Moline-Coal Valley School District employee sues over illegal union dues deductions

MOLINE, Ill. (April 29, 2019) – A custodian for the Moline-Coal Valley School District has filed a federal lawsuit after her employer and union refused to stop deducting money from her paycheck for union dues and contributions to a union political action fund.

Susan Bennett has worked for the Moline-Coal Valley School District since 2009. As a unionized government employee, she was required to pay either membership dues or non-member fees to AFSCME Local 672. But in June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case Janus v. AFSCME that mandatory union payments are illegal. The court said no government employee in the United States can be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Bennett heard about the court’s decision, and in November 2018 attempted to exercise her “Janus rights” under the Supreme Court’s ruling. She resigned union membership and requested that the school district stop deducting union dues and political contributions from her paycheck. However, in violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Moline-Coal Valley School District has continued to deduct union dues and union political contributions from Bennett’s paycheck.

After multiple attempts to stop the union dues deductions on her own, Bennett turned to attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm that represented the plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME.

“Since November 2018, the union and the school district have been fully aware they do not have permission to collect money from my paycheck,” said Susan Bennett, plaintiff in Bennett v. AFSCME. “I submitted my resignation as soon as I could after learning about the decision. The union did not inform me of my rights after the Janus decision and I should not have to wait months to exercise them.”

Bennett is a custodian for the school district and pays nearly $600 each year in dues to AFSCME. After receiving her resignation, the union said Bennett must wait for a 15-day window starting in July 2019 to resign and stop dues deduction. The union is requiring Bennett to pay union dues and contribute to their political action fund for eight months after she submitted her resignation.

“Instead of protecting workers’ rights, AFSCME is violating them,” said Jeffrey Schwab, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that government employees ‘must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them.’ Ms. Bennett does not give her permission of union dues and contributions to be deducted. By refusing to end her union deductions, the Moline-Coal Valley School District is placing the interests of the union ahead of school workers.”  

Bennett’s case, Bennett v. AFSCME, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois. A copy of the case is available here.