Ohio Union Bosses Back Down from Class Action Lawsuit Challenging “Window Period” Scheme Designed to Block Workers’ Janus Rights
AFSCME union officials quickly settle: rather than litigate, will stop enforcing unconstitutional policy and refund to workers blocked from stopping forced dues
Columbus, Ohio (January 24, 2019) – A federal First Amendment lawsuit brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for a group of Ohio public sector employees against American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Ohio Council 8 has forced union officials to settle.
The settlement won by the workers ends union officials’ “window period” policy that blocked thousands of workers from exercising their constitutional right to refrain from financially supporting the union. The workers, and others who had attempted to cut off dues but were blocked from doing so in violation of their First Amendment rights, will be refunded the money taken under the union-created window policy.
The class action complaint was filed by Foundation staff attorneys for Jothan Smith, Adam Scheiner, Brian Parks, Annette Lipsky, Steven Fletcher, Michael Cooper, and Tracey Baird, who are employed by various local Ohio government agencies.
Following the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court, the workers all attempted to resign their union membership and revoke their dues deduction authorizations. However, AFSCME officials continued to deduct dues, citing a union policy restricting revocation of dues deduction to a narrow 15-day window prior to the expiration of a monopoly bargaining contract.
In Janus, the Court ruled that it violates the First Amendment 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.
The workers came to Foundation staff attorneys to file a lawsuit challenging the “window period” policy as unconstitutional, because the policy limits when they – and the thousands of other workers under AFSCME Council 8’s monopoly bargaining control – can exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus and allows union officials to collect union dues without the workers’ affirmative consent.
Rather than face Foundation staff attorneys in court, AFSCME Council 8 union officials settled the lawsuit. Under the settlement’s terms, the union will stop enforcing policies restricting dues deduction revocations to a 15-day window at the end of a monopoly bargaining agreement. AFSCME will refund to the plaintiffs all union dues they unconstitutionally collected after the plaintiffs notified union officials that they no longer consented to financially supporting the union. Union officials will also identify any other workers whose rights were blocked by the “window period” policy, honor their requests to resign and revoke dues deduction authorization, and refund the dues deducted under the policy.
This is the first settlement of a class action lawsuit under Janus in which workers have halted a union “window period” policy. The first successful challenge to a “window period” policy came in another recent settlement negotiated by Foundation staff attorneys in a non-class action lawsuit.
Many other public employees across the country are pursuing similar lawsuits with assistance from Foundation staff attorneys. For example, in one ongoing class action lawsuit, two New Jersey public school teachers are challenging a state law that imposes a ‘window period” policy to block public sector workers’ attempts to exercise their rights under Janus. All told, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are litigating more than 20 cases nationwide to enforce public employees’ rights under the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling.
“This group of workers bravely challenged union bosses’ ‘window period’ scheme, and successfully protected not only their rights but also the rights of tens of thousands of their colleagues,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This first-in-the-nation victory in a class action case to enforce workers’ rights under Janus should be the first of many cases that result in union bosses dropping their illegal restrictions on workers seeking to exercise their rights secured in the Foundation’s Janus Supreme Court victory.”
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 maintains a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
UTLA Union Hit with Class Action Lawsuit from Los Angeles Teacher to Halt Unconstitutional Forced Dues Policy
Union officials violate hundreds of teachers’ constitutional rights under the Supreme Court Janus decision through “window period” scheme
Los Angeles, CA (January 23, 2019) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Los Angeles public school teacher is challenging the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union officials’ illegal “window period” scheme to forcibly seize union membership dues from her paycheck without her consent and in violation of her constitutional rights.
Plaintiff Irene Seager, a public school teacher at Porter Ranch Community School, filed the class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against the UTLA, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Attorney General of California.
Seager became a UTLA union member and signed a dues deduction authorization form in April 2018, when to keep her job she was required to choose between paying full union dues as a member or forced union fees as a nonmember. However, following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME ruling in June 2018 which made such payments for teachers and other public employees voluntary, she attempted to exercise her First Amendment rights by resigning her union membership and stopping dues payments.
In Janus, argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys, the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require government workers to pay any union dues and 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.
