On June 6 the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation petitioned the Supreme Court to hear Janus v. AFSCME a case that could end forced union fees for all public sector employees. The case has generated a lot of media attention. Here are just some samples. Please click the link in the publication name to read the full article.
New York Times – “Last year, the Supreme Court seemed poised to deal a sharp blow to public sector unions. Then Justice Antonin Scalia died and the court deadlocked, granting the unions a reprieve. It may not last long.”
One News Now – “The Janus case is a very important step in our efforts to end the forced payment of fees to a union as a condition of employment,” says Mark Mix of National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The Janus case specifically deals with government employees. Interestingly enough, if we win at the Supreme Court, which we fully intend to do, it would protect every government employee in America from being fired for failure to tender dues or fees to a labor union.”
Washington Free Beacon – “The Supreme Court could revisit a 40-year-old precedent that allows government agencies to force public sector workers to pay union dues, an issue the court deadlocked on in 2016 following the sudden death of Antonin Scalia.”
Illinois News Network – “Foundation President Mark Mix said this is about compelled speech vs. free speech.Mix said what’s happened is there’s “a private institution in between taxpayers and elected officials and [the union] is able to speak for government employees that, heretofore, never asked for, never wanted, and in fact stand back and say, ‘I don’t want you to speak for me,’ as [plaintiffs] have said in this case,” Mix said.”
Foxnews.com – “It’s the state’s burden to justify infringing on a worker’s association rights,” he said. “The key is there’s no difference between collectively bargaining with the government and lobbying the government. If you can’t force people to pay to lobby the government, then you can’t force them to pay union dues or exclusively bargain with them.”
SCOTUSBLOG – “With Justice Neil Gorsuch now on the bench, however, Janus hopes that the Supreme Court will seize its third opportunity to reverse Abood. ”
Washington Examiner – “The case, called Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, asks whether an Illinois state government employee can be forced to pay a so-called “security fee” to the union as a condition of employment. Such fees are common provisions in public-sector union contracts. Losing them would be a severe financial blow to the unions.”
Workers’ case follows up on Supreme Court split on constitutionality of mandatory union fees for government employees
Minneapolis, MN (June 8, 2017) – Assisted by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, two Minnesota court employees are filing a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced dues powers. The case being filed today argues that the state requirement that the plaintiffs pay union fees as a condition of government employment violates the First Amendment.
Carrie Keller is a Court Administrative Assistant, and Elizabeth Zeien is an Accounting Technician; both are employed by the State of Minnesota Court System. When they started working for the State, neither was a union member, and they both negotiated their own terms and conditions of employment and salaries, free from union interference.
In 2015, union officials started proceedings to force a number of state employees who were not in monopoly bargaining units into union ranks, where they could be required to pay union dues and fees. Ultimately, in March 2017, Minnesota state officials complied with the Teamsters’ demands and added a number of employees, including Keller and Zeien, to a Teamsters controlled bargaining unit without the employees’ permission or desire. Keller, Zeien and the other employees were never given a vote on whether they should be part of the union bargaining unit, and they objected to the new scheme.
Before being summarily forced under the union contract, Keller and Zeien had negotiated pay scales and benefits for themselves that equaled or exceeded what they received under the union-mandated contract. The lower compensation under the union contract and the imposition of mandatory union fees led Keller and Zeien to approach the National Right to Work Foundation for assistance in challenging the forced unionization scheme.
“These two workers were happily working and successfully representing themselves in dealing with their employer until Teamsters officials sought to bolster they forced dues ranks even though it meant a step back in their working conditions,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case is a prime example of the power of worker freedom being destroyed by union boss interference and why it is wrong to force employees to pay money to a union for representation they don’t want and never asked for.”
Nearly 40 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that public-sector workers could be compelled as a condition of employment to pay union fees. However, in two recent National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court decisions, Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), the High Court suggested it is ready to revisit the 1978 precedent in Abood, expressing skepticism about the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced-dues privileges.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys currently have seven other ongoing cases challenging the mandatory union payments as a violation of the First Amendment, including Janus v. AFSCME – on behalf of a Illinois government employee Mark Janus who is forced to pay fees to AFSCME union officials – which is currently before the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari.
