New Mexico state employee files lawsuit against AFSCME and State for constitutional violations

New Mexico state employee files lawsuit against AFSCME and State for constitutional violations


ALBUQUERQUE, NM (Dec. 7, 2018) –– New Mexico state employee Brett Hendrickson has filed a lawsuit against his government union, AFSCME, and the state of New Mexico for violating his First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association. Hendrickson is represented by attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center and the complaint is filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico.

Despite the decisive victory for workers’ rights in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME, Brett Hendrickson was blocked from exercising his right to resign membership from AFSCME Council 18.

The Liberty Justice Center represented Illinois state worker Mark Janus in Janus v. AFSCME. On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus that it is illegal to require government workers to pay dues or fees to a government union as a condition of employment. The Court also required that government employers – including states, cities, counties, and school districts – obtain clear consent from an employee in order to collect any union dues or fees from that employee. Further, the Court said that consent cannot be assumed; it must be voluntary, knowing, and shown by clear and compelling evidence.

New Mexico plaintiff Brett Hendrickson is a quality control specialist for the New Mexico Human Services Department. He was unconstitutionally coerced to join AFSCME Council 18 and to pay union dues as a condition of his employment. Since the Janus decision, Hendrickson has inquired about his right to leave AFSCME and stop withholding union dues from his paycheck. Hendrickson was told he could only exercise his constitutional right to leave the union during a narrow period of time.

The state and AFSCME violated Hendrickson’s First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association by refusing to allow him to withdraw his union membership and by continuing to charge him union dues based solely on a union card that he signed before the Janus decision. That union card is now unenforceable.

The Liberty Justice Center is partnered with the Rio Grande Foundation to inform New Mexican government workers of their rights after the Janus v. AFSCME decision.

Brian Kelsey, senior attorney for the Liberty Justice Center said: “The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that government employees have a choice and a voice when it comes to union membership. AFSCME coerced Mr. Hendrickson into union membership and never offered him the option of being a non-member. AFSCME violated Mr. Hendrickson’s constitutional rights by forcing him to stay in the union against his will. In Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government unions must receive clear, voluntary, and informed consent from government workers for membership. The Liberty Justice Center is determined to see that these rights are respected throughout the United States.”

Brett Hendrickson, New Mexico state employee, offered the following comment: “I was never given a choice whether to be a member of AFSCME. It was clear to me that AFSCME membership was a job requirement. Now, I want to be free to do my job and control where my money goes. My constitutional rights should not be limited to a certain time of year.”

Paul Gessing, President, Rio Grande Foundation, said: “The rights of New Mexico’s government workers are being ignored or blatantly undermined by government unions empowered by the State. The Rio Grande Foundation is focused on ensuring New Mexico’s government workers are free to exercise their constitutional rights. We are partnering with the Liberty Justice Center to inform New Mexico government workers of their rights after the Janus v. AFSCME decision.”  

See the lawsuit here: https://libertyjusticecenter.org/cases/hendrickson-v-afscme/

For media inquiries contact Kristen Williamson at media@libertyjusticecenter.org or 773-809-4403 or 
Paul Gessing at pgessing@riograndefoundation.org or 505-264-6090.