27 Jun 2019

NLRB Settlement Scolds Union, Employer for Violating Michigan Workers’ Right to Work

Posted in News Releases

Foundation-won settlement reaffirms workers’ rights to refuse union membership and compulsory fees in Right to Work states

Detroit, Michigan (June 27, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, three Michigan workers have a won a federal settlement enforcing their rights to refrain from joining a union or paying union fees as guaranteed by Michigan’s Right to Work law. The victory comes after the workers filed unfair labor practice charges against their employer and the union, Teamsters Local 20.

Wendell Collins and Damani Mincey previously worked, and Arthur Caple still works, as truck drivers for Syncreon America, Inc. based in Michigan. All three chose to exercise their Right to Work without becoming union members or authorizing deductions of union dues and fees from their paychecks.

Despite this, their employer Syncreon deducted union dues and initiation fees from their paychecks, handing them over to Teamsters officials, who accepted and kept them. Teamster bosses also told Mr. Caple that he was required to be a member of the union and pay dues as a condition of his employment, a statement that is untrue. Michigan is one of the 27 states that has a Right to Work law. The law, passed in 2012, prohibits forced union payments, and both the state law and federal law prohibit requiring workers to be formal union members.

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB for the three employees for automatically deducting dues and initiation fees despite the lack of signed authorizations allowing union officials to take a cut of their pay. Only after facing a likely NLRB prosecution did Teamsters union officials refund the money skimmed from the employees’ paychecks.

The NLRB’s settlement addressed the issue of the union and employer violating each workers’ rights by deducting dues without authorization, discriminating against them with regard to their employment by encouraging union membership through the illegal deductions, and in the case of Mr. Caple, the union illegally telling him he had no choice but to become a union member and sign off on paying dues.

The settlement requires both union officials and the employer to post extensive notices highlighting workers’ rights and promising not to engage in the illegal activity again. Part of the notice the union is required to post reads: “We will not threaten employees with loss of job bidding rights, loss of employment or diminishment of any other terms and conditions of employment because they refuse to join Local 20, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Union) and/or refuse to pay union membership dues.”

“Foundation staff attorneys are committed to vigorously defending workers’ rights from Big Labor’s coercive practices, including in Right to Work states like Michigan,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Unfortunately, Michigan has become a battleground for worker freedoms as scofflaw union officials continually flout the Right to Work law and illegally subject independent-minded workers to forced union dues.”

Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases for Michigan workers since the state passed Right to Work legislation in 2012.

27 Jun 2019

National Right to Work Foundation Celebrates Anniversary of Janus Decision Which Freed Public Sector Workers from Forced Union Dues

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Foundation president: Union boss violations of Janus rights still widespread but Foundation will keep fighting

Washington, D.C. (June 27, 2019) – Today is the one-year anniversary of the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision – issued June 27, 2018 – which found that mandatory union payments violated the First Amendment rights of public sector workers. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney William Messenger represented plaintiff Mark Janus in the case, including in oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2018.

National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement on the occasion of the decision’s one-year anniversary:

“Today we celebrate the Supreme Court’s affirmation of a simple constitutional truth: that no American public sector worker’s employment ought to hinge on whether they pay fees to an organization whose actions and political speech they may bitterly disagree with. As the High Court articulated in its decision, only when union officials obtain the voluntary and affirmative consent of workers before collecting union dues and fees are workers’ First Amendment rights respected.

Unfortunately, rather than follow the law and honor workers right to choose whether or not to fund a labor union, union bosses and many of their political allies in state governments have engaged in a widespread and systematic campaign to undermine, ignore and block employee rights under the Janus decision. Across the country union officials are attempting to trap workers in dues payment schemes that are designed to ‘work around’ the constitutional protections of the Janus decision.

In response to Big Labor’s refusal to respect public employees’ constitutional rights, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have already filed dozens of cases for workers seeking to enforce the Janus decision, including many that have resulted in union officials backing down by returning past forced dues and eliminating unconstitutional policies that restrict workers’ rights to stop dues payments. We’re proud to fight for these workers and we will continue to work tirelessly to assist more workers in enforcing their rights under the Foundation-won Janus decision.”

A video version of the statement can be viewed here.

