorneys file more class action lawsuits to seek forced fees refunds for more government employees.
In one such lawsuit, potentially tens of millions of dollars are at stake for a class of thousands of Oregon state workers.
In September, a group of public employees filed a lawsuit against the three largest Oregon public sector unions with a class action complaint to enforce the Janus precedent. Foundation staff attorneys represent the group as they seek refunds of forced fees from Oregon affiliates of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); and the National Education Association (NEA), as well as the Oregon-based Association of Engineering Employees (AEE).
The lawsuit seeks the return of affected workers’ money taken by the unions over the last six years, as allowed by the applicable statute of limitations, which is estimated by legal experts to total 30 million dollars or more. The Oregon employees’ lawsuit is just one of several across the country.
Also in September, Kiernan Wholean and James Grillo, workers at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), filed a complaint against the Connecticut State Employee Association (SEIU Local 2001) and the Secretary of Office of Policy Management, the Undersecretary of Labor Relations, and the Commissioner of DEEP of Connecticut.
Wholean and Grillo are not members of SEIU Local 2001 and had not consented to the deduction of forced union fees from their wages. Before Janus, they and other non-member employees had been forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment.
Connecticut stopped deducting union fees from the workers’ wages following a letter to the State Comptroller from the National Right to Work Foundation, which threatened legal action for any dues deductions from non-members that continued after Janus. However, DEEP still maintains a monopoly bargaining agreement with SEIU Local 2001 officials that requires non-members to pay union fees to get or keep jobs.
The complaint, filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, asks that the court certify a class to include all individuals who during the statutory limitations period were forced to pay union fees to SEIU Local 2001 without their affirmative consent, and to order the union to return the unconstitutionally seized fees to the class. The class potentially includes hundreds of workers.
Adding to the legal attack on union officials’ ill-gotten gains, a California state employee filed a lawsuit to enforce the Janus victory and return unconstitutionally forced fees to potentially 5,000 workers.
William Hough has worked at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) since 2005. He in no way wished to support Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521 and exercised his right to refrain from union membership. However, he and other non-member employees were still forced by state law to pay union fees to keep their jobs.
After the Janus decision, Hough seeks the return of the money union officials seized from him and other employees. With free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, he filed his class action lawsuit against the VTA, SEIU Local 521, and the Attorney General and Governor of California.
Hough’s lawsuit asks for the class to include all affected individuals who, at any time within the applicable limitations period, were forced to pay fees to SEIU Local 521 without their consent. With a potential class of 5,000 workers, those union fees may total five million dollars.
The lawsuit also challenges the constitutionality of California’s law that, despite Janus, still authorizes Local 521 and its affiliates to seize union dues from non-members without their consent. Hough asks the court to declare such California laws a violation of the First Amendment.
In addition to the new cases reported in this article, Foundation staff attorneys continue to pursue other lawsuits to recoup forced fees for workers, as reinforced by the Janus precedent. In Hamidi v. SEIU, a class of 30,000 California state workers seek more than $100 million in unconstitutionally seized forced union fees. In Riffey v. Rauner, a group of Illinois home care providers asks for the return of $32 million in union fees seized through another coercive scheme.
“While hundreds of thousands or more non-member government employees are no longer having forced fees deducted from their paychecks, that doesn’t address the decades of constitutional violations perpetrated by union officials against workers,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “Justice demands that the money union bosses illegally seized be returned to the victims of such schemes.”
The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2018 edition.
SEIU officials forced to settle lawsuit and return nearly $3k in illegal forced fees
Debora Nearman won a settlement against SEIU with the help of Foundation staff attorneys. Thanks to Janus, she is no longer forced to fund the organization that ran an aggressive campaign against her husband, Rep. Mike Nearman.
EUGENE, OR – Workers have already begun claiming their new rights under Janus. After being forced for years to support a union that opposed her personal views, including her religious convictions and her husband’s campaign for office, Debora Nearman has won a settlement against SEIU Local 503 officials for their violations of her First Amendment rights.
SEIU officials are required to return over two years of illegally seized fees, nearly $3,000, to Nearman. The refund is the first return of forced fees as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision, which held that the First Amendment prohibits mandatory union fees.
Nearman, an employee at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, filed the lawsuit in April challenging the constitutionality of mandatory union fees as a condition of government employment. She objected to being forced to financially support and associate
with SEIU Local 503 because the organization actively opposed her personal and political views, including her religious beliefs, and her husband’s public service.
In the 2016 general election, Nearman’s husband, Mike Nearman, successfully ran for
State Representative in the Oregon Legislature. During the campaign, the SEIU local union that she was forced to fund spent over $53,000 to run an aggressive campaign against him, including distributing disparaging fliers.
