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.”
West Virginia Worker Wins Settlement from Steelworkers Union after Receiving Threats for Exercising Rights
USW union officials violated federal law by threatening seniority and overtime when Petersburg worker moved to resign her union membership
Petersburg, West Virginia (January 8, 2019) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a West Virginia worker has won a settlement against the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1017 after she filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the union with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Tammy Hedrick, an employee of Adell Polymers in Petersburg, West Virginia, originally brought the federal charge against the union after she was threatened with the stripping of her seniority at the behest of union officials, a violation of federal law.
When West Virginia passed its Right to Work law in 2016, Hedrick attempted to exercise her right to resign her union membership and cut off dues payments, as had been explained to her by her employer. Her contract, however, was grandfathered in, as it had been enacted before the passing of the law. In retaliation, union officials sought to strip Hedrick of her seniority and overtime pay.
The settlement agreement requires union officials to end attempts to demote Hedrick or any other employees, or otherwise punish employees, for exercising their legally protected rights. Union officials are also required by the settlement to post notices informing all of Adell Polymer’s employees of their legal rights and the end of union officials’ efforts to remove Hedrick’s seniority.
In addition to Hendrick’s settlement, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are fighting to defend West Virginia’s Right to Work law in state court. Foundation staff attorneys have filed amicus briefs in West Virginia AFL-CIO, et al. v. Governor James C. Justice, et al., urging the Kanawha County Circuit Court and the West Virginia Supreme Court to uphold the state’s Right to Work protections.
“Tammy Hedrick has halted these illegal threats by union bosses against her for seeking to exercise her rights as protected by federal law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The outcome of this case should serve as a reminder to all Mountain State workers that under federal law they have the right to refrain from union membership, and that union officials cannot legally retaliate against workers who choose to exercise these protected rights.”
“Any worker who needs assistance in exercising these rights, or who like Tammy Hedrick is threatened for doing so, should know they can always turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance,” continued Mix.
Massachusetts Supreme Court Hears Educators’ Challenge to Teacher Union’s Government-Granted Coercive Powers
Four Bay State educators argue that MTA scheme violates their rights by prohibiting nonmembers from having influence over workplace conditions
Boston, MA (January 7, 2019) – Tomorrow, a National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney will deliver arguments at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for a group of Massachusetts educators. The educators are challenging state law that grants union officials’ monopoly bargaining privileges which union officials use to gag nonmembers from having a voice and a vote in their working conditions. The educators argue this violates their First Amendment rights.
The group of four educators, from the University of Massachusetts and Hanover School Committee, all believe they would be better off without representation from the National Educators Association (NEA) and its affiliates.
The plaintiffs argue their First Amendment rights are violated when they are forced to be union members to exercise their rights under state law to have a say in their workplace conditions. Under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision, workers cannot be required to fund a union. However, under Massachusetts labor laws the educators must waive their First Amendment rights and become full members to have any say in their working conditions.
The four plaintiffs have chosen to refrain from union membership. The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Dr. Ben Branch, is a finance professor. His colleague and fellow plaintiff, Dr. Curtiss Conner, is a chemistry professor, both at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Plaintiff Dr. Andre Melcuk is Director of Departmental Information Technology at the Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at the University. Dr. Melcuk was born in the Soviet Union and opposes the union based on his dislike of collectivist organizations.
Plaintiff Deborah Curran is a long-term teacher in the Hanover Public Schools. The union officials who supposedly “represent” her attempted to invalidate her promotion to a position mentoring new teachers and pushed to have her investigated and suspended. She ultimately spent nearly $35,000 of her own money battling union officials just to protect her job.
In the case, Foundation staff attorneys argue that Massachusetts state law violates the educators’ First Amendment rights by barring their voice and vote in their workplace conditions if they decide to refrain from becoming union members, paying full union dues, and supporting union political activity.
In the June 2018 Janus victory, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that forcing any public sector employee to pay union dues or fees violates the First Amendment. The educators’ case points out that denying workers a voice in their workplace unless they are union members is another form of compulsion to support a union, and should be ruled a violation of the First Amendment.
“These are dedicated teachers and professors who are being forced to choose between losing their voice in the workplace or paying tribute to union bosses who clearly do not have their best interests in mind,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Although the Foundation-won Janus decision upheld public sector workers’ First Amendment right to choose whether or not to pay union fees, union officials still seek to twist workers’ arms into funding Big Labor’s coffers. A clear ruling is needed to uphold these educators’ right to refrain from union membership without fear of retaliation or coercion.”
