Lawsuit challenges two public sector unions’ “window period” schemes as violation of the First Amendment under Supreme Court’s Janus decision
Portland, OR (November 20, 2018) – A group of Oregon public employees have filed a federal class action complaint against two public sector unions and their employers. The lawsuit seeks to end union officials’ “window period” policies that block thousands of workers from exercising their constitutional right under the U.S. Supreme Court Janus decision to refrain from financially supporting a union.
The case was filed at the United States District Court for the District of Oregon by ten public employees with free legal representation from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Freedom Foundation. The lawsuit names as defendants Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503, Oregon Public Employees Union; American Federation of State, Local, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 75; and the employers who continue to extract money from the workers’ wages under the “window period” policies without the workers’ consent.
After the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, briefed and won by Foundation staff attorneys, held that public sector workers cannot be forced to pay union fees without their affirmative consent, each plaintiff employee resigned his or her union membership and notified the union and their employer that they no longer authorized deductions of union dues and fees from their paychecks.
However, union officials refused to allow the workers to stop paying union dues. Instead, union officials informed them that they could only stop payments during a short annual “window period” of just a few days. Despite the workers’ asserting their rights under Janus, the government agencies continue to deduct union dues from their wages at the unions’ behest.
The case challenges the union officials’ “window period” policies as a violation of the First Amendment. In the landmark Janus decision, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require government workers to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Additionally, the Court clarified that no union dues or fees can be taken from those workers without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right to refrain from financially supporting a union.
The class action lawsuit argues that the workers’ deduction authorizations signed before Janus were not and could not have been knowing waivers of their First Amendment rights, as the Janus protections had not been recognized at the time. The suit also argues that the unions’ policies restricting workers’ First Amendment rights to a window of time is unconstitutional.
The complaint asks that the court certify classes to include all employees under the monopoly bargaining contracts of SEIU Local 503 and AFSCME Council 75 who were blocked from exercising their First Amendment rights when they resigned union membership and attempted to halt dues deductions after the Janus decision. Only the union officials know the exact number of employees who have attempted to but have been blocked by the policies, but the classes potentially include hundreds or thousands of victims.
“These public sector workers join many others across the country in standing up to Big Labor’s coercive tactics,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union officials have a long history of manipulating ‘window period’ schemes, arbitrary union-enacted limitations trapping workers into forced dues, and other obstacles designed to block individuals from exercising their constitutional rights. The Foundation’s victory in Janus at the Supreme Court provided much-needed protection, but as this case shows union bosses are now defying the Supreme Court to continue their abusive practices.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed similar class action lawsuits enforcing the Janus ruling across the country, and are receiving more calls from workers seeking to exercise their rights under the Janus precedent. To assist public employees in learning about their First Amendment rights under Janus, the Foundation established a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
National Right to Work Foundation Celebrates Kentucky Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Bluegrass State’s Right to Work Law
Frankfort, KY (November 15, 2018) – Today, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the Commonwealth’s popular Right to Work statute, ending the spurious Big Labor-funded effort to resume the forcing of workers to pay union officials just to keep their job.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement in response to the decision:
“Although hardly a surprise, today’s ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court is great victory for Kentucky workers, as the Court rejected a desperate attempt by union bosses attempt to re-impose their power to have a worker fired for refusing to pay dues or fees to a union they oppose. The Commonwealth’s Right to Work law simply protects workers’ freedom to choose and ensures that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary. It is no surprise that Right to Work in Kentucky has led to billions in economic investment and thousands of new jobs statewide and today’s decision means that, despite the wishes of Big Labor, Kentuckians will continue to reap the benefits that come with protecting workers’ rights.”
Nebraska Worker Files Federal Charges Challenging Teamsters Officials’ “Window Period” Scheme Obstructing Right to Stop Dues Payments
Unfair labor practice charge with federal labor board says Teamsters union illegally limited worker’s right to stop seizure of dues
Omaha, NE (November 15, 2018) – Dairy industry worker Idalberto Jimenez Destrade has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against Teamsters Local Union 554 for the union officials’ scheme to block him from exercising his legal right to stop paying union dues after resigning his union membership. Destrade filed the charge at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Destrade works for Lala Branded Products in Omaha. He notified union officials in writing on September 21 that he resigned his Teamsters union membership and revoked authorization for further dues deductions.