Illinois State Employee Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Hear First Amendment Challenge to Mandatory Union Fees
Janus v. AFSCME could free all government workers in the U.S. from being forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment
Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2017) – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to hear a case that could free government workers from being forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
Forcing government employees to pay money to union officials to keep their jobs violates the First Amendment, argues plaintiff Mark Janus in the case Janus v. AFSCME. Janus is a child support specialist from Illinois, whose lawsuit was brought by attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center.
The request for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear this case follows a March ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which upheld forced dues and fees based on the Supreme Court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. The plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME argue that Abood was wrongly decided and should be overturned, especially in light of subsequent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have applied strict scrutiny to mandatory union fees. A copy of the petition is available here.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, issued the following statement about the case:
“For too long, millions of workers across the nation have been forced to pay dues and fees into union coffers as a condition of working for their own government. Requiring public servants to subsidize union officials’ speech is incompatible with the First Amendment. This petition asks the Supreme Court to take up this case and revisit a nearly half-century-old mistake that led to an anomaly in First Amendment jurisprudence. By applying the principles the Court laid out in two recent cases brought for workers by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys – Knox and Harris – the Court can end the injustice of public sector forced dues by the end of next term.”
Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, described what is at stake in the Janus case:
“People shouldn’t be forced to surrender their First Amendment right to decide for themselves what organizations they will and won’t support just because they decide to work for the state, their local government or a public school. This case gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to restore to millions of American workers the right to choose whether to support a union with their money.”
Mark Janus works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and is forced to send part of his paycheck to AFSCME. He said, explaining why he brought the case:
“I went into this line of work because I care about kids. But just because I care about kids doesn’t mean I also want to support a government union. Unfortunately, I have no choice. To keep my job at the state, I have to pay monthly fees to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public employee union that claims to ‘represent’ me. I’m filing this case on behalf of all government employees who want to serve their community or their state without having to pay a union first.”
In addition to Janus v. AFSCME, six other ongoing cases brought by workers with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation are challenging public sector forced dues. These cases represent the full spectrum of public employees, including teachers in Pennsylvania, school aides in Kentucky, university professors in Massachusetts, medical center technicians in California, school electricians in New York and state troopers in Connecticut.
Janus’ case is the first of that group to reach the Supreme Court. The case is on track for the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear it at its first conference of the term beginning in the fall. If four justices agree, the Supreme Court could announce soon after its September 25 conference that it will hear the case.
Background: Janus v. AFSCME’s journey to the Supreme Court
The case now called Janus v. AFSCME began on February 9, 2015. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies from requiring nonmember state employees to pay union fees, and directed that instead any such fees deducted be put in escrow pending the resolution of litigation.
On the same day, Rauner filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against the collection of forced fees from state employees, asking for a declaratory judgment that the forced fee provisions violate the First Amendment and that his executive order was valid.
On March 23, 2015, staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center filed a motion for Mark Janus to intervene in the case. Janus’s complaint requested not only a declaratory judgment but also an injunction and damages from the unions for the compelled fees.
Although the court then ruled that Rauner did not have standing necessary to pursue his lawsuit, the challenge continued because the judge granted Janus’ motion to intervene. The case was renamed Janus v. AFSCME. On July 2, 2015, the Illinois Attorney General asked the district court to stay the case pending the Supreme Court’s decision in a case with similar constitutional issues at stake, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The district court granted a stay on July 8, 2015.
According to most legal observers, the Supreme Court appeared ready to rule for the teacher plaintiffs in Friedrichs and declare that forced union fees for public sector workers violate the First Amendment. However, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, the court ultimately deadlocked 4-4 on Friedrichs. Soon after, a district court judge dismissed Janus, allowing the case to be appealed to the 7th Circuit.
The appeal was filed in October 2016, and oral argument was held on March 1, 2017. On March 21, the 7th Circuit upheld the district court’s decision, ruling that the Abood v. Detroit Board of Education precedent applied to Janus v. AFSCME. That expected decision by the 7th Circuit allowed Janus’ attorneys to file a certiorari petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Recent Supreme Court victories set stage for Janus case
Janus follows a series of decisions that demonstrate a willingness by the Supreme Court to reconsider the constitutionality of forced union fees. In 1977, in Abood, the High Court had held that although union officials could not constitutionally spend objectors’ funds for some political and ideological activities, unions could require fees to subsidize collective bargaining and contract administration with government employers.
