Union officials enforced illegal “escape period” scheme to limit First Amendment right to cut off dues
Las Vegas, NV (August 13, 2020) – An officer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) is suing both the Las Vegas Police Protective Association (PPA) union and the police department for illegally seizing union dues from her paycheck. The complaint, filed in the US District Court for the District of Nevada, states that officials of the PPA union and LVMPD illegally curtailed the officer’s First Amendment rights under the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision by making the unlawful deductions. The officer is represented by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
In Janus, which was argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys, the High Court ruled that forcing public sector workers to subsidize a union hierarchy as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment. The justices also declared that union dues can only be deducted from a public sector employee’s pay with an affirmative and knowing waiver of his or her First Amendment right not to pay union dues.
According to officer Melodie DePierro’s complaint, she began working for LVMPD in 2006 and voluntarily joined the PPA union at that time. In January 2020 she first tried to exercise her Janus rights, sending letters to both union officials and LVMPD that she was resigning her membership. The letters demanded a stop to all union dues being taken from her paycheck. Her complaint reports that union and police department agents rejected that request, and did so again after she renewed her demands in February 2020. As of the filing of her lawsuit, full union dues are still being seized from her paycheck.
Union officials asserted that the monopoly bargaining contract between PPA and LVMPD only permitted employees to cut off union dues deductions within an “impermissibly narrow escape period between October 1 and October 20 each year,” DePierro’s complaint says. Her lawsuit points out that she “never signed any dues deduction authorization form agreeing to the restrictive escape period of 20 days contained” in the monopoly bargaining contract.
The complaint argues that the 20-day “escape period” imposed by union officials and the police department “caused and continues to cause deduction of and collection of dues from DePierro, who does not consent to paying union dues” and explains that this is “impermissible under Janus.” DePierro is demanding that the US District Court declare the “escape period” scheme unconstitutional, forbid PPA and LVMPD from further enforcing it, and order PPA and LVMPD to refund all dues that were unlawfully withheld from her pay since she tried to stop the deductions, plus interest.
With free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, public servants across the country have successfully challenged and overturned similar “escape period” policies. Just last month, a Foundation-backed lawsuit for four State of Ohio employees resulted in the elimination of such a scheme for almost 30,000 state workers. In nearby California, Ventura County Community College District math professor Michael McCain filed a class-action lawsuit which last year freed both him and his colleagues from another union-created “escape period.”
“Officer DePierro is working hard to keep Las Vegas safe during its reopening. Instead of respecting her First Amendment Janus rights, PPA union bosses have decided to keep imposing an unconstitutional policy on her just to keep her hard-earned money rolling into their coffers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The High Court made perfectly clear in Janus that affirmative consent from employees is required for any dues deductions to occur. Yet PPA union bosses are clearly violating that standard here.”
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.