Nebraska is one of 27 states with Right to Work laws that make union payments voluntary. Nebraska adopted Right to Work provisions in 1946, among the first states to do so in the country.
Despite Destrade’s request, Teamsters union officials have continued to seize membership dues out of his wages. Union officials cited a union-created policy that arbitrarily limits a worker’s right to end dues payments to just 15 days.
Union officials responded to Destrade in a letter sent on October 24, acknowledging that they had received his request, but that he had missed the 15-day “window period” to revoke his dues check-off authorization between October 5 and October 20. Teamsters officials rejected Destrade’s request to revoke his checkoff authorization because it arrived prior to this so-called “window period.”
However, because union officials waited until just days after their “window period” had ended to provide Destrade with this information, he was then too late to revoke according to the union policy.
The charge alleges that union officials coerced and restrained Destrade from exercising his rights guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act and seeks legal relief for Destrade and all similarly affected workers subject to the same illegal union policy.
“Union bosses repeatedly resort to so-called ‘window period’ rules to block workers from resigning their union membership and stopping forced-dues deductions,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Even in Right to Work states, Big Labor has a long history of utilizing underhanded tactics to deny workers their legal rights and to seize part of the hard-earned wages of workers like Mr. Destrade.”
Foundation staff attorneys have pursued numerous other legal actions for workers across the country after union officials used similar union-enacted “window period” schemes to deny workers’ requests to resign their union membership and stop paying union dues.
Hospital Employee Challenges “Contract Bar” and Other Restrictions on Employees’ Right to Hold Vote to Oust SEIU Union
NLRB board agent: wrong to rely on NLRB website for advice
Washington, D.C. (November 15, 2018) – Today, a hospital employee in California filed a Request for Review with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, D.C. to overturn a Regional Director’s decision to invalidate his petition to remove the SEIU union from his workplace with a secret ballot vote. The worker, Andrew Brown, received free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys in filing his Request for Review.
In October, Brown, a surgical buyer at USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, California, petitioned for a vote to remove the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – United Healthcare Workers West union as monopoly bargaining agent for him and his coworkers. Despite having followed the NLRB website’s instructions on union decertification petitions, including collecting signatures from over 30 percent of his colleagues as required, union officials claimed Mr. Brown’s decertification petition was untimely.
In a decision dated October 25, the Director of NLRB Region 31 in Los Angeles agreed with the union. She held that the NLRB’s “contract bar” rules, with their confusing “window periods” that limit when employee petitions can be filed – 60-90 days before a contract expires in most workplaces but 90-120 days in healthcare settings – governed. The director held that Brown’s petition was two days late under these confusing rules. She also ruled that he was wrong to rely on the NLRB’s website for advice on calculating his filing dates. Brown, who did not have an attorney at the time, had followed instructions on the NLRB’s website and actually waited to file his petition based on what he understood was the first day he was allowed to do so.
The Request for Review asks the NLRB to overturn the Regional Director’s decision and permit Brown and his coworkers to vote on whether to oust the union. Brown not only argues that the decision to block his vote misapplied existing NLRB policies, but also asks the NLRB to end the existing policy restricting decertification petitions to a limited 30-day window.
In the Request for Review, Brown and his Foundation staff attorneys argue that the so-called “contract bar” rule is contrary to the stated purpose of the National Labor Relations Act which the NLRB is charged with administering, because the rule results in workers trapped in union monopoly ranks even when a majority of them oppose unionization. As Right to Work attorneys note, the “contract bar” is not authorized or even mentioned in the National Labor Relations Act.
The Request for Review also argues that the petition for a vote should be processed because Brown followed the advice on the NLRB website as best he could and still missed the purported deadline by fewer than 48 hours. The Request for Review argues that arbitrary rules, such as the “contract bar” rule cited by union officials to block Brown’s petition, create contradictory and confusing guidelines for rank-and-file workers to follow, and allow union officials to game the system to prevent workers from escaping from forced unionism ranks, even when a significant majority would vote a union out.