26 Jun 2019

National Right to Work Foundation Staff Attorney Who Argued Janus Testifies Before Congress Against Federal Forced Unionization Bill

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Experienced constitutional lawyer: Congressionally-imposed monopoly bargaining for state and local government infringes on workers’ rights

Washington, D.C. (June 26, 2019) – Today, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger will testify before the House Committee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, and urge the body to reject legislative proposals that would install monopoly bargaining across all states for public sector workers. Messenger’s testimony falls approximately one year after the Supreme Court issued its decision in the landmark Janus v. AFSCME case, which Messenger successfully argued for Illinois public employee Mark Janus.

Messenger’s testimony exposes the various tactics that union bosses use to shore up their grip on power, but identifies monopoly bargaining – which forces employees under union officials’ representation even against their will – as at the core of Big Labor’s coercive powers. Messenger’s written testimony explained why those powers are particularly offensive in the government sector:

“In the private sector, negotiations between an employer and a monopoly bargaining representative concern issues that affect that employer and its employees. In the public sector, negotiations between government officials and union representatives concern political issues that affect third-parties: individual citizens…In state after state where unions have gained monopoly bargaining powers in the public sector, costs skyrocket while quality of service declines. But monopoly bargaining allows unions to become the most powerful force in state politics and to pour millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours into electing public officials, allowing unions to sit on both sides of the negotiating table.”

Messenger instead praises legislation like the National Right to Work Act (NRTWA), which would reorient public and private sector labor law to protect the individual freedom of workers. Messenger emphasizes in his testimony that “rank-and-file workers want Congress to protect them from Big Labor, not to give union officials even more power to control their lives and paychecks.”

“No American worker should be forced to surrender their workplace voice to a private organization,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The endgame of the anti-worker legislation that is currently being considered by the House of Representatives is clear: granting Big Labor control over public policy at all levels of government to the detriment of taxpayers, voters and the freedoms of the very workers government union bosses claim to represent.”

21 Jun 2019

Another Stop & Shop Worker Hits UFCW Union with Federal Charges for Illegal Threats Related to Union Boss-Ordered Strike

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According to charge, UFCW bosses told other employees to conduct surveillance on and impede work of charging employee who worked during strike

Boston, MA (June 21, 2019) – Another Stop & Shop employee has turned to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal aid in the wake of the April strike by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) against the supermarket chain. The unfair labor practice charge just filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) maintains that the worker was misled regarding his rights, and that union officials made illegal threats and engaged in unlawful retaliation against the worker because he exercised his right to continue working despite the union strike demands.

According to his charge, Saood Rafique began working at Stop & Shop in 2011 and joined the UFCW as a result of misinformation given him that union membership was required as a condition of employment. Rafique works in the meat department at Stop & Shop’s Jamaica Plain location.

When the strike was declared in April, he exercised his right to continue to work during the strike but abstained from formally renouncing his union membership because he still believed it was compulsory. Eventually he discovered that mandatory membership is a violation of federal labor law and then resigned from the UFCW.

Union bosses launched a campaign of illegal retaliation against Rafique when the strike was ending, his charge notes. A UFCW steward “[told] employees to not work with Charging Party in order to make his job duties in the meat department more difficult to carry out.” Later, UFCW union agents posted a notice in Rafique’s Stop & Shop store which scolded him and others who had continued to work during the strike and instructed employees to surveil Rafique and the other listed individuals and report their activities to union officials.

Additionally, UFCW bosses sent Rafique a letter which threatened illegal union disciplinary action and even his termination from Stop & Shop. The letter read in part that “workers have the right to bring you to trial in front of the Executive Board.” It claimed, contrary to federal law, that the union tribunal had the power to cause Rafique and the other workers to be “fired from Stop & Shop since it is a union shop.” The “union shop,” where full membership is required, was outlawed under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1947.

Rafique’s charge argues that the union boss-devised campaigns against him and others who chose to work during the union work stoppage are blatant violations of worker rights under the NLRA, which protects “the right to refrain from any or all” union activities and prohibits union officials from “restrain[ing] or coerc[ing]” any employee in the exercise of that right. The charge also asserts that Rafique was never a voluntary member of the UFCW because he was never properly informed of his rights, and thus cannot legally be subject to any union discipline.

Rafique joins Matthew Coffey, a clerk at a Stop & Shop in Northampton, MA, in filing unfair labor practices against the UFCW union with the help of the Foundation. Coffey was another victim of misinformation about his legal rights and also was targeted with personal slurs by UFCW agents after he exercised his right to continue to work during the strike.

