The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, November/December 2023 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Brief: Pending case should be used to underscore need to obtain workers’ consent to dues

In 2019, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took proactive steps to protect Janus, but dues-hungry ASEA union bosses fought his actions all the way up to the Supreme Court.

In 2019, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy took proactive steps to protect Janus, but dues-hungry ASEA union bosses fought his actions all the way up to the Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Right to Work Foundation’s victory in the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case set a monumental First Amendment precedent. In Janus, the Justices recognized that no public sector worker can be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment, and that unions cannot deduct union dues from a public sector worker’s wages unless that worker waives his or her Janus rights.

Now the Foundation is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to, five years after Janus was issued, take another case to clarify and fortify the Janus precedent against numerous misinterpretations by greedy union officials, union-backed state politicians, and, most worryingly, some lower court judges.

Alaska Takes Lead on Janus Rights Only to Face Union Boss Resistance

The Foundation’s brief asks the Supreme Court to weigh in on an Alaska lawsuit that started when union officials sought to nullify Alaska state officials’ attempt to fully protect the First Amendment rights of public employees. Union officials challenged the state’s arrangement which ensured that the state didn’t deduct dues from any public employee who had not knowingly waived their rights under Janus.

After the Janus decision, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued an executive order requiring the state to obtain proof of consent from workers each year to deduct union dues from their paychecks. The requirement was designed to prevent union bosses from deducting dues money from the wages of a worker who didn’t fully understand their legal rights under Janus. Many workers, for example, may have authorized dues deductions years before the Supreme Court recognized that mandatory payments to unions as a condition of government employment violate the Constitution.

Unwilling to comply with even this modest check on their power to deduct union dues directly from government employees’ paychecks, Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA) officials battled the State of Alaska in state court. Eventually, ASEA union lawyers were able to get the state’s highest court to block the arrangement. But the Supreme Court has the ability to fix the Alaska State Supreme Court’s misinterpretation of Janus.

Following the State of Alaska’s petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments in the case, Foundation attorneys filed a legal brief of their own, urging the Justices to uphold Alaska’s safeguards on Janus and correct the misinterpretations of Janus made by an increasing number of courts and state governments around the country.

Brief: States and Courts Are Ignoring Janus, Need to Be Reined In

The Foundation’s argument notes that, after the Janus decision, at least seventeen states either changed their laws to require government employers to enforce union boss-invented restrictions on when employees can stop union dues deductions, or enforced dues deduction restrictions already on the books. Both lead to unacceptable restraints on public sector workers’ Janus rights, the amicus brief argues.

The amicus brief further contends that lower courts, especially the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with jurisdiction over Alaska, have misinterpreted Janus by not mandating government employers notify public workers of their Janus rights before taking union dues from their paychecks. For a waiver of one’s rights to be effective, a person must know what those rights are — just as police officers “Mirandize” suspects they arrest by informing them of their “right to remain silent.”

Union Bosses Value Dues-Funded Politicking Over Public Servants’ Rights

The amicus brief also points out that the Ninth Circuit has issued decisions that free public employers from any obligation to prove that union bosses obtained authentic consent from workers before dues are taken from their wages — opening the door for forged or fake dues deduction cards.

“Unless the Court grants review and breathes new life into Janus’ waiver requirement, unions and their government allies will continue to severely restrict the right of millions of employees to stop subsidizing union speech,” the amicus brief concludes.

“Public sector union bosses, who prize their own dues-funded political influence far above the individual rights of the employees they claim to ‘represent,’ have tried everything in their power to dodge the Janus ruling and keep siphoning money from workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “The Supreme Court
has an opportunity in the State of Alaska’s case to set the record straight and ensure that workers’ free association rights can’t simply be molded according to their own schemes.”

Posted on Nov 13, 2023 in Newsletter Articles