The Washington Examiner

Maryland State Workers Sue Union, Alleging It Defied Janus Ruling and Coerced Dues

September 4, 2019

(Washington Examiner) — A group of 19 Maryland state employees have filed a class action suit against their union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 3, seeking $7 million in dues they claim was illegally taken from them.

The suit argues the union is acting in defiance of the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME ruling, which strictly limited the ability of public sector unions to coerce dues payments from workers who don’t wish to join a union.

“I was never a member of AFSCME and I never wanted anything to do with the union, yet I paid the union more than $2,000 since 2011,” said Gary Mattos, lead plaintiff in the case. Mattos is a correctional officer with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. “Taking money from hardworking people without their permission is wrong and I was relieved that the Supreme Court agrees. I want my money back and so do many other state employees.”

Council 3 claims to represent 26,000 state employees in Maryland. Federal filings indicated the union takes in about $9 million annually in funds from those workers. It is unclear how many of those are actually card-carrying members, however. The lawsuit alleges that only 8,000 public employees have affirmatively joined the union. Public sector unions have typically included so-called security clauses in their contracts with state and local government entities that require all employees in an organized workplace to the pay the union regular fees regardless of whether they join.

The Janus ruling said this practice was a violation of public employees’ First Amendment rights. The lawsuit alleges the union has refused to refund dues paid prior to the Supreme Court ruling. If a majority of the people the union represents are nonmembers, then complying with the Janus ruling could be a major financial blow to the union.

“For years, thousands of employees for the state of Maryland faced an unconstitutional situation: Pay the union or lose your job. But in 2018 the Supreme Court was very clear that these mandatory union fees violated the U.S. Constitution,” said the president of the Liberty Justice Center. “Now it’s time for AFSCME to rectify the situation by returning to workers the money they should never have taken in the first place.”

A representative for Council 3 directed inquiries to AFSCME national headquarters. A spokesperson there could not be reached for comment.