Federal Court Asked to Order NLRB to Rule in Nine Year Old Case Attacking Forced Union Fees for Lobbying
Case pending at Labor Board for more than five years also challenges union bosses’ failure to adequately disclose how they spend compulsory union fees
Washington, DC (January 2, 2019) – Today, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed a petition seeking an order that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) take action on a nine-year-old case that has been awaiting a decision for more than five years. The case was brought by nurse Jeanette Geary after union officials kept her and her colleagues in the dark about how their forced union fees are spent.
Foundation staff attorneys filed the mandamus petition at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking a court order that the NLRB promptly decide Geary’s case. The Board had issued a decision in 2012, but after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President Obama had violated the Constitution by making three illegal recess appointments to the Board, that decision and many others were invalidated. Of those invalidated, Geary’s case is among a few cases, if not the only one, still pending without a decision.
Geary, then a nurse at Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, filed an unfair labor practice charge in 2009 with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. Her charge stated that United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) union officials unlawfully spent her forced union fees and failed to meet financial disclosure requirements as to the amount of the compulsory fees required as a condition of employment.
Geary and other nurses informed UNAP union officials that they were exercising their right to refrain from formal union membership and from the payment of “non-chargeable” fees for activities unrelated to union bargaining, including politics, lobbying and member-only events.
UNAP union officials failed to provide Geary and other nonmember nurses with a disclosure of the part of union fees the workers are forced to pay, claiming Geary could be charged for union lobbying activities. According to the charge, union bosses failed to provide any evidence of an independent audit “beyond a mere assertion.” Moreover, union officials provided no breakdown of expenditures from a so-called “Defense Fund” despite claiming they included chargeable expenses.
In the Foundation-won Supreme Court Beck decision, the Court held that private-sector employees can only be forced to pay, as a condition of employment, union dues related to specific union activity. Additionally, union officials must provide employees with an independently verified breakdown of union expenditures showing how much objecting employees must pay to keep their jobs.
In 2012, President Obama’s illegally-appointed NLRB rejected Supreme Court precedent and granted union bosses power to charge nonmember workers for union political lobbying, including lobbying in other states. However, that decision was invalidated by the Court’s holding in NLRB v. Noel Canning that the Board lacked a valid quorum because of three unconstitutional “recess appointments” President Obama made.
“UNAP union bosses should be held accountable for their blatant refusal to respect the rights of the workers they claim to represent,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Justice delayed is justice denied, and it’s long past time the NLRB issues a decision that affirms workers’ protections from union boss coercion.”
New Mexico State Worker Files Class Action Lawsuit to Recover Unauthorized Dues Seized by CWA Union Officials
Constitutional rights of hundreds of public employees likely violated by CWA union “window period” scheme to deduct dues by force despite Supreme Court’s Janus ruling
Santa Fe, NM (December 27, 2018) – A New Mexico state employee has filed a class action lawsuit in federal court because union officials violated his First Amendment rights through a scheme to require him and other state employees to pay money to the union as a condition of employment.
IT technician David McCutcheon, employed by New Mexico’s Department of Information Technology (DoIT), filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico against the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union, CWA Local 7076 union, and New Mexico Personnel Office Director Justin Najaka on December 20 with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
McCutcheon’s suit states that CWA officials seize unauthorized membership dues out of his paycheck and refuse to allow workers to opt out of union payments except during a union dictated “window period.” The lawsuit asks the court to end this scheme and seeks a refund of union membership dues and fees for all New Mexico public workers who were similarly victimized.
Union officials forced McCutcheon to pay nonmember union fees to keep his job beginning in April 2017. However, in Janus v. AFSCME on June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to require any public employee to pay union membership dues or fees without his or her explicit consent.
Following the Janus ruling, McCutcheon informed union officials in writing that he did not consent to any deduction of union fees. Union officials responded that his request had been “submitted for processing.”
But, instead of halting deductions, union officials began seizing full membership dues, rather than the lesser nonmember fees, from McCutcheon’s wages without his permission starting in September. According to union officials, under the union contract McCutcheon could only stop these larger deductions by again revoking authorization during the annual two-week December “window period.”
Because union officials refused to respect his legitimate request, McCutcheon has asked the district court to recognize his First Amendment rights to free speech and free association in accord with Janus and strike down this unconstitutional “window period” scheme. McCutcheon also seeks a refund of membership dues and fees seized from himself and the likely hundreds of other public employees in New Mexico who have been similarly victimized during the past three years.
“Contrary to the wishes of New Mexico union bosses and their allies in state government, First Amendment rights cannot be limited to just a couple of weeks per year,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “All civil servants should be able to exercise their rights to free speech and free association by cutting off union payments whenever they choose without interference by union officials.”
“Unfortunately, even after the Foundation-won Janus decision by the Supreme Court, it appears more legal action is necessary to force union officials to end their ‘massive resistance’ and respect the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” added Mix.