In June of this year the Supreme Court ruled that government agencies could no longer require workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment. This necessarily meant that both SEIU and AFSCME are both attempting to circumvent a Federal Court ruling and prevent First Amendment rights.
According to the suit, “Defendant’s actions and dues deduction revocation restrictions violate the employees’ exercise of First Amendment right not to pay moneys to a union without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of First Amendment rights.”
The suit also says the unions intentionally designed government contracts to prevent workers to resign membership until a later date in spite of the June ruling in the Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees case.
When a Wallowa County employee submitted her resignation, SEIU Local 503 removed her name from the membership roster, but continued deducting fees, which the union said it would do unitl May of 2019.
A union letter included in the suit states: “We are in receipt of your letter requesting to resign your membership with SEIU Local 503… Dues deductions cannot be terminated except in the periods set forth in the authorization… At that point the Union will take appropriate steps to have your dues checkoff cancelled.”
AFSCME Council 75 sent similar letters to its workers who attempted to withdraw from the union. The letters stated that the employees would not be able to vote in the elections or hold union offices, but would still be required to pay dues up to one year following their resignation.
A female prison worker’s letter read, “We have changed your status in our database to non-member dues payer.” While this is in clear violation of her First Amendment right, the letter attempted to make the Union appear benevolent by stating, “Members who resign their membership shall continue to pay dues for more than 12 months. Notwithstanding the provision, as an act of good faith, we will ask your employer to terminate your dues on 1/12/2019.”
National Right to Work Foundation filed the suit on behalf of the Oregon workers. The same organization brought the Janus case to the Supreme Court where it was successfully argued.
The President of the foundation, Mark Mix, claims that suits like that in Oregon are necessary to force Unions to honor the rights of employees who work for government agencies. “Union officials hav a long history of manipulating ‘wind period’ schemes, arbitrary union-enacted limitations trapping workers into forced dues, and other obstacles designed to block individuals from exercising their constitutional rights,” he said in a statement. “The Foundation’s victory in Janus at the Supreme Court provided much-needed protection, but as this case shows union bosses are now defying the Supreme Court to continue their abusive practices.”
The Oregon suit is only the most recent filed against unions to recover back dues. Other similar suits are already in progress in the states of Washington, California, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, and it is likely that others will arise as union corruption seeks to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.
In Oregon workers who wish to exercise their First Amendment right to opt out and not pay dues continue to face an uphill battle until the law suit comes to fruition. The state’s governor Kate Brown has publicly voiced her support for public sector unions over individual workers who wish to withdraw.
In a June statement from the Oregon governor’s office Brown said, “The Supreme Court’s disappointing ruling in the Janus case tips the scale yet again in favor of the wealthy special interests, making it even harder for working families to get ahead. Despite that decision, however, Oregon’s unions will remain strong as long as union members stick together and continue acting collectively for the common good of all workers.”
In other words the “workers” the governor referred to were only those within the union. Such a statement necessarily means that Kate Brown cares not for her constituency’s ability to exercise their First Amendment right, but rather would force people to pay for services and representation for which they do not agree.