Alaska facing ASEA union lawsuit over arrangement which requires union bosses to obtain affirmative consent from employees before deducting dues
Washington, DC (September 29, 2023) – Today, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Alaska v. Alaska State Employees Association. The brief supports the State of Alaska’s attempt to safeguard public sector workers’ First Amendment right to refrain from paying dues to a union they disapprove of. This right was first recognized in the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, which was successfully argued at the High Court by Foundation Legal Director William Messenger.
In the 2018 Janus decision, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects public sector employees from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of getting or keeping a job. The High Court further recognized that unions must obtain a worker’s freely given waiver of his or her Janus rights before deducting union dues or fees from his or her paycheck.
In an attempt to ensure his state wasn’t violating its employees’ constitutional rights, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued an executive order to protect workers’ Janus rights: The order requires the state to obtain consent from workers each year to deduct union dues from their paychecks. This arrangement ensures that the “freely given consent” element of Janus is satisfied, while also preventing union bosses from continuing to deduct money from a worker’s wages based on a “yes” given years ago.
However, Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA) union bosses sued the State of Alaska over its Janus protections, and were able to get the state’s highest court to block the arrangement. Even worse, as Foundation staff attorneys point out in the amicus brief, “five Circuit Courts have now held that states and unions can constitutionally seize payments for union speech from dissenting employees without proof they waived their constitutional rights.”
Amicus Brief: Lower Courts and States Are Letting Unions Seize Dues Without Workers’ Consent
The Foundation’s amicus brief maintains that, after the Janus decision, at least seventeen states either “amended their dues deduction laws…to require government employers to enforce restrictions on when employees can stop payroll deductions of union dues,” or “enforced restrictions on stopping payroll deductions under preexisting state laws.” Both lead to unacceptable restraints on public sector workers’ Janus rights, the amicus brief argues.
The amicus brief further contends that lower courts, especially the Ninth Circuit, have misinterpreted Janus to not require public employers to notify public workers of their Janus rights before collecting dues, which dips below the “waiver” standard mandated by the decision. Additionally, the amicus brief points out that the Ninth Circuit has issued decisions that free public employers from any obligation to prove that union bosses obtained authentic consent from workers before dues are taken from their wages.
“Unless the Court grants review and breathes new life into Janus’ waiver requirement, unions and their government allies will continue to severely restrict the right of millions of employees to stop subsidizing union speech,” the amicus brief concludes. “The Court should not tolerate this resistance to its holding in Janus.”
“Public sector union bosses, who prize their own dues-funded political influence far above the individual rights of the employees they claim to ‘represent,’ have tried everything in their power to dodge the Janus ruling and keep siphoning money from workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “The Supreme Court has an opportunity in the State of Alaska’s case to set the record straight and ensure that workers’ free association rights can’t simply be molded according to their own schemes.”
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 about 200 cases nationwide per year.