12 Nov 2019

Ohio School Bus Driver Wins Settlement Against OAPSE Union Bosses Securing Refund of Dues Seized in Violation of Janus First Amendment Rights

Posted in News Releases

OAPSE officials back down when faced with bus driver’s federal lawsuit challenging union’s “escape period” policy as violation of Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision

Cincinnati, OH (November 12, 2019) — With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Ripley Union Lewis Huntington School District bus driver Donna Fizer has just won a settlement requiring Ohio Association of Public School Employees/AFSCME Local 4 (OAPSE) union bosses to refund to her dues they seized from her paycheck in violation of her First Amendment rights.

Fizer’s victory comes after she hit OAPSE officials with a federal lawsuit contending that dues seizures they had made from her paycheck after she resigned her union membership infringed her rights under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. Janus, which the High Court issued in June 2018, mandates that no public employee can be required to pay union fees as a condition of employment, and that union fees can only be collected from a public employee with an “affirmative and knowing” waiver of his or her First Amendment rights.

Fizer notified school board officials in September 2018 that she was “immediately withdrawing [her union] membership” and exercising her First Amendment Janus right to cut off union dues deductions. The school district treasurer quickly complied and stopped the deductions from her paycheck, but OAPSE bosses responded by filing a grievance which alleged that Fizer could not revoke except within a tiny, union-created “escape period” that occurs only 10 days every few years. OAPSE officials demanded in the grievance that the district “make OAPSE whole for all lost dues” and continue to take dues from her wages.

Though the district initially rebuffed the union’s request and responded that “the district will honor the Supreme Court ‘Janus Decision,’” later arbitration proceedings forced by OAPSE upheld the enforcement of the narrow “escape period.” The arbitrator ordered the district to continue seizing dues from Fizer’s paycheck and to seize an additional sum to “make OAPSE whole” for the time period in which the district honored Fizer’s Janus request and stopped deductions.

Fizer fought back by filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. The complaint argued that OAPSE’s “escape period” imposed an illegal hindrance on public employees’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus.

Rather than face Foundation staff attorneys and the Janus precedent in federal court, union officials settled the case. OAPSE bosses have returned to Fizer all the dues they took from her paycheck since the date of her membership revocation, and have notified the district to “cease any further deduction of union dues from her paycheck.”

Foundation staff attorneys have been at the forefront of the fight to defend public employees’ rights under Janus, currently litigating over two dozen cases around the country to enforce the landmark decision. Most recently, Foundation staff attorneys won a settlement for New Mexico information technology worker David McCutcheon and his coworkers, who collectively received over $15,000 in refunds of dues seized by Communications Workers of America (CWA) bosses in violation of their Janus rights.

“Ms. Fizer’s win should serve as another reminder that public sector union bosses cannot legally limit public employees’ First Amendment rights through ‘escape periods’ and other similar schemes,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation will continue to offer free legal aid so workers can bring more lawsuits to ensure that public employees’ Janus rights are fully enforced.”

10 Nov 2019

Supreme Court Asked to Hear Challenge to Monopoly Bargaining Scheme

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Massachusetts educators can only affect their working conditions if they waive their First Amendment rights

Massachusetts

Plaintiffs Dr. Andre Melcuk (left) and Dr. Wm. Curtis Conner (right) asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case challenging Massachusetts’ government union monopoly bargaining scheme as a violation of their First Amendment rights.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In July staff attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, a lawsuit brought by four Massachusetts educators challenging the application of the state’s union monopoly bargaining law as a violation of their constitutional rights.

The educators argue that the state law, which is manipulated by union bosses to block teachers who are not union members from voting or otherwise voicing their opinions in the determination of their own working conditions, illegally deprives non-member teachers of their First Amendment rights.