“It’s long past time for the NLRB to fundamentally reform its arbitrary rules used to trap workers in union forced dues ranks, even when a majority of workers oppose unionization,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The so-called contract bar, like the other arbitrary limitations that are used to stop workers from even holding a vote to oust an unpopular union, has no basis in law—it’s simply a relic of past NLRB bureaucrats who put the power of union bosses ahead of the rights of workers that the National Labor Relations Act is supposed to protect.”
Puerto Rico Public Employees: U.S. Supreme Court Janus Decision Protects Your Right to Resign From Union & End Dues Payments
National Right to Work Foundation Legal Notice: Requirements claiming to block resignation of union membership violate First Amendment
Puerto Rico (November 14, 2018) – In response to a Puerto Rico superior court ruling purporting to require executive branch employees to wait up to a year before resigning from a union and ending dues payments, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have issued a Special Legal Notice for all Puerto Rico government employees who wish to exercise their right to cut off support for a union.
The notice can be found here: https://www.nrtw.org/prjanus/
A Spanish language version can be found here: https://www.nrtw.org/es/prjanus/
The notice comes after a September 25 ruling by the Puerto Rico superior court asserting that executive branch employees can be forced to wait one year before they can legally resign from a union and withdraw their dues deduction authorization. The judge ruled for union officials who erroneously claimed that the Supreme Court’s Janus decision only applies to non-union workers.
Under Janus, all public sector employees have the right to resign their union membership and stop any financial payments to union officials. The Supreme Court decision made it clear that public workers must opt-in to any union payments and that any payment made without a worker’s voluntary consent is a violation of that employee’s First Amendment right.
Under a section of Puerto Rico Law 134, employees of the Puerto Rico executive branch can only end dues payments a full year after their dues deduction authorizations’ effective date. However, that requirement conflicts with the June Supreme Court ruling in Janus and is no longer enforceable.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, released the following statement regarding the notice:
“Contrary to the wishes of Puerto Rico union bosses, under the Supreme Court’s landmark Janus decision, public sector employees have a First Amendment right to resign from a union and cut off financial support for union activities at any time. That constitutional right cannot be limited by union policies, regulation, or statute.
“Any public employee in Puerto Rico who has been blocked from stopping union payments, as is their right under Janus, should immediately contact the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal assistance.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys already represent workers in lawsuits across the country who have been wrongly blocked from exercising their rights under Janus. In Puerto Rico, staff attorneys represent Reynaldo Cruz, a plant operator at the Puerto Rico Sewer and Water Authority, as he fights to exercise his Janus rights to resign his union membership.
Because of the numerous requests from workers for information about their rights under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME decision, the Foundation established MyJanusRights.org to educate public employees about their protections under Janus.
The site also enables workers to request free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation if their rights are not being respected by union officials.
New Jersey Teachers File Class Action Lawsuit against Teacher Union for Violating Rights under Supreme Court’s Janus Decision
Class action lawsuit challenges a NJ law that blocks workers from exercising First Amendment rights outside 10 day “window period”
Trenton, New Jersey (November 5, 2018) – Two New Jersey public school teachers have filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Township of Ocean Education Association (TOEA), New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and the National Education Association (NEA) unions, with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Teachers Susan G. Fischer and Jeanette Speck, for themselves and potentially thousands of other teachers across the state, are asking the U.S. District Court for New Jersey to order NJEA union officials to refund illegally-seized union dues taken from teachers without their consent and in violation of their First Amendment rights as protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME.
In Janus, which was argued and won by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, the High Court ruled it unconstitutional to require public employees to subsidize a labor union. The Court further held that any union dues or fees taken without a public employee’s affirmative consent violates the employee’s First Amendment rights.
As the complaint details, union officials refused to allow Fischer and Speck to stop payment of union dues when they resigned their membership in July 2018. Township officials said the teachers could only stop payments and withdraw their membership during an annual 10-day window period based on a newly passed New Jersey state law.