In the 2012 Knox v. SEIU case, brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, the Supreme Court began to question Abood’s underpinnings. The Court there held that union officials must obtain affirmative consent from workers before using workers’ forced union fees for special assessments or dues increases that include union politicking.
In the opinion Justice Samuel Alito authored, the door was left open to challenge all forced union fees as a violation of the First Amendment. Alito wrote, “By allowing unions to collect any fees from nonmembers and by permitting unions to use opt-out rather than opt-in schemes when annual dues are billed, our cases have substantially impinged upon the First Amendment rights of nonmembers.” Additionally he said, “Unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of nonmember-employees.”
Two years later, the Foundation assisted a group of Illinois home care providers, including Pam Harris, a mother taking care of her disabled son, in challenging a state scheme authorizing Service Employees International Union officials to require the providers to pay union dues or fees. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys took the case to the Supreme Court, which held that the forced dues requirement violated the First Amendment. The Liberty Justice Center filed an amicus brief in support of Pam Harris and the other plaintiffs with the Supreme Court.
In its Harris ruling, the Court heavily criticized the reasoning of Abood and refused to extend Abood to the “new situation” before it, “[b]ecause of Abood’s questionable foundations, and because the personal assistants are quite different from full-fledged public employees.” The decision held Illinois’ scheme unconstitutional and cracked the door even further open for the Court to revisit Abood and the constitutionality of forced union fees. Justice Alito wrote for the Court, “Except perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”
Last year, it appeared that the Supreme Court was ready to strike down forced union fees for public sector workers for good in the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case. The case was brought by Rebecca Friedrichs and eight other teachers who argued that Abood should be overturned because the forced collection of union fees is a violation of the First Amendment. In that case, attorneys for the Liberty Justice Center filed an amicus brief for Mark Janus and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed a separate amicus brief. Both asked that the High Court strike down compulsory union fees for public employees as a violation of the First Amendment.
Most legal observers agreed that Scalia was set to cast the deciding fifth vote in favor of the plaintiffs. However, his death just weeks before the case was to be decided resulted in a deadlocked court and left Abood in place for the time being. Now, Janus provides another vehicle for the Supreme Court to revisit the constitutionality of compelled union fees for public employees.
To lean more about Janus v. AFSCME please visit .
Illinois Care Providers Ask Supreme Court to Take Case Challenging Forced Union ‘Representation’ Law
Home and Childcare Providers ask the court to strike down unwanted ‘representation’ as a violation of the First Amendment
Washington, D.C. (June 6, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Illinois-based Liberty Justice Center staff attorneys, six personal care and child care providers today petitioned the Supreme Court to strike down a compulsory unionism scheme that grants Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials exclusive monopoly “bargaining” powers with state government for thousands of Illinois caregivers – including many who never joined the union and oppose the union’s so-called ‘representation.’
In the brief, Foundation staff attorneys contend that the state law infringes on the providers’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to associate with a union they do not wish to join or support. Granting the union exclusive power to deal with the State of Illinois over caregiving practices violates the caregivers’ right to choose with whom they associate to petition their own government.
The caregiver’s petition to the Supreme Court in Hill, follows the Right to Work Foundation’s landmark 2014 Supreme Court victory in Harris v. Quinn, which was also filed on behalf of several home-based Illinois care providers. That decision prohibited union officials from collecting mandatory dues or fees from home-based caregivers.
The Hill petition argues that although the Harris case dealt with compelled fees, because the Court ruled that the state’s justification for mandatory fees was insufficient under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court should strike down the compelled association on the same grounds. The petition asks the Court to take the case so that it can apply the same standard to the First Amendment infringements created when state law forces home care providers to accept a government-appointed monopoly union agent against their will. Foundation staff attorneys have also helped home and childcare providers challenge similar schemes in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, and Washington State.
“It is outrageous that across the country state laws force home and child care providers to accept unwanted ‘representation’ from a union they have no interest in joining or supporting,” commented Foundation President Mark Mix. “This is a clear violation of providers’ freedom of association and we are hopeful that this case will build on the Foundation’s landmark 2014 victory in Harris v. Quinn and end these corrupt forced unionism schemes for good.”