After the Janus decision declared that forced fees for government employees were unconstitutional, the writing was on the wall for SEIU officials. In the process, Nearman’s
case became the first in which a public employee won a refund of fees seized by union officials prior to the Janus decision.
Janus overturned the erroneous 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that declared public sector workers could be compelled to pay union fees for
bargaining-related purposes in order to get or keep their jobs. In Janus, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to force government employees to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
The Court also clarified that no union dues or fees can be taken from workers without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right to refrain
from supporting a labor union.
In addition to returning over two years of forced fees, SEIU officials will not collect any dues or fees from Nearman’s future wages unless she affirmatively chooses to become a
member of SEIU and authorize such deductions. To comply with Janus, SEIU Local 503 and the state of Oregon have removed their forced fees provision from their collective bargaining agreement.
“This is a great example for the countless public sector workers across the country who seek to have their First Amendment rights respected in light of the Foundation’s Janus Supreme Court victory,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “Nearman’s refund represents the first of what should ultimately be hundreds of millions of dollars or even more returned to public employees for union fees
seized from them in violation of the First Amendment.”
The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, Special Edition: Janus v. AFSCME.
Plaintiff Mark Janus discussed his victory on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, alongside Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, whose lawsuit initiated the case in which Janus intervened with Foundation free legal aid.
Washington, DC – On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that nonunion government workers cannot be required to pay union fees as a condition of working in public service. This landmark case restores the First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of association to more than 5 million public school teachers, first responders, and other government workers across the country.
Janus, argued at the Supreme Court in February by veteran National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger, is the 18th case Foundation staff attorneys have brought before the highest court in the land.
“I’m thrilled that the Supreme Court has restored not only my First Amendment rights, but the rights of millions of other government workers across the country,” said Mark Janus, plaintiff in the case and a child support specialist for state government in Illinois. “Across the country, so many of us have been forced to pay for political speech and policy positions with which we disagree, just so we can keep our jobs.”
Illinois is among 22 states that have required many government workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Janus has worked for state government in Illinois as a child support specialist since 2007.
Over the past decade, he was forced to pay thousands of dollars in union fees to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) – even though he opposes many of the union’s positions on public policy issues, felt he would be better off without the union’s so-called representation, and was never asked if he wanted to be covered by a union contract.
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in his favor, Janus will not be required to pay these union fees.
“Under Illinois law, public employees are forced to subsidize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the Supreme Court’s opinion. “We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.
The Supreme Court’s opinion further holds that the opt-out schemes that union bosses use to trap workers into paying dues without consent are unconstitutional. In their briefs for Janus, Foundation staff attorneys had asked the Court to settle that important issue.
Justice Alito wrote in his opinion for the Court that charging nonmembers union fees violates the First Amendment “unless employees clearly and affirmatively consent before any money is taken from them.”
The day after Janus was issued, the Court vacated the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in another Foundation-supported case, Riffey v. Rauner, for reconsideration in light of Janus. The Seventh Circuit had ruled that SEIU officials seizing nonmember in-home care providers’ money without their consent did not violate their First Amendment rights unless providers could prove that they affirmatively objected to the seizure.
Now, thanks to the Janus victory, the providers can continue their case seeking a return of the $32 million in union fees unconstitutionally seized by the SEIU.
“This victory represents a massive step forward in the fight to protect American workers from forced unionism, but that fight is far from over,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Union officials and their allies in state governments have already taken steps to prevent workers from exercising their rights under the Janus decision, while millions of private sector workers in states without Right to Work protections are still forced to pay union fees or else be fired.”
“Further,” continued Mix, “workers of all stripes continue to have their freedoms of association violated by being forced under union monopoly ‘representation’ against their will. So while we celebrate today’s decision, there remains much work to do to both enforce and expand upon this historic victory over coercive unionism.”
A Supreme Court victory is only the beginning of the fight to ensure protections for independent-minded public sector workers against forced union fees. That’s why the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has created a task force to enforce the new precedent set in Janus v. AFSCME, defending the rights of government employees and standing up to union bosses who attempt to circumvent and undermine the new protections.
The Foundation is offering free legal aid to all government workers who wish to refrain from union membership and union payments. The Foundation’s 20 staff attorneys defend workers’ rights in more than 200 cases each year, all at no cost to the employees aided.
The National Right to Work Foundation has also established a stand-alone website to assist workers in learning their rights and providing guidance on how to exercise them. That site, MyJanusRights.org, directs workers to the Foundation’s legal aid program for free assistance in exercising their First Amendment rights protected by the Janus decision.
Foundation legal aid can also be obtained through www.nrtw.org or by calling 1-800-336-3600.
“The victory in Janus means that public-sector workers can no longer be forced to pay dues or fees to union officials to keep their jobs,” said Mix. “Unfortunately, experience shows us that union officials frequently ignore restrictions on their power over workers, which is why we are establishing this task force to assist workers who want to enforce their new Janus rights.”