However, UTLA union officials never informed Seager of her First Amendment rights when she originally signed her dues deduction authorization, making it impossible for her to have knowingly waived those rights as required by Janus. Even after Seager resigned her union membership and made it clear in a letter sent to the union weeks after Janus that she does not consent to dues deductions, union officials continue seizing membership dues from her hard-earned wages. Union officials claim that Seager can only cut off dues deductions during a union-created 30-day “window period” each year.
Seager’s class action lawsuit asks the court to strike down this unlawful “window period” scheme and order union officials to stop deducting unauthorized dues. Additionally, the lawsuit challenges a California state law which allows the union to enforce the restrictive “window period” policy.
Her complaint also seeks a refund of membership dues that were wrongfully taken from her and hundreds, if not thousands, of other teachers subjected to UTLA’s unconstitutional policy.
“Ms. Seager’s case shows that union bosses are willing to trample on the First Amendment rights of the teachers they claim to ‘represent’ to keep their forced-dues power,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Despite what union bosses say, workers’ constitutional rights cannot be limited to just 30 days out of the year. The Foundation remains vigilant to offer free legal aid to any teacher or other public sector worker who seeks to exercise their rights protected by the Supreme Court’s Janus decision.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are also providing free legal aid to a math professor with the nearby Ventura County Community School District, who is challenging a similar “window period” scheme enacted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to block him and his colleagues from exercising their Janus rights.
The Foundation also recently released a special legal notice informing Los Angeles teachers of their rights during the UTLA-ordered teacher strike.
Workers can request free legal aid at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid or by calling the Foundation toll-free at 1800-336-3600.
Seattle Housekeeper Asks NLRB General Counsel to End Double Standard for Promoting Coercive ‘Card Check’ Unionization
Union organizers misled workers about their right to revoke union cards used as “votes,” while company promoted card check drive beyond Board’s “ministerial aid” exception
Washington, D.C. (January 22, 2019) – A National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney has filed an appeal with the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asking that the Board hear a Seattle housekeeper’s case. The case challenges UNITE HERE Local 8’s unionization of the housekeeper’s workplace. The case argues that UNITE HERE’s showing of employee support for representation, used to bypass the NLRB’s election process, is tainted.
Embassy Suites employee Gladys Bryant first filed the unfair labor practice charges after the UNITE HERE union was installed at the hotel through an oft-abused “card check” drive, which bypasses a secret ballot election. Her charges state that the results of the “card check” drive are tainted because Embassy Suites provided significant aid to union officials’ organizing efforts, and because a union official misled employees’ about their right to revoke their vote for unionization.
Bryant was hired at a new Embassy Suites hotel in March 2018. A month later, Embassy Suites announced to its new employees in a letter that they were subject to a union organizing agreement with UNITE HERE Local 8. To promote the union card check drive, Embassy Suites gave union organizers access to the hotel to meet and solicit employees. It also provided union officials with a list of all employees’ names, jobs, and contact information to assist the union in collecting authorization cards from employees.
Although Bryant did at first sign a union authorization card, she and many of her colleagues reconsidered. A union official, however, misled employees that they had to appear in person at the union hall to revoke any previously signed cards. And when Bryant made an appointment with the union official in an attempt to comply with this unlawful requirement, the union official did not show up.
After Embassy Suites recognized UNITE HERE Local 8’s monopoly bargaining “representation” over employees in May, Bryant filed charges arguing that the unionization violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Bryant’s charges allege that Embassy Suites provided UNITE HERE’s organizing campaign with more than “ministerial aid.” The NLRB has long held that an employer taints employees’ efforts to remove a union if it gives the employees support such as providing a list of bargaining unit employees or use of company resources. Bryant’s charge argues that the same “ministerial aid” standard must also apply when an employer aids union officials’ efforts to gain monopoly bargaining power over workers.
Her charges also argue that UNITE HERE violated the NLRA by misinforming employees that they could only revoke authorization cards by going in person to the union hall. The NLRB’s “dual card” doctrine holds that to revoke an authorization card an employee must simply sign a document stating he or she does not support union representation. Thus, UNITE HERE Local 8 fatally tainted its proof of employee support for recognition by blocking employees from exercising their legal rights, either through illegal union policy or through a lie dissuading employees from revoking their cards.
In the appeal to the General Counsel, the Foundation staff attorney representing Bryant asks that the General Counsel issue a complaint on Bryant’s allegations to provide the Board with an opportunity to rule on the “ministerial aid” standard and bring consistency to its policies.
