Recently National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix spoke to WISN’s Vicki McKenna about two cases that could have major implications for public sector workers if the Supreme Court decides to hear them. Janus v. AFSCME and Casanova v. International Association of Machinists both deal with employees seeking refunds of dues unconstitutionally seized before the 2018 Janus decision.
When Janus v. AFSCME was originally decided, the court held that public sector workers can’t be forced to support a union as a condition of their employment, and that nonmembers can’t have dues deducted from their paychecks without their consent. As Mix said in the interview, “When you rule on the first amendment there’s a legal concept called black letter law, which means ‘as if it was the law from the beginning’. These workers ought to be able to go back and get their money back through the statute of limitations.”
He also pointed out that the Supreme Court specifically recognized in Janus that unions have known since the 2012 Foundation-won Knox v. SEIU case that mandatory union fees for public sector employees likely did not comply with the First Amendment.
In the majority opinion in Janus, Justice Alito wrote:
public-sector unions have been on notice for years regarding this Court’s misgivings about Abood. In Knox, decided in 2012, we described Abood as a First Amendment “anomaly.” 567 U. S., at 311. Two years later in Harris, we were asked to overrule Abood, and while we found it unnecessary to take that step, we cataloged Abood’s many weaknesses. In 2015, we granted a petition for certiorari asking us to review a decision that sustained an agency-fee arrangement under Abood. Friedrichs v. California Teachers Assn., 576 U. S.___. After exhaustive briefing and argument on the question whether Abood should be overruled, we affirmed the decision below by an equally divided vote. 578 U. S. ___(2016) (per curiam). During this period of time, any public sector union seeking an agency-fee provision in a collective bargaining agreement must have understood that the constitutionality of such a provision was uncertain.
If the Supreme Court takes one of these cases and rules in favor of the workers seeking refunds, it would set a precedent that would result in the return of hundreds of millions of dollars in dues for workers around the country.
You can listen to the entire interview below:
Of the over 250 cases litigated by National Right to Work Foundation Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys in 2018, no case attracted more attention than Janus v. AFSCME, which resulted in a landmark victory at the U.S. Supreme Court on June 27, 2018.
Foundation staff attorney William Messenger argued before the High Court in February that civil servants like Illinois public employee Mark Janus could not legally be forced to subsidize union activities as a condition of working for the government. On June 27, the Supreme Court agreed, issuing a ruling that forcing any public school teacher, police officer, firefighter or any other public employee to fund a union violates the First Amendment.
News outlets across the country took notice of the important victory for Right to Work. Among the major outlets that covered this win were the Associated Press , USA Today, CNN, The New York Times, and many others. The Wall Street Journal profiled William Messenger, the Foundation staff attorney who successfully argued the Janus case at the Supreme Court.
One the day of the Janus ruling, Fox News interviewed National Right to Work President Mark Mix about the case live from the steps of the Supreme Court. “It’s a great day for individual employees, independent-minded employees, not only in Illinois but across the country,” Mix told host Bill Hemmer:
Since the Foundation-won Janus case, Foundation staff attorneys have already pursued 20 lawsuits to enforce the Janus decision across the country, with more requests for legal assistance pouring in from public employees every day.
One of these cases is Fischer v. NJEA, which is a class action lawsuit filed by two New Jersey teachers who were not allowed to cut off union dues because of an unlawful “window period” scheme. One of the teachers, Susan G. Fischer, explained the case during a television interview with NJTV.
The Foundation continues to receive requests for assistance from workers whose First Amendment rights are being violated by union bosses. To assist workers, the Foundation set up a special website for public employees seeking to exercise their rights: MyJanusRights.org
Two New Jersey teachers are challenging a state law that they called out as “un-American” during a recent television interview.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision in June declared that public employees should be allowed resign their union membership and stop paying union dues whenever they choose. But union officials blocked teachers Susan G. Fischer and Jeanette Speck from doing just that.
Fischer and Speck recently filed a class action lawsuit, with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, after school district officials in the Township of Ocean refused to allow them to stop paying union membership dues.
During an interview with NJTV, a PBS affiliate based in New Jersey, Fischer clarified that she is not opposed unions. Instead, Fischer said that she and Speck filed their lawsuit out of a sense of basic fairness.
“I am not anti-union. I am a team player. I’ve been a teacher for 30 years,” Fischer explained. She later added: “You have to pay if you join and pay if you don’t join. That was so un-American to us.”
School district officials had claimed that the teachers could only stop payments and withdraw during a 10-day “window period” every year.
Foundation staff attorney William Messenger explained that this “window period” scheme was allowed under a New Jersey law. Messenger said this “basically means for 355 to 356 days of every year, public employees in New Jersey can’t exercise their Janus rights.”
The lawsuit challenges the New Jersey law as unconstitutional under Janus. The High Court said that union bosses cannot force public-sector workers to pay union membership dues and fees, since this violates the First Amendment.
The teachers are suing New Jersey Governor Phil Murphey, the New Jersey Education Association, and the Township of Ocean Education Association, seeking a refund of membership dues forcibly taken after they resigned their union membership, as well as for all other public employees who attempted to resign following Janus.
Over the Labor Day weekend, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix spread the message of worker freedom on television programs, in radio interviews, and in newspaper columns across the country.
On C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Mix made the moral and economic case for Right to Work laws and answered questions about the latest developments in labor law. Watch the video here:
In a column in the Washington Times, Mix discussed an upcoming case at the United States Supreme Court that builds on Foundation-won precedents in which the Court expressed skepticism about the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced-dues power.