Plaintiffs Say NEA Teacher Union Bosses Violated First Amendment Rights

The four plaintiffs hail from the University of Massachusetts and the Hanover School Committee. Each has their own reasons for rejecting membership in the National Education Association (NEA) and its local affiliates. While the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision guarantees that union fees and membership are strictly voluntary for all public sector workers, the policy in question unconstitutionally forces them to become full union members just to be able to impact their work environment.

To have any say in their own work conditions, non-members like the four educators would have to waive their First Amendment rights under Janus and join the union, which means paying full union dues and funding union boss political activities.

Four Massachusetts Educators Ask Supreme Court to Apply Janus Precedent

The lead plaintiff, Dr. Ben Branch, is a longtime finance professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a colleague of fellow plaintiff Dr. Wm. Curtis Conner, who teaches chemistry there.

Plaintiff Dr. Andre Melcuk is Director of Departmental Information Technology at the Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at the University. Dr. Melcuk was born in the Soviet Union and opposes the union based on his dislike of collectivist organizations.

Plaintiff Deborah Curran is a long-term teacher in the Hanover Public Schools system. The union officials who supposedly “represent” her attempted to invalidate her promotion to a position mentoring new teachers and pushed to have her investigated and suspended. She ultimately spent nearly $35,000 of her own money battling union officials just to protect her job.

The petition comes after the Massachusetts Supreme Court decided the case against the group in April.

“The Massachusetts Supreme Court’s refusal to apply the Janus ruling has left these educators facing a legally untenable situation: Either they can avoid associating with a union with which they disagree and lose their voices in the workplace, or they can waive their Janus rights and have their money used for ideological causes they oppose,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The state of Massachusetts is forcing these educators to fund state legislators’ union political allies if they want even the most limited participation in the government created bargaining process that controls their conditions of employment.”

“Such schemes border on extortion and it’s time for courts to acknowledge it,” added Mix.

7 Nov 2019

Labor Board to Prosecute NNOC Union for Violating Texas Nurse’s Rights, Union Forced to Settle Other Charge for Ripping Down Nurse’s Posters

Posted in News Releases

National Labor Relations Board complaint says union officials are illegally refusing to turn over to worker a secret agreement between the employer and union bosses

Fort Worth, TX (November 7, 2019) — National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have won a settlement against the National Nurses Organizing Committee/Texas-National Nurses United union for Esther Marissa Zamora, a nurse at a hospital who was trying to educate her co-workers about unions, only to have her informational material seized by union officials. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) also issued a complaint against the union for refusing to give Zamora a copy of a “neutrality agreement” entered into by union officials and her employer.

Zamora works for Corpus Christi Medical Center-HCA in Corpus Christi, Texas, where unions hold monopoly bargaining power over the nurses. According to Zamora’s charge, she was informing her co-workers about the effects of unionization, only to have union officials rip down or confiscate her educational materials.

Faced with Zamora’s evidence, union officials agreed to settle that part of the case and now must post workplace notices that inform all workers about their rights to not join unions. The notices, which the union is required to post for 60 days, also tell workers that the NNOC/Texas-NNU will not “restrain or coerce you in the exercise of the above rights” and “will not confiscate or remove any employee’s flyers related to the union and/or union decertification efforts.”

On October 30, NLRB Region 16 in Fort Worth also issued a formal complaint against the union for refusing to turn over to Zamora a so-called “neutrality agreement” created in secret between the hospital chain where she works and the NNOC/NNU union officials. As an employee, Zamora is entitled to any agreements that the NNOC/NNU union makes with her employer.

So-called neutrality agreements often include special protections for union bosses that allow them access to workers on site and prevent the employer from voicing any opposition to unionization attempts. Some such agreements include promises by union officials to limit contract demands, in some cases even agreeing to wage or benefit limitations in exchange for company assistance in organizing workers.

In this case, Zamora argues that she is entitled to the secret agreement between her employer and NNOC/NNU because it controls her and other employee’s terms and conditions of employment by limiting how the hospital can deal with the union. Zamora’s unfair labor practice charge alleged that union officials accepted “unlawful support and assistance from the employer.”