Bryant and her coworkers had collected enough signatures for a decertification vote to remove the union. However, in a separate case, the NLRB blocked their petition based on the “card check” recognition. The block was due to Lamons Gasket, a 2011 Board ruling barring decertification for one year after unionization via card check. Some Board members have noted in other recent cases that they would be willing to revisit the blocking charge policy in the future.
“This case proves that not only are union bosses willing to manipulate and ignore the rights of the workers they claim they want to ‘represent,’ their coercion often goes unchecked because of double standards in how the NLRB interprets the law,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “What qualifies as ‘ministerial assistance and support’ under the National Labor Relations Act cannot depend on whether the employer is helping outside union organizers impose unionization on workers, or assisting workers in exercising their rights to remove an unwanted union.”
“This double standard has the effect of promoting coercive union card check unionization that bypasses secret ballot elections, and it is long past time that it is ended,” added Mix.
New Hampshire State Employees File Class Action Lawsuit Against SEIU Seeking Refund of Illegally Seized Union Fees
Union officials violated civil servants’ First Amendment rights under the Supreme Court’s Janus decision by deducting unauthorized forced fees
Concord, NH (January 18, 2019) – New Hampshire state workers filed a class action lawsuit in federal court with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys stating that union officials violated their constitutional rights by forcing them to pay unauthorized union fees as a condition of employment.
State employees Patrick Doughty and Randy Severance are suing the State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire (SEIU Local 1984) in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.
The employees are asking the court to order union officials to refund the fees seized from their wages and those of countless other New Hampshire public employees who were subjected to the same unconstitutional mandatory union payments.
For years, the state forcibly deducted union fees from the two employees’ paychecks at the behest of union officials, even though neither was a member of SEIU Local 1984, nor had they agreed to pay any union fees. The lawsuit seeks refunds of all forced fees seized by the union going back at least three years as New Hampshire’s statute of limitations permits.
Taking union fees from Doughty and Severance without their explicit authorization violated their First Amendment rights, according to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, a case argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys in 2018. The High Court ruled in Janus that coercing civil servants into financially subsidizing a union violates their rights to free speech and free association.
The ruling also made it clear that before union officials can collect any dues or fees from them, public employees must affirmatively opt in for such payments and must knowingly waive their First Amendment right not to pay. The Supreme Court’s Janus ruling also observed that public sector unions have been “on notice” since at least the 2012 Knox v. SEIU decision – also argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys – that forced union fees were likely incompatible with the First Amendment.
“For years, New Hampshire union bosses violated the First Amendment rights of the very public employees they claimed to represent,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Just as a bank robber caught red-handed would never be allowed to keep the proceeds of such criminal behavior, union officials must also return the money they’ve pilfered from the paychecks of hundreds of thousands of workers across the country in violation of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.”
Ventura County Professor Files Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Union “Window Period” Scheme to Unlawfully Seize Dues
Union officials violate hundreds of public workers’ constitutional rights under the Supreme Court’s Janus decision by deducting unauthorized forced dues
Los Angeles, CA (January 15, 2019) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a math professor from Ventura Country, California, is challenging an illegal “window period” scheme to forcibly seize union membership dues from his paycheck without his consent and in violation of his constitutional rights.
Plaintiff Michael McCain filed a class action lawsuit on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Ventura County Federation of College Teachers, AFT Local 1828, AFL-CIO; and Ventura County Community College School District.
A public employee who works for the Ventura County Community College School District, plaintiff Michael McCain attempted to exercise his First Amendment rights by resigning his union membership following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, a case Foundation attorneys argued and won.
The High Court ruled on June 27, 2018, that union bosses may not forcibly seize dues from public sector workers. Instead, government employees must knowingly waive their First Amendment right not to subsidize a union and affirmatively authorize deductions before union officials can collect membership dues or fees.
However, AFT union officials never informed McCain of his First Amendment rights, making it impossible for him to have waived them. Union officials continue seizing membership dues from McCain’s hard-earned wages, even after McCain resigned his union membership and made it clear in a letter sent to the union just weeks after the Janus decision that he does not consent to dues deductions. Union officials claim that McCain can only cut off dues deductions during a union-created 15-day “window period” each year.
McCain’s class action lawsuit asks the court to strike down this unlawful “window period” scheme and order union officials to stop deducting unauthorized dues. His complaint also seeks a refund of membership dues that were wrongfully taken from him and hundreds, if not thousands, of other public employees.