The Foundation has a long history of assisting employees seeking to exercise their Right to Work protections. Defending and enforcing Right to Work protections has long been one of the most critical tasks Foundation staff attorneys undertake.
Any public sector worker who has questions about his or her rights, or encounters any resistance or abuse while trying to exercise his or her workplace rights, is encouraged to contact Foundation staff attorneys for free legal aid.
The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2018 edition.
June decision expected in First Amendment challenge to mandatory dues for government workers
WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, February 26, veteran National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney William Messenger argued the blockbuster Janus v. AFSCME case before the United States Supreme Court. Messenger, representing Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services employee Mark Janus, asked the High Court to recognize that the First Amendment protects public workers from being required to make payments to union officials as a condition of working for their own government.
Mr. Janus is an Illinois child support specialist who filed the challenge after being required to pay union fees to AFSCME union officials even though he opposes many of the positions union officials nadvocate using his money. Janus feels he would be better off without the union’s so-called representation and that compelled speech through forced union dues violates his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association.
In the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, a divided High Court ruled that public employees could not be required to subsidize many political and ideological union activities. However the Court left in place forced fees used to subsidize union monopoly bargaining with the government. In a series of Foundation-litigated cases over the last five years, the Supreme Court has questioned the theory underpinning Abood.
In the National Right to Work Foundation-won Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014) cases, the Supreme Court made clear that mandatory union payments invoke the highest level of First Amendment protection. Now staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation, who represent Janus along with attorneys from the Illinois-based Liberty Justice Center, have asked the Supreme Court to apply the First Amendment precedent of heightened scrutiny to all mandatory union payments required of government employees.
Many Supreme Court observers consider Janus v. AFSCME to be one of the biggest, if not the most important case of the term, especially considering that more than 5 million public school teachers, firefighters, police officers and other government employees are currently forced to pay money to union officials. One Washington Post headline about the case declared: “The Supreme Court is About to Hear the Biggest Labor Case of the Century.”
“Mandatory union fees are the most widespread regime of compelled speech in the nation. It is long past time that public employees’ First Amendment rights be protected from being forced to subsidize union officials’ speech,” said Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse, Jr.
“We are hopeful that by the end of the Supreme Court’s term it will issue a decision ensuring that union payments for public employees like Mr. Janus are strictly voluntary, at which point the challenge will be enforcing those protections for millions of government workers,” LaJeunesse added.
The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, November/December 2017 edition. To sign up for a free copy of the newsletter via mail please see the form at the bottom of the page.
Special legal notice to public employees warns against signing away rights
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With forced dues requirements for over five million public sector employees at stake in the Foundation’s Janus v. AFSCME case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, union bosses coast-to-coast are already scrambling to limit workers ability to cut off dues payments if the court rules that mandatory union payments violate the First Amendment.
Following the Supreme Court’s announcement in late September that it was taking the Janus case, there were reports that Big Labor was ramping up tactics to block the workers from escaping forced dues. In response, Foundation staff attorneys crafted a special legal notice to public employees, warning them against signing any union authorization cards that might later be cited to limit their right to stop paying dues.
“Unfortunately, there is a long history of union officials refusing to accept limits on their forced- dues powers, and with 5.2 million government workers forced to pay billions each year to union bosses, it is no surprise that union bosses are pulling out all the stops to attempt to block them from using the protections that a Foundation win in the Janus case would bring,” said Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.
“Although the scale may be unprecedented given the stakes of this Supreme Court case, unfortunately these tactics are nothing new,” Semmens continued. “Invariably, after Foundation-won legal precedents or enactment of new state Right to Work laws, union officials move to block the very workers they claim to represent from exercising their rights.”
Reports: Unions Pressing Workers To Sign Away Their Rights
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s special legal notice warns employees of the tactics teacher union bosses have already begun using:
For instance, according to The Wall Street Journal, Education Minnesota, an affiliate of the National Education Association, is having teachers sign pre-filled “membership renewal” cards which also authorize their employer to deduct union dues or fees from their paychecks.
This language may seem innocuous, but it is craftily designed to lock employees into paying dues even if they wish to cease paying. The Wall Street Journal also notes: “If public sector unions are putting this ‘renewal’ strategy in place in Minnesota, it’s likely that they’re making similar plans elsewhere.”
Although Foundation staff attorneys question the legality of such cards, the special legal notice reminds workers that signing such a card could limit their legal options later. This is compounded by the fact that in many documented instances, union organizers solicit signatures under misleading or false pretenses.
Public sector employees are taking notice of such schemes and are already calling the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation to report this behavior by union officials and seek advice in protecting their rights. As always, Foundation staff attorneys are prepared to take legal action for workers who are illegally required to pay forced dues.