Kent State employees sue over illegal union dues

COLUMBUS, OHIO (APRIL 29, 2019) – Three Kent State University workers have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that union dues were illegally deducted from their paychecks.

Annamarie Hannay and Adda Gape are custodians for student residence halls at Kent State University. Since they started working at the university, they were required to pay money to AFSCME, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. However, in August 2018, each of them resigned their union membership and requested that Kent State stop deducting union dues from their paychecks.

Despite the decisive victory for workers’ rights in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision, AFSCME refused to honor the resignations of these employees outside of arbitrary opt-out periods. Kent State University continued to deduct dues from the workers’ paychecks without their affirmative consent.

Hannay, Gape, and their coworker John Kohl are now suing to exercise their “Janus rights” with the help of attorneys from The Buckeye Institute, which also represents plaintiffs in Maine, Minnesota, and Ohio in cases to end forced union exclusive representation, and the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm that represented the plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME.

“AFSCME is putting money before workers. The union is violating workers’ constitutional rights by denying their resignations in order to keep collecting dues,” said Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center. “Kent State is supporting the interests of a government union above the workers who serve their students every day.”

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus that government employers may not withhold union dues or fees from employees’ paychecks without their affirmative consent. Prior to the Janus decision, employees were given an unconstitutional choice: pay the union as a member or pay the union as a nonmember. Now that workers’ First Amendment right to choose has been recognized, any permission to deduct dues given before June 27, 2018, should be null and void.

“I’m being forced to pay the union for more than a year after I first submitted my resignation and withdrew any permission to deduct dues from my paycheck,” said Annamarie Hannay, who pays almost $600 each year to AFSCME. “I sent in my resignation to the union and Kent State in August 2018. Since then, not only has my resignation been denied, but I’ve also received confusing and contradictory messages from the union about when I could finally stop paying them money from every paycheck.”

“Annamarie and Adda are asking the court to rule against this egregious and ongoing violation of their First Amendment rights, which—to date—their union has refused to acknowledge,” said Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute. “The U.S. Supreme Court spoke plainly in its Janus ruling that unions must obtain ‘clear and compelling evidence’ that a worker has consented to be a member of the union. In this case, AFSCME has not done so. In fact, Annamarie and Adda have resigned their memberships and made it plainly known that they do not want to be members of the union.”

Hannay, Gape, and Kohl’s case, Hannay v. Board of Trustees of Kent State University, was filed on April 29, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. A copy of the case is available here: https://libertyjusticecenter.org/cases/hannay-v-kent-state/