The good news: The U.S. Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking decision in favor of workers’ rights when it ruled that no government worker can be forced to pay a government union as a condition of working in public service. In the months since the ruling, government workers from every corner of the country are attempting to exercise their newly restored constitutional rights.
The bad news: Unsurprisingly, government unions and politicians are standing in their way.
Several months after the Janus ruling, no state in America has fully implemented the ruling – and government officials in several have indicated they have no intention of doing so.
To combat this blatant obstruction of the law, the Liberty Justice Center sent cease-and-desist letters to government officials in more than a dozen states, demanding that state and local government employers immediately stop deducting union member dues and “agency fees” from employee paychecks.
The Supreme Court said government employers may only deduct union dues or fees from an employee’s paycheck if the employee has “clearly and affirmatively” consented to the deduction. This consent must have been provided in the time since the ruling was issued in the Janus case.
Before the decision, government employees’ options were based on a choice the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional: become a member and pay dues, or pay fees to a union as a nonmember. So any “consent” prior to the ruling was made under duress and therefore is invalid.
Government officials from four states –Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon – have already indicated they will not be fully implementing the Supreme Court ruling, putting the interests of highly politicized government unions above the rights of their own employees.
“These letters are a clear attempt to scare public employers and to spread misinformation,” said Meggie Quackenbush, a spokeswoman for Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “The Janus decision does not, in any way, limit the rights of union members or impact the collection of union dues.”
(“Massachusetts unions say Supreme Court’s Janus decision having little effect so far,” Boston Business Journal, Sept. 3, 2018)
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act in May. Workers now have a mere 10 days a year to submit paperwork that stops the government from dunning their paychecks for union fees. If they miss it, they’re stuck paying. (“Resisting the Supreme Court,” Wall Street Journal, Sep. 17, 2018)
“New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli criticized the Janus ruling as ‘just plain wrong.’ He has since issued guidance claiming the Bureau of State Payroll Services ‘must rely upon unions for the information necessary to determine whether and when a member/union relationship has been initiated, severed or otherwise changed.’ New York will continue to deduct fees at union request.” (“Resisting the Supreme Court,” Wall Street Journal, Sep. 17, 2018)
“The Janus decision does not impact any agreements to pay union dues between a union and its members to pay union dues,’ according to a July 20, 2018, advisory to public employers from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. ‘Existing membership cards or other agreements by union members to pay dues should continue to be honored.”
(“States accused of violating Supreme Court’s union dues ruling,” Portland Tribune, Aug. 28, 2018)
In other states, government unions are declaring workers cannot leave or erecting obstacles that make it nearly impossible.
- Some AFSCME employees in Minnesota only have a two-week time period to opt out of union membership.
- Members of a Teamster union in California say they’re being told they can’t stop paying dues until their collective bargaining agreement ends… in 2022!
- The president of the Du Quoin Education Association in Illinois told teachers they must write a letter saying why they want to opt out, and if that letter wasn’t received within a week, they would become union members.
The Liberty Justice Center is preparing litigation in states where workers’ rights are being violated.
If you’re a public school teacher, transit worker, first responder or other government employee who is trying to exit your union or who has been forced to jump through burdensome hoops just to exercise your constitutional rights, contact us.
The Wall Street Journal: Resisting the Supreme Court
Fox News: Workers say unions defying Janus ruling, threaten new court action
Chicago Sun Times: Illinois group threatens legal action over Oregon union dues
Oregon Live: Janus Lawyers threaten lawsuit over union dues in Oregon
The Salem News: Group warns of union dues lawsuit. “Cease and desist” order sought to payment of fees.