“Union officials have a long history of manipulating ‘window period’ schemes, arbitrary union-enacted limitations trapping workers into forced dues, and other obstacles designed to block individuals from exercising their constitutional rights,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Despite what union bosses say, First Amendments rights cannot be limited to just 15 days out of the year.”
“The Supreme Court affirmed the rights of public workers in the Foundation’s victory in Janus, but Michael’s case shows union bosses are determined to defy the High Court and continue their abusive practices,” Mix added.
Michigan Appeals Court Affirms Ruling Against Teachers Union Bosses for Violating Michigan’s Right to Work Law
Court upholds fine against MEA union officials for illegally extending requirement that teachers pay fees or be fired
Detroit, MI (January 15, 2019) – The Michigan Court of Appeals has affirmed a decision by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) that found union officials violated Michigan’s Right to Work Law by attempting to extend forced fees for teachers.
The case was filed with MERC by Ron Conwell, a Michigan public school teacher, with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys. In August 2015, Conwell resigned his union membership. Later that month, union officials informed Conwell that he was still required to pay union fees or be fired.
In 2017, MERC ruled that the Clarkston Education Association (CEA) and Michigan Education Association (MEA) violated the state’s Right to Work protections for public employees by illegally extending and enforcing a forced dues clause in the monopoly bargaining agreement after the law took effect.
MERC also held that Clarkston Community Schools officials, who did not appeal MERC’s decision, violated the law by agreeing to union officials’ demands for the illegal extension. Both the school district and the unions were fined, which made the case the first of its kind in which violators of the Right to Work law were fined.
Michigan’s Right to Work Law provides that contracts or agreements entered into after the law went into effect must respect workers’ right to refrain from the payment of any union dues or fees as a condition of employment. However, union officials illegally extended the forced dues clause after the law went into effect on March 28, 2013, and then enforced that clause against him. Therefore, Conwell could not legally be required to pay union dues or fees.
The Appeals Court affirmed MERC’s order that Clarkson Community Schools, CEA, and MEA cease maintaining forced fee agreements that violate Michigan’s Right to Work Law, and that the CEA and MEA must stop threatening employees with termination based on such provisions. The court also held that MERC had the authority to levy the civil fines it imposed on the employer and union.
“Michigan workers can celebrate that the decision upholds their right to work without paying forced tribute to union bosses,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Yet it also shows workers need to keep fighting against coercion, as Michigan union bosses have repeatedly shown their willingness to violate employees’ protections under Michigan’s Right to Work laws in their efforts to keep their forced dues money stream flowing. Foundation staff attorneys continue to assist dozens of independent minded workers in fighting back against Big Labor’s orchestrated campaign to undermine Right to Work in Michigan.”
Since Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan to combat compulsory unionism.
Special Legal Notice Informs Los Angeles Teachers of Right to Work During Union Strike Against Public Schools
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys inform teachers of how to exercise legal right to continue working despite UTLA union-ordered strike
Los Angeles, CA (January 11, 2019) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has issued a Special Legal Notice informing Los Angeles teachers of their rights regarding the strike that United Teachers Los Angeles officials have ordered.
The notice explains that, although union officials have ordered teachers out on strike, employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands. The notice informs teachers unwilling to abandon their students how to protect themselves against union retaliation by resigning their formal union membership prior to working while union officials are demanding they cease educating students.
According to the notice:
“Teachers and other school employees who don’t want to abandon their schools and their students are advised to carefully read the following notice about their legal rights. The situation raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union ordered strike. Employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to be informed before they do so.”
The notice, which can be found on the National Right to Work Foundation website at www.nrtw.org/special-legal-notice-teachers-los-angeles, provides important legal information for any teacher who wishes to continue to work during the strike.
“Teachers shouldn’t be kept in the dark any longer about their legal protections in the event of a strike,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Despite union boss pressure, Los Angeles educators should know that they do not have to abandon their classrooms simply because union officials make demands. The Foundation will provide free legal aid for any teacher or other worker who seeks to exercise his or her rights, or is subjected to threats for doing so.”
Workers can request free legal aid at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid or by calling the Foundation toll-free at 1-800-336-3600.
