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.
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.