The incestuous relationship between public-sector unions and politicians busts budgets and erodes democratic accountability. But without ready access to forced-dues cash, government unions’ political influence would decline dramatically. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has just agreed to hear a case that strikes at the heart of public-sector unions’ forced-dues privileges. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a group of nonunion public school teachers is challenging a union policy that requires them to pay any union dues at all to keep their jobs.
Friedrichs gives the court an opportunity to outlaw all mandatory union dues in the public sector. To be clear, such a ruling wouldn’t end government unions. Employees who genuinely support a labor organization would still be free to join up and pay dues. What it would do, however, is limit government unions’ outsized political influence.
In columns in states with Right to Work laws, Mix invited workers and job creators to “celebrate the Right to Work advantage.” From the Tulsa World:
According to data compiled by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, Right to Work states have enjoyed higher private-sector job growth and larger wage increases over the past decade than their forced-unionism counterparts. No only that, but after adjusting for states’ differing costs of living, residents in Right to Work states enjoy more disposable income than their non-Right to Work neighbors.
The connection between Right to Work laws and better economic performance shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Business experts consistently rank the presence of Right to Work laws as one of the most important factors companies consider when deciding where to expand or relocate their facilities where they will create new jobs.
In Michigan, one of the country’s newest Right to Work states, Mix took to the pages of the Detroit News to educate autoworkers about their newfound rights:
Are you an autoworker? A member of the UAW? Are you tired of paying dues or fed up with your union’s policies? When the UAW’s contracts with the Big Three automakers expire later this month, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin autoworkers will finally have the chance to decide for themselves if paying dues to UAW officials is a good use of their money.
Meanwhile, in states without Right to Work laws, Mix made the case for protecting worker freedom in newspapers including the Chicago Sun-Times:
So as you celebrate the coming three-day weekend, consider the benefits of Right to Work. Consider your unemployed neighbor that might find a job. Consider the new manufacturing plant that might open its doors. Consider what you might do with an extra $2,000 of spending power in your pocket.
Will your state be the next Right to Work state?
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Connecticut State Employees Win Settlement Protecting their Right to Refrain from Paying for Union Politics
Hartford, CT (July 17, 2015) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, eight state employees have reached a class-wide settlement with several state officials and the Connecticut State Employee Association (CSEA)/SEIU Local 2001 union that protects their right to opt out of paying dues for union politics. The agreement covers 215 state workers and ensures that employees who resigned from the union and objected to paying dues for union politics but did not have their objections honored will receive refunds pursuant to the terms of the agreement.
In Connecticut and other states without Right to Work laws, employees can be forced to pay union dues or fees to keep their jobs. However, the Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson established that nonunion civil servants are due certain procedural protections of their right to refrain from paying dues or fees for activities unrelated to workplace bargaining, such as union political activism.
Teacher Union Lawyers Threaten Sanctions in Legal Challenge to Contract that Sold Out Teachers for 10 Years of Forced Union Dues
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney attacked for brief calling out contract to circumvent Right to Work protections for teachers in exchange for pay cuts
Taylor, Michigan (July 15, 2015) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have responded to a motion for sanctions filed for the American Federation of Teachers Local 1085 union.
The motion for sanctions was filed after the National Right to Work Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief in a case involving Local 1085 in which union bosses have been found to have unlawfully rushed into a 10 year forced-dues “union security” contract with Taylor School District after they offered major concessions, including a 10% pay cut for teachers, in a separate monopoly bargaining agreement.
In December 2012, Michigan workers gained new workplace rights when Michigan passed a Right to Work law. Fearing the loss of their forced-dues funded power, Local 1085 union officials entered into a standalone 10 year compulsory unionism agreement and a separate monopoly bargaining agreement in January 2013, hoping that the forced-dues contract would fall under the “grandfather clause” of Michigan’s Right to Work law, which did not take effect until March 2013.
Golf Channel Workers Cleared for Vote on Removing Union Despite Union Boss Attempts to Block Election
IATSE union officials unsuccessfully attempted to use bureaucratic hurdles to have NLRB toss out worker’s petition to remove the union as monopoly bargaining representative
Atlanta, GA (July 8, 2015) – Workers at the Golf Channel will get to vote on whether or not to remove the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union as the monopoly bargaining representative for technicians who produce golf tournaments and other programming for the channel, which is part of NBCUniversal and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA). With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, Golf Channel employee John Gallagher filed a petition requesting a decertification election with the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) regional office in Atlanta, and the petition was granted on July 6 after a two day hearing demanded by union officials.
Gallagher collected the necessary number of signatures from his fellow employees, and filed the petition on June 12th. IATSE union bosses responded by demanding a hearing to try to block the vote from taking place, and asked the NLRB to dismiss the petition on technical procedural grounds. According to the union claims, Gallagher’s petition was tainted because he failed to submit a “Statement of Position form” and a “statement of procedures form” as required by the NLRB’s new convoluted “ambush” election rules that took effect in mid-April.
However, the NLRB Regional Director sided with Gallagher, and agreed that it was a technical oversight, because the union suffered no harm when it did not receive the two forms from Gallagher, but it did receive them from the Region. Thus, Gallagher’s petition was deemed valid.
On May 12, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief defending Wisconsin’s recently-enacted Right to Work law on behalf or four Wisconsin workers. The brief was filed in response to an International Association of Machinists (IAM) union lawsuit challenging the Badger State’s recent labor reforms in Dane County Circuit Court.
However, IAM union lawyers are now asking the court not to accept the brief. Responding to this union attempt to silence the viewpoints of pro-Right to Work employees, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty have now filed another brief with the Court, this time rebutting the IAM’s attempt to keep the four Wisconsin workers from defending their Right to Work law.