February 12 — Citing a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision from last summer, a Palatine Township Elementary District 15 diesel mechanic is suing his former union and the district for a refund of dues he says he paid unwillingly.
Erich Mandel, a Palatine resident, contends in the federal lawsuit that he had no choice but to join Service Employees International Union Local 73 when he started his District 15 transportation department job on July 31, 2013. Mandel’s suit states he joined because he’d be required to pay union fees even as a nonmember.
The litigation is part of an early wave of similar cases that have been filed in Hawaii, New Mexico and California as a result of the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME ruling that said public sector unions cannot require nonmembers to pay dues.
Mandel and the plaintiffs in the other three states are being represented by the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center.
“And we’ll likely be filing in other states, too,” said Jeffrey Schwab, Mandel’s attorney.
Service Employees International Union Local 73 attorneys contend in court documents that Mandel joined voluntarily and signed a union card when he was under no obligation to do so.
Mandel informed District 15 and SEIU that he was quitting the union a couple of months after the June 27 Janus ruling, which stemmed from a case pitting an Illinois state worker against the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.
“If Mr. Mandel had a choice between paying union dues and being a member of the union or paying nothing and not being a union member, he would have chosen to pay nothing as a nonmember,” the suit states. “Instead, Mr. Mandel was given a choice to pay full union dues or pay an agency fee, which constituted a substantial sum of the full union dues.”