Pennsylvania state employees file class-action lawsuit against AFSCME, seeking refund of approximately $3 million in illegal union fees

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Nov. 7, 2019) – Today, a group of Pennsylvania state employees sued AFSCME, one of the Commonwealth’s largest public sector unions. The U.S. Supreme Court says it is illegal to require public employees to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Pennsylvania state employees who were forced to pay these fees prior to the Court’s decision are demanding a refund.

Seven current and former Pennsylvania state employees filed a federal class-action lawsuit against AFSCME Council 13, demanding the union return money taken from their paychecks for union “agency” or “fair share” fees prior to the Court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. If successful, these workers and nearly 10,000 other state employees could recoup up to $3 million that the union took from them.

The lawsuit is Schaszberger et al., v. AFSCME Council 13. It was filed today by attorneys from the same nonprofit law firms that brought the Janus case, the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

“I was forced to pay AFSCME more than $4,000 over 10 years in order to hold my job with the Commonwealth,” said David Schaszberger, a former statistical analyst with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry for 10 years and lead plaintiff of the new case. “I was never a member of AFSCME but they still took money out of my paycheck without my permission. I was glad the Supreme Court put an end to this in 2018. Now it’s time for AFSCME to give back my money and the money they took from other government employees.”

The workers are seeking a refund of non-member fees paid to AFSCME between Nov. 7, 2017, and June 27, 2018, because this is what is permitted under the Pennsylvania statute of limitations. However, each of these workers and many others paid much more in illegal union fees over the course of their public service careers. The Commonwealth employees in the lawsuit paid an average of $600 a year in fees to the union in order to work in their positions.

“We’re fighting to get back the money that AFSCME wrongly took from Mr. Schaszberger and thousands of other employees of the Commonwealth,” said Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center. “For years, AFSCME violated the U.S. Constitution by taking money from public workers who weren’t union members. Now that the Supreme Court has vindicated government employees and ruled that mandatory union fees are illegal, public sector employees in Pennsylvania deserve to have their hard-earned money returned to them.”

The lawsuit was announced at a press conference today in Harrisburg, Pa.

“For decades government union bosses have profited by violating the constitutional rights of public sector workers,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “This lawsuit for Pennsylvania workers against AFSCME Local 13 joins others across the country seeking the return of unconstitutional forced fees taken in recent years as allowed by the statute of limitations, which ultimately still represents just a small fraction of the billions and billions seized in recent decades from government employees in violation of the First Amendment.”

Background: For years, employees of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were required to pay union fees as a condition of employment. It didn’t matter if workers weren’t union members or did not support the unions’ positions on policies and politics; these mandatory fees were permitted under state law. But in 2015, a child support specialist for Illinois government named Mark Janus filed a federal lawsuit challenging the practice of mandatory union fees. The case, Janus v. AFSCME, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of Mark Janus on June 27, 2018, restoring the rights of free speech and freedom of association to more than five million government employees across the country.

The case, Schaszberger et al., v. AFSCME Council 13, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. A copy of the case is available here: https://libertyjusticecenter.org/cases/schaszberger-v-afscme-council-13/