As part of the NLRB’s complaint about the neutrality agreement, the Regional Office set a hearing date for January 27, 2020 before an NLRB administrative law judge.

“It is telling that union bosses are determined to keep rank-and-file nurses in the dark about the terms of the backroom deal the union struck with hospital officials in exchange for company assistance in organizing these nurses,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said. “So-called ‘neutrality agreements’ often sell-out workers to advance the interests of greedy union bosses, which is probably why the union refuses to disclose it to a nurse whom they know is educating her co-workers about the effects of unionization in her workplace.”

6 Nov 2019

St. Louis Paramedic Appeals to National Labor Relations Board General Counsel in Case Charging Teamsters Officials with Illegal Retaliation

Posted in News Releases

Regional NLRB officials dismissed charge against union even after NLRB General Counsel overturned dismissal in similar union intimidation case just months ago

St. Louis, MO (November 6, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, St. Louis-area paramedic Jarod Aubuchon is appealing his case against Teamsters Local 610 union bosses to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in Washington, DC. Aubuchon’s appeal follows his case’s partial dismissal by NLRB Region 14 officials, who recently dismissed a similar union intimidation case brought by Foundation staff attorneys only to have that decision overturned by the NLRB General Counsel on appeal.

Aubuchon, who is not a member of the Teamsters, posted flyers in common areas of his workplace to inform coworkers of their rights to resign union membership and pay only the portion of union fees directly related to bargaining under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Because Missouri lacks a Right to Work law, private sector employees can still be fired for not paying some union fees.

Aubuchon’s charge recounts that union agents tore down his postings and demanded that the employer, Medic One, discipline him for informing his coworkers of their Beck rights. Shortly afterward, he was brought into a management office and told to stop posting the rights notices. Actions by union officials that cause an employer to discriminate against workers on such grounds are prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The NLRB General Counsel will now review Aubuchon’s case against the union. This July, the General Counsel reversed Region 14 officials’ dismissal of a similar case brought by Foundation staff attorneys for Kansas City-area hospital worker Kacy Warner.

Warner charged officials of the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) union with illegally interfering with a petition she was circulating for a vote to remove the union, including tearing down flyers she had hung in bathrooms and other common areas in her workplace informing employees of the petition. Despite an order from the NLRB General Counsel’s office over three months ago reversing Region 14’s dismissal and demanding that region officials prosecute NNOC for even more rights violations than Warner had mentioned in her original charge, Region 14 has not yet taken action in that case.

The Regional Director was also overturned by the full NLRB in Washington earlier this month for wrongfully dismissing a decertification petition submitted by Illinois-based Pinnacle Foods worker Robert Gentry. After United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union officials agreed to a settlement with Pinnacle Foods which was unrelated to Gentry’s petition, Region 14 dismissed Gentry’s petition at the behest of union bosses as part of approving the settlement. Following the Board’s reversal, Region 14 has finally scheduled the long-awaited decertification vote to take place on November 15.

“The NLRB is charged with enforcing workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act, yet there is a disturbing pattern of Region 14 failing to enforce the rights of rank-and-file workers when doing so advances the interests of union bosses,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It should not take an appeal to Washington, DC, for workers to have their rights fully protected against union boss abuses.”

3 Nov 2019

Foundation Aiding Employees Nationwide to End Restrictions on Janus Rights

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

California math professor wins refunds of illegal dues deductions as more lawsuits are filed

Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating more than 30 cases to enforce workers’ Janus rights, which have yielded successful settlements and dues refunds for employees like math professor Michael McCain

Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating more than 30 cases to enforce workers’ Janus rights, which have yielded successful settlements and dues refunds for employees like math professor Michael McCain.

VENTURA, CA – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys are fighting nationwide in courts to ensure that public sector employees from every walk of life can exercise their First Amendment rights under the Janus v. AFSCME decision, which in 2018 eliminated union dues and fees as a condition of employment for all public sector workers and permits dues deductions only with the affirmative consent of an employee.

