Cases challenge union officials’ requirement that workers repeatedly opt-out of union political spending or else be trapped in full forced dues
Springfield, VA (September 14, 2020) – With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, two airline workers are challenging union officials’ opt-out policies that require workers to “opt-out” in order to exercise their First Amendment right not to fund union political activities, as recognized in the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision.
The two federal class action lawsuits were brought for United Airlines fleet service employee Arthur Baisley and JetBlue Airlines pilot Christian Popp, and are currently pending in the US Courts of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and Eleventh Circuit respectively. Baisley’s case against the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union has been fully briefed and is pending before the Fifth Circuit. Meanwhile, the opening brief for Popp’s case against the Air Line Pilot Association (ALPA) union is due in early October.
The lawsuits contend that under Janus and the 2012 Knox v. SEIU Supreme Court cases – both of which were argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys – no union dues or fees can be charged for union political activities without a worker’s affirmative consent.
Despite this, union officials at the IAM and ALPA enforce complicated opt-out policies that require workers to object to funding union political activities or pay full union dues. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys argue that the Janus decision’s opt-in requirement applies to airline and railroad employees covered by the Railway Labor Act (RLA) taken together with longstanding precedent protecting private sector workers from being required to pay for political and ideological union activities.
Mr. Baisley and Mr. Popp both live in Right to Work states (Texas and Florida, respectively), but the RLA preempts state law, meaning that they can still be forced to pay union dues or fees or be fired. Even under the RLA, however, union bosses cannot force workers to pay for political activities. These lawsuits point out that the RLA protects the rights of employees “to join, organize, or assist in organizing a union… [as well as their right to] refrain from any of those activities,”—a rule that union officials have violated.
“IAM and ALPA union officials have demonstrated a blatant disregard for the rights of the very workers they claim to represent by creating deliberately complicated obstacles for independent-minded workers who want to exercise their right not to fund union ideological activities,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Although Janus’ biggest impact was to secure the First Amendment rights of all public employees across the nation not to be required to fund Big Labor, these cases demonstrate that Janus’ implications also protect private sector employees.”
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 around 250 cases nationwide per year.