Lawsuit challenges two public sector unions’ “window period” schemes as violation of the First Amendment under Supreme Court’s Janus decision
Portland, OR (November 20, 2018) – A group of Oregon public employees have filed a federal class action complaint against two public sector unions and their employers. The lawsuit seeks to end union officials’ “window period” policies that block thousands of workers from exercising their constitutional right under the U.S. Supreme Court Janus decision to refrain from financially supporting a union.
The case was filed at the United States District Court for the District of Oregon by ten public employees with free legal representation from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Freedom Foundation. The lawsuit names as defendants Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503, Oregon Public Employees Union; American Federation of State, Local, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 75; and the employers who continue to extract money from the workers’ wages under the “window period” policies without the workers’ consent.
After the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, briefed and won by Foundation staff attorneys, held that public sector workers cannot be forced to pay union fees without their affirmative consent, each plaintiff employee resigned his or her union membership and notified the union and their employer that they no longer authorized deductions of union dues and fees from their paychecks.
However, union officials refused to allow the workers to stop paying union dues. Instead, union officials informed them that they could only stop payments during a short annual “window period” of just a few days. Despite the workers’ asserting their rights under Janus, the government agencies continue to deduct union dues from their wages at the unions’ behest.
The case challenges the union officials’ “window period” policies as a violation of the First Amendment. In the landmark Janus decision, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional 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 those workers without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right to refrain from financially supporting a union.
The class action lawsuit argues that the workers’ deduction authorizations signed before Janus were not and could not have been knowing waivers of their First Amendment rights, as the Janus protections had not been recognized at the time. The suit also argues that the unions’ policies restricting workers’ First Amendment rights to a window of time is unconstitutional.
The complaint asks that the court certify classes to include all employees under the monopoly bargaining contracts of SEIU Local 503 and AFSCME Council 75 who were blocked from exercising their First Amendment rights when they resigned union membership and attempted to halt dues deductions after the Janus decision. Only the union officials know the exact number of employees who have attempted to but have been blocked by the policies, but the classes potentially include hundreds or thousands of victims.
“These public sector workers join many others across the country in standing up to Big Labor’s coercive tactics,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union officials have a long history of manipulating ‘window period’ schemes, arbitrary union-enacted limitations trapping workers into forced dues, and other obstacles designed to block individuals from exercising their constitutional rights. The Foundation’s victory in Janus at the Supreme Court provided much-needed protection, but as this case shows union bosses are now defying the Supreme Court to continue their abusive practices.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed similar class action lawsuits enforcing the Janus ruling across the country, and are receiving more calls from workers seeking to exercise their rights under the Janus precedent. To assist public employees in learning about their First Amendment rights under Janus, the Foundation established 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 more than 250 cases nationwide per year.