“Once again, union bosses have been caught red-handed lying to workers about their legal rights, then retaliating against workers who eventually learn the truth and exercise their right to defy union officials’ strike demands,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As these cases demonstrate, the legal rights of rank-and-file workers are frequently the first casualty when union bosses attempt to bully workers into abandoning their jobs as part of union strike actions.”

21 Jun 2019

Medicaid Providers Move to Defend Rule Ending Illegal Union Medicaid Skim

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Providers file motion to intervene after union bosses and their allied AGs filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Center for Medicaid Services’ rule to end illegal skim

San Francisco, CA (June 21, 2019) – A group of 10 Medicaid providers have moved to intervene in a recently filed federal lawsuit challenging a rule adopted by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that would stop union officials from skimming union dues directly out of taxpayer-funded Medicaid payments. AFSCME and SEIU union officials, and the pro-Big Labor Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington State, recently filed the challenge to the rule, which was adopted in May.

The providers filed their motion with free legal representation from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Washington State-based Freedom Foundation. The providers support the Trump Administration’s rule because it helps ensure their right not to fund union activities in violation of their First Amendment rights. They argue that the blanket prohibition in the Medicaid statute against assigning payments to third parties has no exemption for assignments to unions and their PACs, and thus the new rule simply puts the Medicaid regulations back into alignment with the law.

The Obama Administration attempted in 2014 to provide union officials with legal cover to siphon over $100 million every year in Medicaid funds into union political and lobbying activities by a special exemption for union officials to the Medicaid regulations. All told, union officials siphoned off a total of more than $1 billion in Medicaid funds over the past 15 years.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court held in the National Right to Work Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn case that it is unconstitutional for states to force homecare providers receiving Medicaid funds to pay union fees. However, citing the Obama rule, union officials continued siphoning the money from hundreds of thousands of providers, including many who attempted to stop the union dues seizures and others who were unaware they could not be required to make the payments. Some, while attempting to stop the payments, found that union agents had forged their signatures to authorize the payments.

In August 2018, the Foundation submitted formal comments to CMS supporting the agency’s proposal that would clarify that the diversion of Medicaid payments from providers to third parties, including unions, violates federal law. Those recommendations were finally adopted in early May, and are set to go into effect on July 5, 2019.

“Providers are right to oppose this lawsuit’s blatant attempt to enable union bosses to skim union dues in violation of federal law,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Contrary to the wishes of union bosses and their political allies, union officials are not entitled to a special exemption from federal law.”

“Nothing in this rule stops union officials from collecting voluntary dues from voluntary union members, it just says that taxpayers and government shouldn’t act as the bagman for such dues payments,” added Mix. “The hysterical response by Big Labor and its political allies to this simple clarification of what is longstanding federal law suggests they are worried that many members union officials claim to represent won’t pay dues once they realize they have a choice.”

20 Jun 2019

West Virginia Worker Submits Amicus Brief to State Supreme Court Defending Right to Work Law Against Union Boss Lawsuit

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Mountain State union lawyers’ legal challenge seeks to re-impose Big Labor’s power to have workers fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees

Charleston, WV (June 20, 2019) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have just filed an amicus brief urging the West Virginia Supreme Court to uphold the state’s popular Right to Work law in a case challenging that law brought by a coalition of unions. The brief is being submitted on behalf of West Virginia employee Donna Harper, who works as a laundry aide and nursing assistant at the Genesis HealthCare Tygert Center in Fairmont, West Virginia. The West Virginia-based Cardinal Institute and Americans For Prosperity are also listed along with the National Right to Work Foundation on the brief submitted to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

Harper’s brief was filed to defend her rights, as without the protection of West Virginia’s Right to Work law she could be fired solely for refusing to fund union activities. Under Right to Work union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary, whereas without such protections union officials can order a worker fired simply for refusing to pay union dues or fees. Because the workplace where Harper works is under Chauffeurs, Teamsters and Helpers Local Union No. 175 monopoly representation, elimination of her Right to Work protections would result in her being fired for refusing to financially support the union’s agenda.