In May, New Jersey legislators enacted a law to limit workers from exercising their rights under Janus except during the annual 10-day window. At the time Janus was pending a decision at the Supreme Court. The teachers’ class action suit argues that the New Jersey law is unconstitutional and must be struck down.
The teachers also seek a refund of membership dues forcibly taken after they resigned their union membership, as well as for all other public employees who attempted to resign following Janus. The lawsuit is similar to several other cases around the country pursued by public employees with assistance from Foundation staff attorneys following the Janus ruling.
For example, in two ongoing lawsuits, Pennsylvania school bus driver Michael Mayer and California court worker Mark Smith each filed federal complaints after union officials blocked their attempts to exercise their rights under Janus.
“Contrary to the wishes of New Jersey union bosses and their allies in the state legislature, First Amendments rights cannot be limited to just 10 days out of the year,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The Foundation-won Janus decision at the Supreme Court recognized that all civil servants may exercise their rights to free speech and free association by resigning their union membership and cutting off union payments whenever they choose. Despite the ongoing resistance by union officials to the rights of the workers they claim to represent, Foundation staff attorneys remain committed to enforcing the constitutional rights of Susan, Jeanette, and millions of other public sector workers guaranteed by Janus.”
To inform workers of their legal rights under Janus, and ensure they know they can turn to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal aid if union officials attempt to obstruct them from exercising those rights, the Foundation launched a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
Homecare Provider Files Class Action Lawsuit to Stop SEIU’s Unconstitutional Collection of Union Dues
SEIU officials’ “window period” policy traps provider into supporting union after unsolicited telemarketer pressured provider into forced dues
Sacramento, CA (November 2, 2018) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have filed a class action complaint challenging a union scheme to violate the rights of California homecare providers. The complaint challenges union officials’ “window period” policy that blocks the provider from exercising her constitutional right to refrain from financially supporting a union, despite the fact that she only became a member under pressure during an unsolicited phone conversation.
Delores Polk, who provides home healthcare to her daughter, is not a voluntary member of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015. However, an SEIU telemarketer called her and read Polk the terms of the local union’s membership and dues deduction authorization. Pressured by the unsolicited phone call, Polk reluctantly agreed to join.
Polk notes in her complaint that she was not notified of her First Amendment rights, protected by the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME, to refrain from joining or subsidizing SEIU Local 2015 and did not sign any written documentation agreeing to be a union member or waiving her First Amendment rights.
Days after the phone call, Polk researched SEIU Local 2015 and realized she did not want to financially support the organization, as doing so does not reflect her values and also for financial reasons. Polk called SEIU Local 2015 and told them she did not want to be a union member and did not consent to union dues deductions. However, in a letter sent after her phone call, SEIU officials claimed that Polk had missed the “window period” to cut off payments and could not opt out for another year, and then only through written notice.
Despite her lack of consent, the California State Controller, at the behest of SEIU Local 2015, continues to deduct union dues from the Medicaid funds Polk receives to care for her daughter. The State Controller and SEIU Local 2015 officials also continue to enforce their “window period” policy against other providers.
Polk came to Foundation staff attorneys for free legal aid in filing her class action complaint against SEIU Local 2015 and the State Controller of California. Polk’s charges allege that the “window period” policy violates her constitutional right to refrain from paying union dues or fees.
Under the Foundation-won Supreme Court Harris v. Quinn decision, Polk and homecare providers across the country cannot be forced to pay union fees without their consent. The 2014 ruling declared unconstitutional an Illinois scheme that classified individual homecare providers as “public employees” so they could be unionized by the SEIU and forced to pay union dues. Furthermore, in Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court affirmed that it is unconstitutional for union dues and fees to be collected without an individual’s affirmative consent and clear, knowing waiver of their First Amendment rights.
The complaint requests that the court certify a class including all home healthcare providers who have been forced to pay union dues even after notifying the State Controller or SEIU Local 2015 officials that they do not consent to financially supporting the union.