Obstinate union bosses have thrown up many roadblocks to prevent the workers they claim to represent from exercising those rights, often enforcing illegal “window periods” where workers can only cut off dues within a tiny, union boss-determined time period once every year or few years, and refusing to return dues seized in violation of workers’ First Amendment rights before or even after the Janus decision came down.

In California, Foundation attorneys recently secured a successful settlement for Michael McCain, a math professor in the Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD). American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union officials forcibly took several months’ worth of illegal dues from McCain after he tried to resign his union membership in the wake of the Janus decision.

The AFT officials argued that McCain had missed the so-called “window” to resign, even though his dues authorization card made no mention of this rule. Foundation attorneys countered that the AFT’s restrictive policy constituted a “violation of [McCain’s] First Amendment right not to subsidize union activity without [his] affirmative consent and known waiver of that…right, as recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME.”

Citing Janus, Foundation staff attorneys filed a class-action lawsuit to stop the illegal policy and to secure refunds for McCain and other VCCCD teachers of “dues deducted . . . without their affirmative and knowing consent.”

Successful Foundation Settlement Wins Refunds for All Affected Professors

Rather than face off against Foundation attorneys and the Janus precedent in court, VCCCD and AFT officials settled the case. Union officials will now “fully and unconditionally” refund to McCain and other teachers who asked to stop paying union dues since Janus was decided all dues illegally taken since the dates of their requests, plus interest.

Additionally, AFT and VCCCD are required by the settlement to not “adopt any policy that restricts to a yearly window period the time” when an employee can revoke his or her dues authorization.

“Union boss schemes like annual ‘escape periods’ serve no purpose other than to continue the flow of illegal dues into union coffers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “All American workers deserve the freedom that Janus promises.”

Though several Foundation lawsuits have yielded favorable settlements and promises to abide by Janus from union bosses even in states like California with heavily ingrained forced unionism laws, Foundation attorneys are fighting for precedents at federal courts that will wipe out union boss schemes meant to thwart Janus.

31 Oct 2019

Operating Engineers Union Hit with Charge for Illegally Demanding Forced Union Fees from Worker in Violation of Supreme Court’s Janus Decision

Posted in News Releases

More than a year after court recognized First Amendment protects state workers from mandatory union payments, IOUE union officials claim forced fees are legal in California

Sacramento, CA (October 31, 2019) – A Sacramento County employee has filed an unfair labor practice charge with California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Stationary Engineers Local 39. His charge, filed with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, states that union bosses demanded fees from him in violation of California labor law because they violated his First Amendment rights.

The employee, Ethan Morris, works at the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant and is not a member of IUOE Stationary Engineers. According to his charge, in July 2019 he received a notice from an IUOE financial secretary which claimed that “employees who do not join the Union must pay a…fee” to the union as a condition of employment, and that such mandatory fees are “legal and enforceable in California” via direct deductions from nonmember employees’ paychecks.

Morris’ charge argues that the union’s fee demands are a clear violation of his First Amendment rights under the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In Janus, a majority of the Court recognized that union dues or fees cannot be mandatory for public employees and may only be deducted from government workers’ paychecks if they have given “affirmative and knowing” waivers of their First Amendment right not to subsidize a union.

Morris’s charge maintains that IUOE Stationary Engineers bosses thus breached his rights under California’s Milias-Meyers-Brown Act (MMBA). That statute provides Golden State workers “the right to refuse to join or participate in the activities of employee organizations” and prohibits unions from “coerc[ing] or discriminat[ing] against” employees for exercising that right. Morris demands that union officials rectify the situation by stopping the illegal fee demands and posting a PERB-approved notice informing his coworkers of their right to refrain from union activities and acknowledging that compulsory fee demands violate that right.