West Virginia’s Right to Work law was passed in February 2016 when West Virginia legislators overrode then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto, making West Virginia the 26th Right to Work state. There are currently 27 states with Right to Work laws. Additionally, all public employees have Right to Work protections under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, which was briefed and argued by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

In 2016 lawyers for several state unions brought the case, now called West Virginia AFL-CIO, et al. v. Governor James C. Justice, et al., attempting to overturn the popular law. Polling consistently shows that Americans back Right to Work laws. A scientific survey also found that eighty percent of union members supported the Right to Work principle that union membership and dues payment should be voluntary and not required as a condition of employment.

Harper’s brief responds to the legally dubious arguments that were made by union lawyers, and accepted by Judge Jennifer Bailey of the Kanawha County Circuit Court. Similar arguments to the union lawyers’ primary arguments in this case for why the Right to Work protections for workers should be overturned have already been rejected by a Federal Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court when they were raised in cases involving Indiana’s Right to Work law. Furthermore, the brief points out that the Kanawha County Circuit Court decision ignores nearly 70 years of legal precedent upholding the constitutionality of state Right to Work laws, including U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

“Big Labor bosses are waging this protracted legal battle to return The Mountain State to a time when millions of dollars in workers’ money were forcibly shunted off to serve their own priorities,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Right to Work laws simply put individual freedom back at the center of a state’s labor laws, and all American workers deserve that freedom.”

The National Right to Work Foundation has a long history of successfully defending Right to Work laws in state and federal court. In addition to West Virginia, Foundation staff attorneys have taken legal action to defend and enforce new Right to Work laws in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, all of which have passed Right to Work protections for employees since 2012.

Earlier this year National Right to Work Foundation won a settlement for a West Virginia worker who was illegally threatened by United Steelworkers after she resigned her membership, the first step towards exercising her rights under the Right to Work law. Foundation staff attorneys previously filed an amicus brief with the West Virginia Supreme Court in 2017, on behalf of another pro-Right to Work Mountain State worker, which led the court to overturn an injunction by a lower court judge so the law could go into effect.

18 Jun 2019

Pennsylvania Prison Guards File Lawsuit Against Union for Violating their First Amendment Rights under Janus Precedent

Posted in News Releases

Guards’ lawsuit challenges scheme designed to trap them into paying dues without their consent by limiting their constitutional rights to just 15 days per contract

Harrisburg, PA (June 18, 2019) – Several Pennsylvania state prison guards have filed a class action lawsuit against their union with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys and the Pennsylvania-based Fairness Center. The workers allege union officials’ policy and the Pennsylvania law that authorizes it violates their First Amendment rights.

William Weyandt, Mark Mills, Chris Taylor, Brandon Westover, and Cory Yedlosky, who work as prison guards at Huntingdon Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania, filed the lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They allege that PSCOA union officials’ “escape period” policies and the state law that authorizes these policies unconstitutionally restrain them from exercising their First Amendment rights as public employees, rights recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Janus v. AFSCME case.

Unlike the majority of states in America, Pennsylvania has never adopted a Right to Work law to protect all workers from compulsory unionism. However, the Janus decision extended these protections to all public employees at the federal, state, and local level, which includes the prison guards employed at Huntingdon Correctional Institution.

Successfully argued and won at the Supreme Court by Foundation staff attorneys in June 2018, the Janus decision held that all public employees in America have the right to choose not to subsidize any union activities. The High Court said that workers must opt-in to union payments and that any union fees seized without an employee’s consent violate their First Amendment rights.

Union officials across the country have engaged in a widespread effort to block workers from exercising their rights under Janus. In particular, union officials claim state and union “escape period” policies can limit workers’ First Amendment rights to just a few days once a year or even once every few years.

In response, Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating dozens of cases to enforce workers’ Janus rights and have already won several notable settlements. These lawsuits could force union bosses to refund hundreds of millions of dollars in unlawfully seized dues and fees to tens of thousands of government employees.

“Pennsylvania state prison guards’ legal rights cannot be locked away by this blatantly unconstitutional union boss policy,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case demonstrates once again that union officials will resort to extreme measures to force workers they supposedly ‘represent’ into paying union fees against their wishes.”

“It is long past time for union bosses to respect the rights of workers under the First Amendment and realize Janus means that union dues and fees should only be paid on a strictly voluntary basis,” Mix added.

17 Jun 2019

Appeals Court Affirms Ruling That Union Bosses Violated Michigan’s Right to Work Law

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Ron Conwell Michigan High School Teacher

When teacher union bosses flouted Michigan’s Right to Work Law, Ron Conwell turned to Foundation staff attorneys to enforce his rights.

