P.R. Aqueduct and Sewer Authority employee’s lawsuit against union officials and Governor’s office for illegal forced dues seizures
San Juan, PR (November 28, 2017) – Utilizing free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Puerto Rican Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) employee in San Juan, PR has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced dues powers.
The case argues that Puerto Rico’s labor law requiring the plaintiff employee to join the union and pay union dues as a condition of government employment violates his First Amendment rights. Reynaldo Cruz is a PRASA plant operator who has been forced to pay union dues despite attempting to exercise his right to resign from Unión Independiente Auténtica De Los Empleados De La Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados union (UIA) last year.
Late last year, Cruz sent letters to UIA and PRASA resigning his union membership and objecting to the payment of the portion of forced dues that are used for UIA’s political and ideological activities. Cruz cited his First Amendment rights under the National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court case Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, including the right to pay reduced dues.
UIA officials responded rejecting his request, informing Cruz that if he wished to cease his union membership and stop paying dues, then he must end his employment with PRASA or seek a position outside their monopoly bargaining unit. Union officials and PRASA bosses continued deducting money from Cruz’s paycheck for full forced union dues as a condition of employment.
On April 4 of this year, Cruz’s Foundation-provided staff attorney sent union and PRASA officials a notice requesting back pay for dues illegally taken as well immediate cessation of all dues deductions from Cruz’s paycheck. UIA officials and PRASA administrators denied Cruz’s requests, citing the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s statutes authorizing “all-union agreements” and “maintenance of membership agreements.”
In response, Cruz is suing UIA officials and PRASA administrators for infringing upon his rights recognized by the Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent. Because Cruz is challenging the constitutionality of PR statutes, he has also named the Governor of Puerto Rico in his suit.
In addition to asking the union to respect his rights under the Hudson precedent, Cruz is also asking the court to rule that forced payment of any union dues or fees violates his First Amendment rights. That issue is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Foundation-backed Janus v. AFSCME case. Janus was filed for an Illinois government employee, Mark Janus, who is forced to pay dues to AFSCME union officials.
Janus is expected to be argued in January, with a decision likely by the end of the Supreme Court’s term in June. Cruz’s case joins six other ongoing Foundation-backed cases challenging mandatory union payments for government employees as a violation of the First Amendment.
“This case shows the lengths to which union officials will go to extort every last cent from workers they claim to ‘represent’, even in clear violation of long-standing Supreme Court precedent,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Every American worker, whether in the 50 states or in Puerto Rico, should have Right to Work protections that ensure that union membership and dues payment are strictly voluntary.”
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.