Settlement eliminates illegal restrictions, allows almost 30,000 Ohio government employees under AFSCME Council 11’s power to exercise Janus right to end dues deductions
Columbus, OH (July 14, 2020) – Ohio public employees have just won a settlement in their federal class-action lawsuit charging the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 11 union and the State of Ohio with enforcing illegal restrictions on their First Amendment right to cut off union dues deductions. The lawsuit was filed with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The lawsuit, brought by four state employees, challenged a union-created “escape period” dues deduction scheme as being unconstitutional under the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In Janus, the Court struck down mandatory union fees for public sector workers as an infringement of their First Amendment rights, and ruled that the government can only deduct union dues or fees with an individual’s affirmative and knowing consent.
The State of Ohio and AFSCME’s “maintenance of membership” policy blocked workers from exercising their right to end union dues deductions except for a brief escape period that opened roughly once every three years at the expiration of the union monopoly bargaining contract. The AFSCME boss-created scheme was imposed by the State of Ohio on an estimated 28,000 Buckeye State public servants.
Now, as a result of the settlement, AFSCME officials and the State of Ohio have rescinded their “maintenance of membership” restriction on when state workers can exercise their First Amendment right to cut off union dues deductions. They also are required to honor requests to stop dues deductions from any employees who signed the AFSCME dues authorization form at issue in the lawsuit. Finally, the settlement requires AFSCME bosses to pay back dues seized illegally under the scheme to the plaintiffs and more than 150 other employees who tried to cut off union dues deductions after Janus was decided.
Seven other Ohio public employees won the first-in-the-nation victory against unconstitutional “escape periods” with Foundation aid in January 2019. These workers filed a class-action federal lawsuit challenging a similar policy created by AFSCME Council 8 bosses and won a settlement ending the restrictions for themselves and their coworkers. That win was followed by two other Ohio public workers, Connie Pennington and Donna Fizer, successfully ending “escape period” restrictions with Foundation assistance in 2019.
“Although this string of victories for Buckeye State public employees and their First Amendment rights is certainly encouraging, the widespread nature of these schemes shows there remains much work to do to force union bosses to end their unconstitutional restrictions on public employees’ First Amendment Janus rights,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost need to move quickly to stop violations of the First Amendment rights of all Ohio public sector workers and should cease collecting union dues from any worker who has not affirmatively consented to pay them.”
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.