Anchorage, AK (January 8, 2013) – Five Alaska State Troopers have filed the first federal lawsuit that seeks to expand public employees’ right to refrain from paying union dues used for union politics in light of last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Knox v. SEIU.
Robin Benning, Patrick Johnson, Andrew Neason, Chris Terry, and Ken VanSpronsen filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in Anchorage with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
The troopers refrain from formal union membership in the Public Safety Employees Association (PSEA) union, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 803. Because they are not formal union members, the troopers have a right not to pay the part of union dues used for union politics, lobbying, and member-only events.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled in the Foundation-won Knox v. SEIU decision that California state employees who refrain from formal union membership could not be compelled to pay for union politicking via a "special assessment" for a self-described "political fight back fund." The Court's majority ruled for the first time that union officials must obtain affirmative consent from workers before using workers' forced union fees for union politicking.
The Alaskan troopers are seeking to expand that decision to apply to all instances when public employees refrain from union membership, as all nonmember public employees are currently required to invoke their right to refrain from paying union dues for union politics. Nonmember public employees who do not affirmatively object to paying full union dues are now automatically compelled to pay full union dues from their paychecks – including the dues used for union boss politics. Worse, workers who do exercise their right not to pay full union dues are required to renew their objections annually.
"Union bosses have the government-granted power to automatically compel workers to fund their political activities unless workers object – a power granted to no other private organization in our country," said Mark Mix, president of National Right to Work. "The First Amendment right for workers who refrain from union membership to automatically refrain from paying union dues for politics is long overdue."
Early last year, Benning and Johnson sued the PSEA union and the state after union and state officials continued to deduct full union dues from the troopers' paychecks even though they resigned from union membership. That case was eventually settled.