Across the country, Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating more than 30 cases to defend public employees’ First Amendment rights under Janus, which was successfully argued at the US Supreme Court by Foundation staff attorney William Messenger. In addition, Foundation staff attorneys have already won several cases enforcing Janus, including one for Ventura County Community College District math professor Michael McCain after American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union officials illegally attempted to restrict the time period in which he and his colleagues could exercise their Janus rights and cut off dues payments. In July, McCain won a settlement requiring AFT union bosses to stop blocking workers from exercising those rights and to provide refunds to workers who had dues seized because of the illegal policy.

“Union bosses have been caught red-handed lying to workers about their Janus rights in this case because Ethan Morris learned his legal rights before signing them away in the face of their illegal demands. Yet, for every worker who rebuffs illegal union threats there are almost certainly thousands of workers who unknowingly sign away their rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case shows why states must proactively protect their workers’ First Amendment rights and ensure that every worker fully understands their Janus rights and must not deduct any union dues or fees unless a worker knowingly and voluntarily waives those rights.”

30 Oct 2019

Teamsters Officials Misled Pepsi Employee About His Rights, Attempted to Have Him Fired for Asking About Leaving Union

Posted in News Releases

Albany-area worker filed unfair labor practice charge against Teamsters at National Labor Relations Board with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation

Latham, NY (October 30, 2019) — National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed an unfair labor practice charge on behalf of an employee of a Pepsi plant, against a local Teamsters union after union officials wrongly told him he would have to join the union as a condition of employment, tried to get him fired and would not allow him to exercise his legal right to resign from the union.

Vince Zasonski works for a Pepsi-Cola production plant in Lathan, New York where Teamsters Local 294 have a bargaining agreement which includes a union security clause, making union payments mandatory. In the summer of 2018, Zasonski, who did not voluntarily join the union, wanted to leave union membership, but a union official told him that because New York is not a Right to Work state, he would have to stay in the union.

In that statement, which came after Zasonski inquired about resigning from the union, the union fundamentally misstated workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act and longstanding legal precedents. While New York workers lack Right to Work protections that make all union payments strictly voluntary, Empire State workers still have the right to resign their formal membership and pay only the portion of union dues allowed under the Supreme Court’s Communications Workers of America v. Beck decision, which said unions cannot force workers to pay for activities unrelated to bargaining such as union political and lobbying activities.

The official then tried to get Zasonski fired for seeking to resign his union membership. In August of 2019, Zasonski wrote to union officials to resign his union membership and assert his Beck rights.

Union officials, however, still have not responded to his letter or recognized his legal rights. The unfair labor practice charge Zasonski filed with the free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys states that union officials never explained that he could resign from the union or that he could assert his Beck rights, nor did they provide him with a breakdown of fees according to the Beck standard or reduce Zasonski’s dues as he asked.

The union continues to unlawfully take a cut of Zasonski’s paycheck as if he were a full member of the union despite his attempts to resign membership and exercise his rights not to pay dues that support union political activities in violation of his rights.

“Lying to employees about their right to resign from union membership and their ability to stop paying full dues shows what lengths greedy union bosses will go to pad union coffers, even if it means violating the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case shows why every worker in America needs the protection of a Right to Work law that makes union membership and financial support strictly voluntary.”

23 Oct 2019

Pinnacle Foods Employee Wins National Labor Relations Board Decision Affirming Right to Remove UFCW Union Opposed by Workers

Posted in News Releases

NLRB: Settlement deal between employer and union officials cannot nullify workers’ legal right to hold a decertification election to remove union

Washington, DC (October 23, 2019) — With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an Illinois-based employee of Pinnacle Foods Group LLC (a Conagra Brands subsidiary), Robert Gentry, has just won a decision from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which affirms the right of workers to hold a vote to remove an unpopular union from their workplaces. The decision comes after union officials and Pinnacle Foods signed off on a settlement which the union and NLRB Regional Director claimed blocked Gentry and his coworkers from exercising their right to hold a union decertification election.

