California union officials backed off anti-Janus deductions after Foundation action
Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger successfully argued Janus at the Supreme Court. But enforcing the landmark First Amendment victory is an ongoing battle.
LOS ANGELES, CA – A former teacher at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy in Los Angeles, California, is getting a refund of illegally seized union dues with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The refund came after Foundation staff attorneys sent a letter to officials with the Camino Nuevo Teachers Association, an affiliate of California Teachers Association, threatening legal action for violating the teacher’s First Amendment rights.
Natalie Bahl, who was a teacher at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy up until recently, attempted to exercise her right as a public employee not to pay any union fees. Ms. Bahl notified the union of her decision in a mass email to several union officials, which reportedly also prompted other teachers to make similar requests. Her email was sent before the union-designated “window period” closed for teachers to revoke their authorization for deducting union dues.
Despite the timely request, Ms. Bahl realized a few months later that union dues were still being deducted from her paycheck. When she asked union officials about it, they suddenly claimed she missed her window period for dues revocation.
At that point, Ms. Bahl reached out to National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, who sent a letter demanding a refund of union dues collected in violation of Bahl’s First Amendment rights. Rather than face a potential federal civil rights lawsuit, CNTA union officials refunded all dues taken from Bahl from the time of her request until she left the school’s employment to further pursue her own education.
Union Officials Refuse to Learn Their Janus Lesson
In the Foundation-argued Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court case, the Court recognized that forcing public sector workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment. The Justices also ruled that public employees must opt in with affirmative consent to any union payments before money can be taken from their paychecks.
Since winning the 2018 Janus Supreme Court decision, Foundation staff attorneys have scored victories across the country for public employees seeking to enforce their First Amendment rights under the Janus decision. For example, Foundation staff attorneys recently successfully defended a public school teacher in Harford County, Maryland, from whom union bosses illegally seized dues for months despite two letters to the local AFSCME affiliate exercising her right to resign union membership and end all dues deductions from her pay.
“Teachers and other public sector workers have Janus rights under the First Amendment and should immediately contact the Foundation for free legal assistance if they believe their rights have been violated,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “Unfortunately we continue to see that even when public employees comply with arbitrary union-created policies designed to stifle their First Amendment rights, union officials still brazenly ignore Janus in order to fill their coffers with union dues seized from employees.