Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision clearly forbids forced union fees for public employees, but IUOE bosses try to pass them off as “agreement administration fees”
Cincinnati, OH (December 14, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, City of Hamilton employee Timothy Crane is suing International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 20 union officials and the City of Hamilton for seizing a compulsory fee from his paycheck in violation of his First Amendment rights. His complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, contends that union bosses are infringing on his rights under the Janus v. AFSCME decision by forcing him to pay a so-called “agreement administration fee” equal to more than 90 percent of full union dues as a condition of his employment.
In the 2018 Foundation-won Janus decision, the High Court ruled that no public worker can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of getting or keeping a job. The Court also held that union dues or fees can only be deducted from a public employee’s paycheck if that employee clearly and affirmatively waives his or her right not to pay. Justice Alito wrote for the Court majority that “such a waiver cannot be presumed” by union or state officials.
Crane works for the City of Hamilton. He sent letters to IUOE union officials in both August and September of this year attempting to exercise his First Amendment Janus right to end dues deductions from his paycheck. After sending these two letters, he discovered that an “agreement administration fee” was now being taken from his pay by the City at the behest of IUOE union bosses.
Crane’s lawsuit points out that the most recent contract between the City of Hamilton and IUOE Local 20 requires employees who have revoked their dues deduction authorizations to pay compulsory agreement administration fees. The complaint contends that this fee is just a so-called “agency fee” – compulsory union payments charged to employees who refrain from formal union membership that were definitively outlawed by the Janus v. AFSCME decision – masquerading under a different name.
The suit urges the District Court to declare it unconstitutional for IUOE Local 20 and the City of Hamilton to force him to pay this compulsory union fee. Crane’s lawsuit also seeks a refund of all money that the union illegally took from his paycheck under the unconstitutional arrangement.
Since Janus was handed down by the Supreme Court, Foundation staff attorneys have already won favorable settlements in four cases for Buckeye State public workers who have challenged illegal union-created restrictions on the exercise of Janus First Amendment rights. In a July settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by four state workers, nearly 30,000 Ohio public employees were freed from an “escape period” scheme imposed by Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) union chiefs, which limited to just a handful of days every few years the time in which a public employee could exercise his or her Janus rights.
“IUOE bosses, who may have thought they were going to trick employees into funding their agenda against their will with this blatantly unconstitutional scheme, have now been caught red-handed,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Rank-and-file workers like Mr. Crane now see that IUOE officials are far more interested in keeping hard-earned employee cash flowing into their coffers than in respecting the First Amendment rights of the workers they claim to represent.”
Mix continued: “The string of Foundation victories for independent-minded Buckeye State employees who just want to exercise their First Amendment rights is not going to end here.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.