Gentry first submitted a petition for a decertification vote in August 2018. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881 union officials immediately attempted to block the election by filing unfair labor practice charges against Pinnacle Foods. Despite UFCW officials’ allegations being unrelated to Gentry’s petition to remove the union, the NLRB Region 14 Director approved a settlement between UFCW officials and Pinnacle Foods which purportedly created a seven-month “bar” on decertification elections, on top of a previous one-year “bar.”

Although not mandated or even mentioned by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), prior NLRB actions have created the so-called “settlement bar” doctrine, which blocks workers for a period of time from exercising their statutory right to hold a vote to remove a union.

With legal representation by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Gentry submitted a request for review to the NLRB in Washington, DC, demanding that the Board reverse the dismissal by the Region 14 Director and allow the decertification vote to proceed. The request argued that the Regional Director was wrong to use the settlement – to which Gentry was never party – to approve a block on the decertification election. “[T]he Regional Director cannot seriously contend that the petition should be dismissed…for the simple fact that…it is Mr. Gentry’s and the employees’ petition” and not that of the union or employer, the request reads.

The request further pointed out that the settlement agreement being used to block the workers right to a decertification vote contained a “non-admission” clause which plainly stated that the settlement “[did] not…constitute an admission, finding, or adjudication” that Pinnacle Foods had violated the NLRA. It also said that such a “mere presumption” of employer wrongdoing “is not…sufficient to thwart a decertification election.”

The decision from the NLRB in Washington, DC, now orders the Region 14 Director to process Gentry’s request for a decertification vote. The three-member majority agreed with the reasoning in Gentry’s request for review, ruling that “[b]ecause [Gentry] did not consent to the settlement agreement, we find that the settlement agreement can neither waive [his] right to have his decertification petition processed nor delay” a decertification election.

Foundation staff attorneys have long urged the NLRB to eliminate such “bar” doctrines that are not mandated by the statute enacted by Congress, which block workers from holding decertification votes authorized by the NLRA. Though agency officials announced last year that they would work in rulemaking to address some of these barriers to workers holding decertification votes, Foundation Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse wrote a letter last year encouraging the agency to go further and eliminate all “bars” which run contrary to the NLRA by trapping workers in union boss ranks where even large majorities oppose the union.

“Although it’s good news that Robert Gentry and his coworkers will belatedly be given the opportunity to exercise their right to remove a union they oppose, this case shows how the so-called ‘settlement bar’ and other ‘bars’ are manipulated by union bosses to trample workers’ statutory rights under federal labor law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union bosses should not be able to trap workers in union ranks on the basis of a settlement to which the workers were not party and to which they had no say.”

“It’s long past time the NLRB put employee free choice back at the center of American labor law and eliminated the numerous ‘bars’ and doctrines that block workers from exercising their right to removing union officials they oppose,” added Mix.

21 Oct 2019

Foundation Wins Settlement in Case Challenging CWA Union Scheme to Block New Mexico State Employees from Exercising Janus Rights

Posted in News Releases

Union officials to pay back more than $16,000 illegally seized from workers’ paychecks and remove union-imposed restrictions on cutting off dues payments

Albuquerque, N.M. (October 21, 2019) — National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have won a settlement in a case to protect New Mexico state employees’ rights as recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision last year.

As the result of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union, CWA union officials will refund thousands of dollars taken from state employees and eliminate a union policy that blocked workers from opting out of paying dues. The settlement agreement, executed last Thursday, resolved the class-action lawsuit filed in December by New Mexico Department of Information Technology (DoIT) employee David McCutcheon against CWA union Local 7076 and New Mexico’s State Personnel Director Pamela D. Coleman.

As part of the settlement, the union officials will remove the union-created “escape period” which limited when workers could revoke their dues authorization. The union will also pay back fully, plus interest, all dues taken from McCutcheon and others who had attempted to exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus, but were blocked from doing so because of the “escape period” restrictions.