New Mexico Worker Hits Employer and Union with Federal Unfair Labor Practice Charges for Coercion and Threats
Worker was threatened with termination unless she signed a dues ‘checkoff’ card and paid full union dues
Albuquerque, NM (June 2, 2017) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Rio Rancho school cafeteria worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Sodexo, Inc (SDXAY:US), and the Western States Regional Joint Board Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Yumiko Traylor is employed by a subsidiary of Sodexo, Inc, as a cafeteria cook in the Rio Rancho, New Mexico, public school system. Currently SEIU officials have a monopoly bargaining agreement with the Sodexo subsidiary, SDH Education West, LLC, that employs Traylor.
On March 8, 2017, Traylor was told by Sodexo that her employment would be terminated if she did not sign a union membership card to join the SEIU and allow Sodexo to deduct union dues and fees from her paycheck and deliver the money directly to the SEIU. Traylor refused to sign the membership card. Because New Mexico is not a Right to Work state, nonmember workers can be forced to pay a portion of union dues as a condition of employment. However, employees who exercise their right to refrain from membership cannot be forced to pay the portion of union dues that goes towards union boss politics and lobbying activities.
On April 28, Sodexo issued Traylor a written warning that she would be terminated unless she signed the membership card. A week later on May 5, Sodexo told Traylor that unless she joined the SEIU and paid dues, it would issue a second written warning that signing the union membership card is a condition of employment. Afraid that she would lose her job for exercising her federally protected right to refuse to join a union, Traylor signed the membership card under protest. At no point did Sodexo or SEIU officials explain her rights and options to remain a nonmember, not sign a membership or ‘checkoff’ card, and pay a reduced fee instead of full union dues.
Traylor approached the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for assistance, and filed federal unfair labor practice charges in mid-May. The charges will now be investigated by the NLRB Region 28 office in Albuquerque.
“No worker should be afraid to exercise their federally protected right to join, or in this case, refuse to join a union,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Rather than attempting to attract the voluntary support of the workers they claim to ‘represent,’ we frequently see union officials attempt to trap workers into dues payments with threats and coercion.”
“Cases like this show why New Mexico needs a Right to Work law to protect workers from coercion and intimidation by union bosses and their crony company officials,” concluded Mix.
MO Right to Work supporters object to deceptive proposed constitutional amendment language approved by former Secretary of State
St. Louis, MO (May 24, 2017) – A group of Missouri workers have a hearing today in their lawsuit challenging the deceptive ballot language on a set of constitutional amendments that would effectively repeal Missouri’s popular new Right to Work law. The three Missourians are represented by a staff attorney from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Seeing the writing on the wall for passage of a Missouri state Right to Work law making union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary, Mike Louis, the Missouri AFL-CIO’s top official, submitted to the Missouri Secretary of State ten proposed amendments to the state constitution. Each of the proposals seek to overturn Missouri’s Right to Work law enacted in February.
The workers’ lawsuit challenges the summary statements and ballot language for the amendments as confusing and misleading. The language was approved by outgoing Secretary of State Jason Kander who ran a failed U.S. Senate campaign that was funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars in union contributions. He approved the ballot language just hours before vacating office, ignoring the fact that none of the petitions even mentioned the Right to Work law that they are designed to nullify. The amendments would appear on the 2018 ballot if union organizers obtain a sufficient number of signatures.
If any of the Big Labor-backed constitutional amendments are put on the ballot and approved by the voters, they would repeal the new Right to Work law and block future passage of any state legislation to protect workers from mandatory union fees. Any future attempt to pass Right to Work would first require another amendment of the state constitution.
In late March, in response to the lawsuit filed by three pro-Right to Work employees with free legal representation provided by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Judge Beetem of the Cole County Circuit court ruled that the proposed language was “unfair and insufficient.” He ordered that the ballot language be rewritten to be more balanced and clearly reflect that the proposed constitutional amendments would repeal Right to Work in Missouri.
The workers then filed a technical appeal so that they can defend the Circuit Court’s decision from union lawyers’ efforts to overturn it and reinstate the misleading language. The hearing in the appeal will be in the Western Division of the Missouri Court of Appeals’ courthouse in Kansas City at 1:30 p.m. Central Time.
