‘This is one of the biggest scandals I’ve ever witnessed from the unions and the government…’
(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) Labor unions were dealt a crushing blow earlier this year in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case known commonly as the Janus decision. The bottom line was that public sector unions could no longer take mandatory dues, fees or other charges from government workers if they didn’t want to be in a union.
But perhaps predictably, some unions have continued skimming money from worker paychecks in violation of the court ruling. In states where they enjoy majority support from elected officials—whom the unions, in-turn, support—accountability has been nil.
Now, lawyers from the Freedom Foundation and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation are pushing back.
Attorneys from both free-market leaning organizations filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court last week aimed at getting state and local governments to stop taking money from government employees and giving it to friendly labor unions who represent them.
“This is one of the biggest scandals I’ve ever witnessed from the unions and the government,” said Aaron Withe, the Oregon Director of the Freedom Foundation.
“The union dues they’ve forcibly deducted from people who want out are meant to be designated to the working families of this state, not some special-interest group.”
Often, mandated labor dues are forced on employees and then used to advocate for public policies that individual workers may oppose, or even hurt them. Union dues are also notoriously recycled into political spending campaigns that almost exclusively support Democratic officials, legislation and lawsuits.
The Janus decision, or Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, put an end to the abuses by offering public sector workers a choice as to whether they wanted to belong to a labor union.
The 5-4 Supreme Court ruling was a bombshell, as it blew up Big Labor’s coercion revenue model that had turned organized labor into one of the biggest and most influential political lobbies in the country.
The Freedom Foundation’s class action lawsuit, Andersen v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU), targets one way unions are trying to get around the new law.
The suit was filed on behalf of 10 public employees who attempted to exercise their right to resign from union membership and refuse any further payments under Janus. But they were told they could not escape paying dues even if they left the SEIU because of certain language in their membership agreements.
Specifically, the workers’ signed union cards that supposedly negate the impact of the Supreme Court decision because it involves an agency fee. That fee demonstrated voluntary consent, the SEIU says.
The Freedom Foundation argues that the ploy is nothing more than “denial and obfuscation.”
“For years, unions used illegal agency fees to bully workers into becoming members. Someone forced to decide between union membership and an illegal penalty like an agency fee cannot ‘voluntarily’ decide to become a union member, nor can the workers be bullied into waiving rights they don’t realize they have because they have not yet been acknowledged by courts,” said Withe.
“The thousands of people that they’re doing this to are entitled to not only get this money back,” Withe said, “but also to the hundreds of dollars that have been taken from them since they decided to opt-out.”