“Local 7076 and CWA will not enter into any [union contract] with the State of New Mexico that restricts to a yearly window period the time when a bargaining unit member may revoke a previously authorized dues deduction authorization,” the settlement reads.

All told, CWA union officials will refund more than $15,000 taken from 67 state employees, plus an additional $1,000 paid to McCutcheon for dues taken before Janus. The settlement became final today when District Court Judge Martha Vazquez approved a joint motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

McCutcheon works as an IT technician at New Mexico’s DoIT and was forced to pay union dues as a member before the Janus ruling last summer. After the Foundation-won victory, McCutcheon attempted to end the dues payments only to be told he could only do so during a brief two-week period in December.

Public sector union bosses across the country have attempted to enforce such schemes to block workers from exercising their Janus rights, resulting in over a dozen cases brought with National Right to Work Foundation legal aid. In addition to McCutcheon’s lawsuit, union officials in Minnesota, Ohio and California have also rescinded such policies rather than litigate against Foundation staff attorneys in federal court.

“Respecting workers’ Janus rights is not optional, it’s the law. Public sector workers’ First Amendment rights cannot be limited to just a few days a year,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These union boss created ‘window periods’ clearly infringe on workers’ rights and are being struck down in lawsuits coast-to-coast brought with Foundation legal aid.”

21 Oct 2019

UConn Professor Receives Over $5,000 in Post-Janus Settlement

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, July/August 2019 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Foundation-backed rule clarification takes aim at SEIU’s illicit $100 million per year money grab

UConn Professor Steven Utke

Rather than face Foundation staff attorneys in court, union bosses refunded the forced dues seized from UConn professor Steven Utke in violation of his First Amendment rights.

STORRS, CT – Steven Utke, an accounting professor at the University of Connecticut, has received a settlement for $5,251.48 from American Association of University Professors (AAUP) union officials in his action, claiming the AAUP seized union dues in violation of his First Amendment rights. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys forced AAUP to settle after filing a federal lawsuit for Utke.

The case joins other Foundation-won settlements for workers who were forced to pay union fees in violation of their First Amendment rights. Despite those victories, Foundation staff attorneys continue to litigate about 30 other cases, seeking to enforce various aspects of the Foundation’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court victory, with more being added every month as workers contact the Foundation seeking to exercise their Janus rights.

Lawsuit Filed to Refund Unconstitutional Paycheck Deductions

Utke started teaching at the University of Connecticut in 2015, and exercised his right to refrain from membership in the AAUP from the beginning of his employment. However, because Connecticut lacks a Right to Work law making union financial support strictly voluntary, AAUP officials began deducting union fees immediately from Utke’s paycheck despite the fact he was not a member.

When the Supreme Court ruled in Janus that requiring public sector workers to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment is a breach of the First Amendment, AAUP stopped the compulsory fee deductions. However, AAUP officials did not return the forced fees seized in violation of the First Amendment from the professor prior to the June 2018 Supreme Court decision.

Utke reached out to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid, and on January 14, 2019 Foundation staff attorneys filed a lawsuit for Utke in federal court to force the union officials to refund the money they seized from him without his consent.

Fearing Foundation, AAUP Bosses Back Down and Refund Forced Fees

In April, rather than face Foundation staff attorneys in federal court, AAUP backed down and settled the case. Now, as stipulated by the terms of the settlement, AAUP officials have paid Utke more than the union fees seized in violation of his rights from 2015 to 2018.

Also as part of the settlement, they are required not to collect any dues or fees from Utke’s future wages, unless he affirmatively chooses to become a member of AAUP and authorizes such deductions.

“Steven Utke’s victory represents yet another landmark in the fight to enforce the Janus decision, but with dozens of additional Janus enforcement cases still pending, much work remains to force Big Labor to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision,” observed National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse. “Foundation staff attorneys will not rest until every worker in America is free to exercise the right to decide whether or not to fund union activities.”