CWA union officials claim workers can be forced to wait years until end of union contract before exercising First Amendment rights to stop dues payments
Columbus, OH (March 14, 2019) – A civil servant in Ohio has filed a federal class action lawsuit with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys against Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 4502 for violating her constitutional rights recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision by continuing to seize forced dues from her paycheck.
Connie Pennington, an employee of the city of Columbus, filed the lawsuit to challenge CWA Local 4502 union officials’ “escape period” policy that blocks her and hundreds of her coworkers from exercising their constitutional right under the National Right to Work Foundation-won Janus Supreme Court decision to refrain from financially supporting the union.
Pennington resigned her union membership and revoked her dues deduction authorization shortly after the landmark Janus decision. However, CWA union officials refused to honor her revocation, instead claiming that she could only stop union dues payments at the end of their collective bargaining agreement with her employer in May 2020, leaving her trapped in forced dues for the entirety of a union monopoly bargaining contract.
Faced with being forced to subsidize the union against her will for more than a year, Pennington sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. Veteran Foundation staff attorney William Messenger, who argued the Janus case at the Supreme Court, sent a letter to CWA Local 4502 union officials for Pennington, reiterating her dues deduction revocation and explaining that a policy blocking her from exercising those rights violated the First Amendment. However, CWA officials continued to refuse to recognize her revocation and continued to deduct union dues from Pennington’s paycheck.
Pennington filed a class action lawsuit with help from Foundation staff attorneys challenging the “escape period” policy as unconstitutional, because the policy limits when she can exercise her First Amendment rights under Janus and allows CWA Local 4502 officials to collect union dues without her affirmative consent. Her lawsuit argues that the “escape period” should be eliminated to allow her and other workers to exercise their Janus rights without restriction.
Pennington also seeks a refund of union dues forcibly seized after she had resigned her union membership, as well as for all other workers whose attempts to exercise their rights under Janus were blocked by the illegal policy.
In Janus, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to require public employees to subsidize a labor union. The Court further held that deducting any union dues or fees without a public employee’s affirmative consent violates the employee’s First Amendment rights.
“Ms. Pennington joins many other public sector workers across the country in standing up to Big Labor’s coercion,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union officials have a long history of creating obstacles such as ‘escape period’ schemes, arbitrary union-enacted limitations trapping workers into forced dues. This case shows that the National Right to Work Foundation must remain vigilant to protect government employees’ rights under Janus.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are providing free legal aid to public sector workers in over two dozen cases across the country to enforce the Janus decision. To assist public employees in learning about their First Amendment rights under Janus, the Foundation established a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.