Chicago area teacher sues union, school district for withholding information about her rights and forcing her to pay union dues

CHICAGO (Apr. 7, 2020) – An educator who teaches English as a second language in one of the Chicago area’s lowest-income school districts has filed a federal lawsuit against her teachers union and employer for withholding information about her rights and forcing her to pay union dues.

Ariadna Ramon Baro is visiting the U.S. from Spain as part of a three-year cultural exchange program for educators. In 2019, she was hired to teach English to students in Waukegan District 60, where as many as 35 percent of students are considered English language learners.

At employee orientation, Ramon Baro received information typically circulated to new hires but was not informed by the district or her union that union membership and union dues are optional. Instead, she was encouraged to join the union and was told that she would be charged union dues even if she was not a member – a practice that was ruled illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly two years ago.

Now Ms. Ramon Baro is fighting for her right teach students without being a union member and to get back the money she was illegally forced to pay in union dues. She is represented by attorneys from the nonprofit Liberty Justice Center.

“There’s a lot to take in when you’re starting a new job in a different country,” Ramon Baro said. “There’s so much information that I was given in great detail, but at no point did anyone mention that union membership is optional. Instead, I was given false information by union leadership so that I would sign a union card. How many other educators have been misled, and don’t even know their rights? If the school district withheld this information from me and the union gave me blatantly false information, then who is looking out for me and protecting my rights?”

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that government employees, including public school teachers, cannot be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of working in public service. The Supreme Court also said that union dues can only be deducted from employees’ paychecks if they “freely” give “clear and affirmative” consent. Government employees cannot freely consent to paying union dues if they don’t know they have a right to refuse to pay.

“Ms. Ramon Baro did not know of her Janus rights and believed that she had to join the union and pay union dues. Neither the union nor the school district provided her with any information about her right to not join the union or not pay union dues. Even worse, a union representative sent an email to all teachers falsely claiming that they would pay union dues even if they did not join the union, a practice that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional in Janus. These actions violate Ms. Ramon Baro’s rights under the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus ruling,” said Jeffrey Schwab, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center.

Schwab represented plaintiff Mark Janus in the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case that outlawed mandatory union dues, Janus v. AFSCME. In that case, the Supreme Court said that union dues may not be withheld from an employer without their affirmative consent to waive the right not to pay money to a government union. This case represents a new line of workers’ rights cases being brought by the Liberty Justice Center that seek to ensure that government employers and unions do not withhold union dues from employees unless they first ensure that such employees have knowledge of their Janus rights by informing them of such rights.

Ms. Ramon Baro was referred to the Liberty Justice Center by the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization that promotes free-market principles and supports workers by helping them understand their rights.

The lawsuit, Ramon Baro v. Lake County Federation of Teachers Local 504 et al. was filed on April 3, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. A copy of the case is available here: Ramon Baro v. Lake County Federation of Teachers.

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