Workers’ case follows up on Supreme Court split on constitutionality of mandatory union fees for government employees
Minneapolis, MN (June 8, 2017) – Assisted by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, two Minnesota court employees are filing a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced dues powers. The case being filed today argues that the state requirement that the plaintiffs pay union fees as a condition of government employment violates the First Amendment.
Carrie Keller is a Court Administrative Assistant, and Elizabeth Zeien is an Accounting Technician; both are employed by the State of Minnesota Court System. When they started working for the State, neither was a union member, and they both negotiated their own terms and conditions of employment and salaries, free from union interference.
In 2015, union officials started proceedings to force a number of state employees who were not in monopoly bargaining units into union ranks, where they could be required to pay union dues and fees. Ultimately, in March 2017, Minnesota state officials complied with the Teamsters’ demands and added a number of employees, including Keller and Zeien, to a Teamsters controlled bargaining unit without the employees’ permission or desire. Keller, Zeien and the other employees were never given a vote on whether they should be part of the union bargaining unit, and they objected to the new scheme.
Before being summarily forced under the union contract, Keller and Zeien had negotiated pay scales and benefits for themselves that equaled or exceeded what they received under the union-mandated contract. The lower compensation under the union contract and the imposition of mandatory union fees led Keller and Zeien to approach the National Right to Work Foundation for assistance in challenging the forced unionization scheme.
“These two workers were happily working and successfully representing themselves in dealing with their employer until Teamsters officials sought to bolster they forced dues ranks even though it meant a step back in their working conditions,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case is a prime example of the power of worker freedom being destroyed by union boss interference and why it is wrong to force employees to pay money to a union for representation they don’t want and never asked for.”
Nearly 40 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that public-sector workers could be compelled as a condition of employment to pay union fees. However, in two recent National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court decisions, Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), the High Court suggested it is ready to revisit the 1978 precedent in Abood, expressing skepticism about the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced-dues privileges.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys currently have seven other ongoing cases challenging the mandatory union payments as a violation of the First Amendment, including Janus v. AFSCME – on behalf of a Illinois government employee Mark Janus who is forced to pay fees to AFSCME union officials – which is currently before the Supreme Court on a petition for certiorari.
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.