IBEW union officials quickly settle after Minnesota police department employee filed lawsuit to stop forced illegal union dues seizures
Brainerd, MN (January 14, 2019) – A federal First Amendment lawsuit brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for Minnesota public sector employee Sandra Anderson against International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 31 has forced union officials to quickly settle. The settlement frees Anderson from IBEW union officials’ “window period” policy that had blocked her from exercising her constitutional right to refrain from financially supporting the union.
Anderson, a clerk for the City of Brainerd Police Department, filed the lawsuit after she attempted to resign her union membership and revoke her dues deduction authorization after the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court.
When IBEW Local 31 and the City of Brainerd entered into a monopoly bargaining agreement in 2004 that required employees to pay union dues or fees to IBEW Local 31 to keep their jobs, Anderson was informed that she must either join the union or pay union fees. Faced with being forced to fund the union either way, she joined the union, signing a form authorizing the deduction of union dues from her paycheck.
Earlier this year, Foundation staff attorneys argued and won Janus at the Supreme Court. In Janus, the 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.
When Anderson signed her dues deduction authorization, she was not informed of her First Amendment right to refrain from paying union dues or fees and, therefore, could not give her affirmative consent to waiving her First Amendment right not to subsidize the union.
Soon after Janus, Anderson emailed an IBEW official and Brainerd representatives demanding that both parties cease collecting dues from her wages in accordance with Janus. However, IBEW officials claimed that Anderson could only stop dues payments either during a 10-day window prior to the expiration of the monopoly bargaining contract or a 10-day window prior to the anniversary date of her dues deduction authorization.
Anderson came to Foundation staff attorneys to file a lawsuit challenging the “window period” policy as unconstitutional, because the policy limits when she can exercise her First Amendment rights under Janus and allows IBEW Local 31 union officials to collect union dues without her affirmative consent.
Deciding to settle the lawsuit, IBEW will refund to Anderson all union dues they unconstitutionally collected from her after she notified the City of Brainerd and IBEW Local 31 that she no longer consented to financially supporting the union. IBEW officials have also acknowledged Anderson’s request to withdraw her union membership, and will not seek or accept union dues from her again unless she affirmatively chooses to become a union member.
Public employees across the country are pursuing similar lawsuits with assistance from Foundation staff attorneys. For example, in one ongoing class action lawsuit, two New Jersey public school teachers are challenging a state law that enforces a “window period” policy to block public sector workers’ attempts to exercise their rights under Janus.
“Ms. Anderson is the first of thousands of government employees to successfully challenge union boss ‘window period’ schemes designed to limit workers from exercising their First Amendment rights under Janus,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This victory serves as an inspiration for civil servants across the country who are stepping up to challenge union bosses’ coercive tactics to limit public employees’ constitutional rights.”
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.
Indiana Worker Wins Settlement at Labor Board After Being Forced to Wear Union Regalia Despite Being Nonmember
Indianapolis automotive supplier employee was illegally required to be a walking billboard for a union he isn’t a member of and doesn’t support
Indianapolis, IN (January 14, 2019) – An employee of an automobile component plant in Indianapolis, Indiana has just won a settlement before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after bringing federal charges against his employer for requiring employees to wear union logos on uniforms, whether or not the employees were union members.
With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, David Thomas filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB against his employer, Faurecia. The charge was brought following a new policy adopted by the company requiring employees like Thomas to wear uniforms displaying the insignia of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1424.
Thomas, who chooses to exercise his rights under Indiana’s Right to Work law to refrain from union membership and dues, refused to wear the union regalia and at the behest of union officials was disciplined for refusing to wear the uniform promoting a union he opposes.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees are protected from being forced to associate with a union, making the company’s policy a clear violation of federal law.
The settlement reached between Thomas and company representatives requires Faurecia to rescind the uniform policy and expunge the verbal warning from Thomas’ employee records. A notice about the settlement and removal of the uniform policy will be posted for all of the company’s employees to see.
An additional charge against the uniform policy was filed by a second Faurecia employee at the same time as Thomas’ charge. This charge was settled privately in favor of the employee, who had been dismissed by the company for challenging the union logo policy.
“Federal law, along with Indiana’s Right to Work protections, clearly provides that forced union affiliation is a violation of workers’ legal rights,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Independent workers should never be forced to be a walking billboard for a union they oppose, and this case makes it clear that such a policy is a violation of workers’ rights.”