“Big Labor continues to resort to any tactic in an attempt to block Missouri’s new Right to Work law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Big Labor knows that the citizens of Missouri believe it is wrong for an employee to be fired simply for refusing to pay union dues or fees to a union boss. That’s why the union bosses are so intent on confusing voters about their goal of restoring their forced dues powers.”
The workers have also filed a lawsuit opposing the language proposed for a Right to Work law repeal referendum filed by the AFL-CIO. That lawsuit alleges that the approved language of the repeal referendum, which would put Missouri’s Right to Work law on hold pending a statewide vote, amazingly, includes grammatical errors and does not meet the statutory requirements that govern the process.
Union Officials Hit with Federal Labor Charges For Blocking Oklahoma Worker’s Right to Leave Union, End Dues Payments
Charge states UFCW union officials deliberately violating protections for workers who want to resign their union membership
Guymon, OK (May 23, 2017) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a local worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the United Food and Commercial Workers District Union Local 2 (UFCW).
Santos Muz Pu is an employee of Seaboard Foods, LLC, in Guymon, Oklahoma. The UFCW Local 2 has a monopoly bargaining contract with Seaboard Foods at the Guymon facility. In early 2017, Muz requested a copy of his union dues check-off authorization from the UFCW union office in Guymon, but officials refused to honor his request.
On February 13, Muz resigned from the UFCW and revoked his dues check-off in a certified letter to the Wichita, KS office after the local union office refused to tell Muz where to send his resignation and dues check-off revocation. However, Muz’s letter was returned due to an undisclosed change in the union’s address.
When Muz contacted the Guymon UFCW office again for assistance, UFCW officials refused to provide any information and threatened him, saying that he would lose his insurance, overtime pay, and paid holidays and vacation days if he left the union.
In late March, Muz was informed in a letter from the Bel-Air, KS, UFCW office that his dues-checkoff revocation was being rejected. That letter alleged that Muz’s check-off revocation was untimely and had not come at the proper time, as well as being submitted to the wrong UFCW office. UFCW bosses continue to seize dues from his paycheck.
In April, Muz reached out to the National Right to Work Foundation for assistance. With free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, Muz has now filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the UFCW for obstructing and interfering with his resignation and revocation attempts. The charges will be investigated by the NLRB Region 14 office in Tulsa, OK.
“In their desire to maintain their forced dues monopoly, union bosses have given this worker the runaround and refused to accept his resignation and check-off revocation,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Rather than attempting to attract the voluntary support of the workers they claim to ‘represent,’ we frequently see union officials attempt to trap workers into dues payments with bureaucratic hurdles and illegal schemes, even in Right to Work states where union membership and financial support are voluntary.”
“Cases like this show that, even in Right to Work states, protections for workers against forced unionism must be vigilantly enforced or else union officials will simply ignore the law and illegally threaten employees,” concluded Mix.
Operating Engineers union bosses continue to demand forced dues in defiance of the National Labor Relations Act
Milwaukee, WI (May 23, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Milwaukee-area worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 139 for refusing to accept his dues checkoff revocation and threatening him with termination unless he paid union dues in conduct that violates the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The worker, Anthony Arnold, is employed at United Rentals in Brookfield, Wisconsin. On August 15, 2015, Arnold sent the union a letter resigning his formal union membership and objecting to paying full union dues. About the same time Arnold also sent a letter to the union revoking his dues checkoff authorization.
When union officials failed to respond and grant his requests, Arnold sent an additional letter to the union in December 2016 stating that he previously had sent letters expressing his right to resign and revoke his dues checkoff authorization. Additionally, he asked for the exact amount of union fees he was required to pay each month and explanation of a mysterious deduction that only said “139 App & Pen.”
In January 2017 the union responded with a letter saying that they would not terminate his dues checkoff authorization until July 1, 2017. The letter did not provide Arnold with all of the financial information he had requested including information about the “139 App & Pen” charge. Arnold’s checkoff card does not include language stating that he signed it irrespective of union membership, which means that he can revoke it at will, according to NLRA case law.
On April 13, 2017, Arnold received another letter from the union. This letter stated that he was behind sixty days in paying his dues–even though he is not a member of the union and had expressed his right to not pay full union dues–and that if he did not pay these dues by the end of month, the union would seek his termination. Fearing for the loss of his job, Arnold paid the union the fees demanded under protest.