Teacher’s case resulted in first fine against union officials for illegal forced dues requirement

DETROIT, MI – When union bosses informed teacher Ron Conwell that he must pay union fees or lose his job, he sought free legal aid from Foundation attorneys to challenge the requirement as illegal under Michigan’s popular Right to Work protections.

Michigan’s Right to Work Law went into effect on March 28, 2013. 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.

Worker Halts Union’s Illegal Attempt to Extend Forced Fees for Teachers

The Clarkston Education Association (CEA) and Michigan Education Association (MEA) illegally extended the forced-dues clause in their monopoly bargaining agreement with Clarkston Community Schools after the Right to Work Law took effect.

In August 2015, Conwell resigned his union membership. Later that month, union officials informed him that he was still required to pay union fees or be fired.

“It seemed like to me that the union was trying to find some way to take the law that was put into place so that I had a right to decide, and then take that decision away from me,” Conwell said.

Foundation attorneys brought charges for Conwell to challenge the union bosses’ coercion.

In 2017, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) ruled that CEA and MEA violated the state’s Right to Work protections for public employees by illegally extending and enforcing a forced-dues clause. The Commission ordered the unions to stop threatening employees with termination based on the clause.

MERC also held that Clarkston Community Schools officials violated the law by agreeing to union officials’ demands for the illegal extension. MERC fined both the school district and the unions, making the case the first of its kind in which violators of the Right to Work law were fined.

Union lawyers appealed the ruling but were met with defeat, as the Appeals Court affirmed MERC’s ruling and fine, upholding workers’ Right to Work protections.

The victory demonstrates that the Foundation’s legal aid program remains vital to protect independent-minded workers from Big Labor’s coercive tactics.

Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan since Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012.

“Michigan workers can celebrate that the decision upholds their right to work without paying forced tribute to union bosses,” said Ray LaJeunesse, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Yet it also shows that workers need to keep fighting against coercion, as Michigan union bosses have repeatedly violated the state’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 resisting Big Labor’s orchestrated campaign to undermine Right to Work in Michigan.”

10 Jun 2019

Foundation Fights to Enforce Janus Victory and Halt Big Labor’s Coercive Tactics

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Foundation attorneys litigating more than 25 cases for public employees over Janus rights violations

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Right) and Chris Shelton (Left)

CWA union officials, led by top boss Chris Shelton (pictured right with self declared socialist Senator Bernie Sanders), began seizing full union membership dues from David McCutcheon’s paychecks in violation of his Janus rights.

SANTA FE, N.M. – Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that forced union fees for public sector workers are unconstitutional, much work remains before civil servants are free from union bosses’ coercion.

In the landmark victory in Janus v. AFSCME in June 2018, briefed and argued by Foundation staff attorneys, the Supreme Court ruled that charging any government employee union fees as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment. The Court also affirmed that unions may only collect fees when an employee gives clear and affirmative consent.

Already, Foundation staff attorneys are litigating more than 25 lawsuits from California to New Jersey to enforce the Janus decision, and new requests from public employees for assistance in enforcing their Janus rights continue to stream in.

Civil Servants Fight Union Bosses’ ‘Window Period’ Schemes

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, union officials seek to maintain their forced-fees coffers by stifling the rights of the workers they claim to represent. Foundation attorneys have filed several class action lawsuits challenging union officials’ “window period” schemes, arbitrary windows of time limiting when employees can exercise their First Amendment right to refrain
from subsidizing a union.

Two such cases (see page 1) have already settled in favor of the workers challenging union attempts to trap them in forced dues, but in the others union bosses still refuse to back down from their coercive schemes.

In New Mexico, David McCutcheon, an IT technician at New Mexico’s Department of Information Technology, was forced to pay union fees as a nonmember before Janus. After the Foundation’s victory, McCutcheon informed Communication Workers of America (CWA) union officials that under the First Amendment they could no longer force him to financially support the union.

Instead, union officials began charging him full union membership dues without his permission. To add insult to injury, union officials told McCutcheon that he could only stop the unauthorized deductions during a two-week “window period” in December.

McCutcheon sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, who filed a class action lawsuit in federal court. The class action complaint asks that the court strike down the unconstitutional “window period” scheme, and order the union to refund the membership dues and fees seized from McCutcheon and the likely hundreds of other public employees in New Mexico who have been similarly victimized during the past three years.

