The legal clinic behind the Supreme Court case that found the requirement that public employees pay “fair share” union dues violated their First Amendment speech rights, has filed another lawsuit on behalf of a Waukegan District 60 teacher.
The lawsuit, filed by Liberty Justice Center attorneys on behalf of District 60 teacher Ariadna Ramon Baro, argues that the district and the union have an obligation to inform employees of their right to opt out of union dues.
The lawsuit would build on the Janus v. AFSCME decision, which found government employees cannot be forced to pay any dues or fees to a union because, to do otherwise, would violate their First Amendment rights.
Baro was referred to the Liberty Justice Center, one of two firms that represented Mark Janus in that case, by the Illinois Policy Institute, a libertarian-leaning think tank that has pushed for a free-market approach in state government, in particular limited government, lower taxes, fewer regulations and the expansion of charter schools.
The complaint, filed in federal court on April 3, points to other court cases to argue that the employees must be informed of their rights under Janus in order to waive them. The complaint points as precedent to the obligation union officials had before Janus to inform new employees of their First Amendment right to pay a fair-share fee instead of full union dues.
Baro, hired by District 60 in August 2019 as an English learners teacher through the state’s visiting teacher program with Spain, was not told she didn’t have to pay dues or that joining the union was optional, according to the lawsuit.
At one point, a union representative said in an email to all of the teachers at Baro’s school, “Just to clarify, you will pay union dues regardless of whether or not you are a member,” a statement that was not true and violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus, according to the complaint and a copy of the email accompanying the complaint.
“As a Spanish citizen working on a J-1 visa, Ms. Baro would especially have no reason to have knowledge of American constitutional law, making it all the more imperative that the District and the Union inform her of her rights,” according to the lawsuit. “To make matters worse, Ms. Baro was later given false information by a union representative, asserting (wrongly) that teachers would have to pay union dues regardless of whether they were members or not.”
Attempts to reach district representatives Thursday were unsuccessful. Mike McGue, the president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 504, declined to comment, saying he had only seen the news release at that point and not the complaint itself.
When Baro learned membership was optional, she sent letters both to the district and the union seeking to leave the union, according to a lawsuit. She again sought to leave the union in February, but was told she would have to wait until the following August when the window to opt out of paying dues reopened.
The membership form Baro had filled out at an August orientation was an irrevocable agreement to remain a union member for the year unless a revocation form was submitted in August, Waukegan Teachers Council President Andy Friedlieb told Baro in an email, according to a copy attached to the lawsuit. He said the letter she had sent to the union’s Gurnee office did not meet the criteria required to resign.
The lawsuit asks that the courts declare either union dues cannot be taken out of employees’ paychecks unless they have been informed of their right not to join or that her request to leave the union, made 10 days after signing the union card, should have been allowed.
It also asks that the district stop deducting the union dues from Baro’s paycheck, she be repaid those that have been collected and her attorney fees and other costs be paid.
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