AFSCME union officials quickly settle: rather than litigate, will stop enforcing unconstitutional policy and refund to workers blocked from stopping forced dues
Columbus, Ohio (January 24, 2019) – A federal First Amendment lawsuit brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for a group of Ohio public sector employees against American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Ohio Council 8 has forced union officials to settle.
The settlement won by the workers ends union officials’ “window period” policy that blocked thousands of workers from exercising their constitutional right to refrain from financially supporting the union. The workers, and others who had attempted to cut off dues but were blocked from doing so in violation of their First Amendment rights, will be refunded the money taken under the union-created window policy.
The class action complaint was filed by Foundation staff attorneys for Jothan Smith, Adam Scheiner, Brian Parks, Annette Lipsky, Steven Fletcher, Michael Cooper, and Tracey Baird, who are employed by various local Ohio government agencies.
Following the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court, the workers all attempted to resign their union membership and revoke their dues deduction authorizations. However, AFSCME officials continued to deduct dues, citing a union policy restricting revocation of dues deduction to a narrow 15-day window prior to the expiration of a monopoly bargaining contract.
In Janus, the Court ruled that it violates the First Amendment to require government workers to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Additionally, the Court clarified that no union dues or fees can be taken from workers without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right not to financially support a labor union.
The workers came to Foundation staff attorneys to file a lawsuit challenging the “window period” policy as unconstitutional, because the policy limits when they – and the thousands of other workers under AFSCME Council 8’s monopoly bargaining control – can exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus and allows union officials to collect union dues without the workers’ affirmative consent.
Rather than face Foundation staff attorneys in court, AFSCME Council 8 union officials settled the lawsuit. Under the settlement’s terms, the union will stop enforcing policies restricting dues deduction revocations to a 15-day window at the end of a monopoly bargaining agreement. AFSCME will refund to the plaintiffs all union dues they unconstitutionally collected after the plaintiffs notified union officials that they no longer consented to financially supporting the union. Union officials will also identify any other workers whose rights were blocked by the “window period” policy, honor their requests to resign and revoke dues deduction authorization, and refund the dues deducted under the policy.
This is the first settlement of a class action lawsuit under Janus in which workers have halted a union “window period” policy. The first successful challenge to a “window period” policy came in another recent settlement negotiated by Foundation staff attorneys in a non-class action lawsuit.
Many other 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 imposes a ‘window period” policy to block public sector workers’ attempts to exercise their rights under Janus. All told, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are litigating more than 20 cases nationwide to enforce public employees’ rights under the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling.
“This group of workers bravely challenged union bosses’ ‘window period’ scheme, and successfully protected not only their rights but also the rights of tens of thousands of their colleagues,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This first-in-the-nation victory in a class action case to enforce workers’ rights under Janus should be the first of many cases that result in union bosses dropping their illegal restrictions on workers seeking to exercise their rights secured in the Foundation’s Janus Supreme Court victory.”
To inform workers of their legal rights under Janus, and ensure they know they can turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid if union officials attempt to obstruct them from exercising those rights, the Foundation maintains a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
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 around 250 cases nationwide per year.