“It is outrageous that IUOE union bosses are blatantly violating the NLRA by extorting payment of union dues through threats against a worker’s employment,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These officials’ thuggish tactics against Mr. Arnold shows the importance of vigorous enforcement of the law.”
PA teachers opposed to public sector forced unionism ask court to rule against them to move case toward U.S. Supreme Court
Pittsburgh, PA (May 19, 2017) – Four Pennsylvania teachers have filed a brief in federal court seeking judgment in their case against the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) union. The teachers are represented by staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Fairness Center.
These teachers, led by lead plaintiff Greg Hartnett, are challenging the constitutionality of mandatory union dues and fees for public-sector employees. The teachers are employed by three different school districts and have filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. Their case joins six other National Right to Work Foundation-litigated cases in other states that seek to win a ruling on the issue from the United States Supreme Court.
Nearly 40 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that public-sector workers can be compelled as a condition of employment to pay union fees. However, in two recent National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court decisions, Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), the High Court suggested it was ready to revisit its 1977 precedent in Abood, expressing skepticism about the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced-dues privileges.
In the majority opinion in Knox v. SEIU, which struck down a Service Employee International Union (SEIU) forced dues scheme, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “This form of compelled speech and association imposes a ‘significant impingement on First Amendment rights.’ The justification for permitting a union to collect fees from nonmembers – to prevent them from free-riding on the union’s efforts – is an anomaly.”
The brief filed in Hartnett notes that, because lower courts are bound by past Supreme Court precedents, only the Supreme Court could issue the ruling the teachers seek. The brief therefore asks the district court to grant judgement against the teachers to clear the way for this case to move to the U.S. Court of Appeals and eventually to the Supreme Court.
“Americans overwhelmingly agree that forced dues are wrong. It is an especially egregious violation of the First Amendment for public servants to be required to subsidize union officials’ speech as a condition of working for their own government,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “In Knox the Supreme Court majority acknowledged that compulsory union dues create a serious impingement on the First Amendment rights of public employees. That case only challenged an increase in forced fees imposed without notice. In this case, the teachers are simply asking that the High Court apply the same strict scrutiny to all public sector forced union fees.”
Twenty-nine states have laws that protect public school teachers from forced unionism. Public polling shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans and union members support the Right to Work principle of voluntary unionism.
Appeals Court to Hear Illinois Homecare Providers’ Case Seeking More Than $32 Million in Illegally Seized Union Dues
Despite Supreme Court ruling that the SEIU’s dues scheme was illegal, union officials refuse to refund workers’ money
Chicago, IL (May 17, 2017) – Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger will argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on behalf of Illinois homecare personal assistants in Riffey v. SEIU. The case attempts to win back more than thirty-two million dollars in forced dues illegally seized by a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) scheme that the U.S. Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in the 2014 Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn decision.
The case stems from an executive order issued by former Governor Rob Blagojevich that classified as “public employees” more than 20,000 individuals who provide in-home care to disabled persons receiving state subsidies” which meant that the providers could be unionized. As a result, these in-home care givers, many of them parents caring for their own children, were targets of coercive “card-check” union organizing drives.
Staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation assisted eight of these providers in filing a federal lawsuit challenging the scheme and eventually in petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the case. The High Court took the case and, on June 30, 2014, it Court ruled that SEIU’s forced dues scheme imposed by Governor Blagojevich is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of the in-home care providers.
“If we accepted Illinois’ argument” that homecare workers can be forced to pay union dues, wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. in the majority opinion, “we would approve an unprecedented violation of the bedrock principle that, except perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”
After the Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling in Harris – now designated Riffey v. SEIU – the case was remanded to the District Court to settle the remaining issues, including whether SIEU would be required to return more than $32 million in dues confiscated from nonmembers through its unconstitutional scheme.
In June 2016, the District Court ruled that SEIU did not have to repay these funds. That decision was immediately appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals where Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger will appear today.
“If SEIU union bosses are allowed to keep the millions in unconstitutionally seized dues it would be outrageous and a perversion of justice,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These homecare providers should not have to jump through all these hoops just to get the money that is rightfully theirs after the Supreme Court ruled the dues seizures unconstitutional.”