“Ms. Polk’s case shows that union officials will ignore the clear wishes of the workers they claim to ‘represent’ simply to line their pockets with coerced fees,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union officials have a long history of manipulating ‘window period’ rules, arbitrary union-enacted limitations on ending dues payments, and other obstacles designed to block individuals from exercising their constitutional rights. Although the Foundation’s victories in Harris and Janus provide important protections, a clear ruling is needed to put an end to these union bosses’ abusive practices.”
WMATA Exec, Metro Unions Warned: Stop Violating Workers’ First Amendment Rights Protected by Janus Supreme Court Decision
National Right to Work Foundation letter says WMATA could face civil rights lawsuits if it doesn’t stop seizing union fees from workers who don’t consent
Washington, DC (October 30, 2018) – Today, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation sent a letter to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority warning WMATA against failing to comply with the legal protections for public workers under the U.S. Supreme Court’s June Janus v. AFSCME decision.
The Janus case was argued and won by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. In June the Supreme Court held that mandatory union fees violate the constitutional rights of public employees and ruled that it violates the First Amendment when any union fees are taken from public employees who have not given affirmative consent to such deductions.
However, Foundation staff attorneys have received reports that WMATA continues to deduct union dues or fees from the wages of employees who do not consent to those deductions. The Foundation letter urges WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld to immediately stop deducting union fees from the wages of all such employees.
The letter notes that any deduction authorization signed prior to Janus does not constitute legal waiver of a workers’ constitutional right to not pay. If WMATA does not comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling, the letter explains that “Foundation staff attorneys will bring a civil rights action seeking class-wide injunctive relief, damages, and attorneys’ fees for any injured employees who request their assistance.”
Copies of the letter were also sent to Teamsters Local 639 and ATU Local 689, who may be receiving forced fees collected in violation of the rights of WMATA employees.
“Janus is a landmark victory for workers’ rights, ensuring that while workers can choose to join and financially support a union if they choose, they cannot be forced to fund a union against their will,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Unfortunately, Foundation staff attorneys have been contacted by WMATA employees about violations of their Janus rights, demonstrating that even a mile or two from the Supreme Court a long road remains ahead to ensure public employees’ rights are fully respected.”
“The good news is, workers will always have an ally in the National Right to Work Foundation if they choose to stand up against coercive forced union dues schemes,” continued Mix.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating more than fifteen cases seeking to enforce public employees’ rights under the Janus precedent.
The Foundation has also established MyJanusRights.org to inform government employees of their new rights. At the site, public employees can learn about their First Amendment rights and request free legal aid.
Fenway Worker Wins Too: Ballpark Worker Wins Back Pay After Being Illegally Fired for Resigning from Union
Vendor at Fenway Park receives back pay after federal labor charges following his termination for exercising legal right to refrain from union membership
Boston, MA (October 29, 2018) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a service worker at Fenway Park in Boston has secured back pay for lost wages after he was fired for exercising his legal right to resign from formal union membership.
Oscar Milandou is an employee of food service provider Aramark, which is contracted to provide vending services for the Red Sox at Fenway. According to charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Mr. Milandou was fired for resigning from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32.
Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees have the right the refrain from union membership and activities. Although Massachusetts is not a Right to Work state and does not protect employees from being forced to pay union fees to keep their jobs, it is illegal under the NLRA for an employer to discriminate or terminate an employee for exercising his legal right to resign from the union.
As is his legal right, in August, Milandou resigned his union membership with SEIU only to be informed of his termination. Soon after, he reached out for free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys who filed a federal unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB for the wrongful termination due to the illegal forced membership demand.
After the charges were filed, Aramark representatives quickly backed down and reinstated Mr. Milandou’s employment rather than be liable for the wages he lost as a result of an illegal termination. Later, Milandou received nearly $300 in back pay for the two work days he lost before being reinstated.
“In a home run for worker freedom, Mr. Milandou has now received recompense after he was wrongfully fired simply for exercising his legal right to refrain from union membership,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Unfortunately, until Massachusetts passes a Right to Work law making union membership and financial support completely voluntary, we will continue to see workers victimized by greedy union bosses and compliant employers willing to threaten workers for union officials.”