Guards’ lawsuit challenges scheme designed to trap them into paying dues without their consent by limiting their constitutional rights to just 15 days per contract
Harrisburg, PA (June 18, 2019) – Several Pennsylvania state prison guards have filed a class action lawsuit against their union with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys and the Pennsylvania-based Fairness Center. The workers allege union officials’ policy and the Pennsylvania law that authorizes it violates their First Amendment rights.
William Weyandt, Mark Mills, Chris Taylor, Brandon Westover, and Cory Yedlosky, who work as prison guards at Huntingdon Correctional Institution in Pennsylvania, filed the lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association (PSCOA) and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They allege that PSCOA union officials’ “escape period” policies and the state law that authorizes these policies unconstitutionally restrain them from exercising their First Amendment rights as public employees, rights recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Janus v. AFSCME case.
Unlike the majority of states in America, Pennsylvania has never adopted a Right to Work law to protect all workers from compulsory unionism. However, the Janus decision extended these protections to all public employees at the federal, state, and local level, which includes the prison guards employed at Huntingdon Correctional Institution.
Successfully argued and won at the Supreme Court by Foundation staff attorneys in June 2018, the Janus decision held that all public employees in America have the right to choose not to subsidize any union activities. The High Court said that workers must opt-in to union payments and that any union fees seized without an employee’s consent violate their First Amendment rights.
Union officials across the country have engaged in a widespread effort to block workers from exercising their rights under Janus. In particular, union officials claim state and union “escape period” policies can limit workers’ First Amendment rights to just a few days once a year or even once every few years.
In response, Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating dozens of cases to enforce workers’ Janus rights and have already won several notable settlements. These lawsuits could force union bosses to refund hundreds of millions of dollars in unlawfully seized dues and fees to tens of thousands of government employees.
“Pennsylvania state prison guards’ legal rights cannot be locked away by this blatantly unconstitutional union boss policy,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case demonstrates once again that union officials will resort to extreme measures to force workers they supposedly ‘represent’ into paying union fees against their wishes.”
“It is long past time for union bosses to respect the rights of workers under the First Amendment and realize Janus means that union dues and fees should only be paid on a strictly voluntary basis,” Mix added.
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.