Citing the Janus Supreme Court decision, Michigan civil servants seek refund of dues collected without consent, and an end to union campaign to extract forced fees
Lansing, Michigan (October 18, 2018) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, two Michigan public school employees have filed a class action lawsuit against the Michigan Education Association (MEA) union, an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest government employee union in the country.
Plaintiffs Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams, who both worked for the Port Huron Area School District, are suing the MEA after union officials spent years illegally attempting to obtain membership dues from the two women. The workers’ suit demands that MEA officials stop the harassment, including the use of debt collectors, and refund dues illegally obtained from potentially thousands of other non-member public school employees.
Gervais and Williams exercised their rights by resigning their union memberships in September 2013, approximately nine months after Michigan enacted Right to Work legislation that protects workers from being forced to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. Despite the resignations and the law, MEA officials continued to demand that they pay dues.
As part of the MEA campaign to collect the dues, union agents contacted Gervais and Williams dozens of times demanding hundreds of dollars’ worth of back dues which the women were under no legal obligation to pay. Union agents even threatened to take both women to small claims court for their failure to pay the demanded fees.
MEA officials’ claim to be owed back dues may have been on the grounds that Gervais and Williams missed an arbitrary union “window period” to cut off union payments. However, in a 2014 case brought by Foundation staff attorneys, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) decision striking down that “window period” scheme as illegal under Michigan’s public sector Right to Work law. Gervais and Williams lawsuit applies the protections under the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Foundation-won case Janus v. AFSCME.
The landmark Janus decision ruled that a union violates the First Amendment by demanding or coercing public employees to pay union dues or fees without their explicit consent. Citing that ruling, Gervais and Williams’ federal class action lawsuit seeks an end to the unions’ demands, for themselves and other workers who faced, or continue to face, the same demands, along with refunds for all workers who paid the dues MEA agents illegally demanded.
“As the union bosses’ attempt to counteract Michigan’s Right to Work law demonstrates, although union membership and financial support is voluntary under the law, that doesn’t mean Big Labor will obey that law,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Thankfully, armed with the Foundation-won Janus Supreme Court decision, Linda, Tammy, and countless other Michigan educators are a step closer to ending this multi-year campaign of illegal dues demands.”
Since Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed Right to Work legislation into state law in December 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan to combat compulsory unionism. Foundation staff attorneys are also pursuing dozens of other cases across the country since the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus.
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.