In two other cases, California teachers are fighting similar “window period” schemes with free aid from Foundation attorneys. Ventura County math professor Michael McCain is challenging the American Federation of Teachers union-created fifteen day “window period” policy in a class action lawsuit.

Union officials never informed McCain of his First Amendment right to refrain from supporting a union, making it impossible for him to have waived his rights as Janus requires. After Janus, McCain resigned union membership and made it clear in a letter that he does not consent to dues deductions. His lawsuit asks that the court strike down the “window period” scheme and stop forcing dues from him and potentially hundreds of other public employees.

Los Angeles kindergarten teacher Irene Seager filed another class action lawsuit, this one against United Teachers Los Angeles to challenge a 30-day “window period” scheme. Her lawsuit also challenges a California state law which allows the union to enforce the restrictive policy.

“Union officials have a long history of manipulating ‘window period’ schemes and other obstacles designed to block individuals from exercising their constitutional rights,” said Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Despite what union bosses say, First Amendment rights cannot be limited to mere days out of the year.”

Foundation attorneys are also litigating other class action lawsuits to reclaim years’ worth of union fees seized without consent before Janus. Together, the lawsuits seek refunds totaling more than $170 million.

8 Jun 2019

SCOTUS Asked to Hear Homecare Providers’ Case Seeking Return of Seized Union Fees

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Providers fight to reclaim $32 million in union fees seized in violation of First Amendment

Susie and Libby Watts

Susie Watts, a plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court Harris decision, is a home care provider for her daughter Libby. The case continues in Riffey, as providers fight for the return of unconstitutionally seized union fees.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn case that a scheme imposed by the state of Illinois, in which over 80,000 individual home care providers were unionized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and forced to pay union fees out of the state funding they receive, violated the providers’ First Amendment rights.

The ruling should have meant that SEIU union bosses were forced to return the unconstitutionally seized union fees. Instead, five years later the providers are once again at the steps of the Supreme Court.

SEIU Union Bosses Keep Illegally Seized Union Fees

After the 2014 ruling, Harris continued as Riffey v. Rauner. The case was remanded to the District Court to settle remaining issues, including whether or not the 80,000 providers would receive refunds of the money SEIU officials seized without consent.

In June 2016, the District Court denied a motion for class certification. The ruling allowed the SEIU to keep the over $32 million in unconstitutional fees confiscated from homecare providers compelled into union ranks, who had not consented to their money being taken for union fees. The Appeals Court upheld the ruling.

In 2018, Foundation staff attorneys successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse the Appeals Court’s ruling. The High Court did so the day after it issued the landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision, ordering the Appeals Court to reconsider the case in light of the Janus ruling, which struck down public sector forced union fees as violating the First Amendment.

In Janus, which was argued by the same National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney who is lead counsel in the Riffey case, the Supreme Court clarified that any union fees taken without an individual’s informed consent violate the First Amendment. That standard supports the Riffey plaintiffs’ claim that all providers who had money seized without their consent are entitled to refunds.

SCOTUS Asked to Allow Providers to Reclaim Funds Seized in Violation of First Amendment

On December 6, a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court affirmed its previous ruling that no class can be certified from the over 80,000 providers whose money was seized in violation of their First Amendment rights. The panel based its decision on the ground that each individual homecare provider would have to prove that he or she objected to the taking of the fees when the seizures occurred.

After the Appeals Court denied Foundation staff attorneys’ request to rehear the case with all judges, Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, asking it to take the case.

Foundation staff attorneys point out that the Janus precedent does not require a worker to prove his or her subjective opposition to forced union fees. Rather, Janus held that the First Amendment is violated if union dues or fees are seized without the worker’s clear affirmative consent.

“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that SEIU had illegally confiscated union dues from thousands of Illinois homecare providers, but the ruling challenged by this petition denies those same caregivers the opportunity to reclaim the money that never should have been taken from them by SEIU in the first place,” said Ray LaJeunesse, vice president and legal director of the National Right to Work Foundation. “If SEIU’s bosses are not required to return the money they seized in violation of homecare providers’ constitutional rights, it will only encourage similar behavior from union officials eager to trample the First Amendment to enrich themselves with the money intended for the care of individuals who need it.”