IBEW union officials quickly settle after Minnesota police department employee filed lawsuit to stop forced illegal union dues seizures
Brainerd, MN (January 14, 2019) – A federal First Amendment lawsuit brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for Minnesota public sector employee Sandra Anderson against International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 31 has forced union officials to quickly settle. The settlement frees Anderson from IBEW union officials’ “window period” policy that had blocked her from exercising her constitutional right to refrain from financially supporting the union.
Anderson, a clerk for the City of Brainerd Police Department, filed the lawsuit after she attempted to resign her union membership and revoke her dues deduction authorization after the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court.
When IBEW Local 31 and the City of Brainerd entered into a monopoly bargaining agreement in 2004 that required employees to pay union dues or fees to IBEW Local 31 to keep their jobs, Anderson was informed that she must either join the union or pay union fees. Faced with being forced to fund the union either way, she joined the union, signing a form authorizing the deduction of union dues from her paycheck.
Earlier this year, Foundation staff attorneys argued and won Janus at the Supreme Court. In Janus, the Court ruled it unconstitutional to require public employees to subsidize a labor union. The Court further held that deducting any union dues or fees without a public employee’s affirmative consent violates the employee’s First Amendment rights.
When Anderson signed her dues deduction authorization, she was not informed of her First Amendment right to refrain from paying union dues or fees and, therefore, could not give her affirmative consent to waiving her First Amendment right not to subsidize the union.
Soon after Janus, Anderson emailed an IBEW official and Brainerd representatives demanding that both parties cease collecting dues from her wages in accordance with Janus. However, IBEW officials claimed that Anderson could only stop dues payments either during a 10-day window prior to the expiration of the monopoly bargaining contract or a 10-day window prior to the anniversary date of her dues deduction authorization.
Anderson came to Foundation staff attorneys to file a lawsuit challenging the “window period” policy as unconstitutional, because the policy limits when she can exercise her First Amendment rights under Janus and allows IBEW Local 31 union officials to collect union dues without her affirmative consent.
Deciding to settle the lawsuit, IBEW will refund to Anderson all union dues they unconstitutionally collected from her after she notified the City of Brainerd and IBEW Local 31 that she no longer consented to financially supporting the union. IBEW officials have also acknowledged Anderson’s request to withdraw her union membership, and will not seek or accept union dues from her again unless she affirmatively chooses to become a union member.
Public employees across the country are pursuing similar lawsuits with assistance from Foundation staff attorneys. For example, in one ongoing class action lawsuit, two New Jersey public school teachers are challenging a state law that enforces a “window period” policy to block public sector workers’ attempts to exercise their rights under Janus.
“Ms. Anderson is the first of thousands of government employees to successfully challenge union boss ‘window period’ schemes designed to limit workers from exercising their First Amendment rights under Janus,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This victory serves as an inspiration for civil servants across the country who are stepping up to challenge union bosses’ coercive tactics to limit public employees’ constitutional rights.”
The Foundation has created a special website, MyJanusRights.org, to assist public employees in exercising their rights under Janus, which was successfully argued by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger.
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.