Connecticut Union Bosses Blackball Local Chapter For Respecting Employees’ First Amendment Rights

Forced-Unionism Abuses Exposed — The facts Big Labor bosses would rather you didn’t hear about.

“[C]ompulsory unionism and corruption go hand in hand . . . .”

— U.S. Sen. John McClellan (D-Ark.)

Just over a year ago, Illinois civil servant Mark Janus and his legal team, led by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger, won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court victory for millions of independent-minded public employees.

In Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, the High Court ruled, for the first time, that it violates the U.S. Constitution for government union chiefs and public employers to cut deals forcing employees who work for the taxpayer to pay for the advocacy of a union they would never voluntarily join, or be fired.

The June 2018 Janus decision infuriated top officials of AFSCME and other government unions, and they’ve stayed angry about it ever since.

But there is a growing body of evidence that most rank-and-file government union members aren’t buying Big Labor’s anti-Janus rhetoric.

In August 2018, a nationwide survey of public-sector union members conducted by Carnegie Mellon University Prof. Lloyd Corder for the Nevada Policy Research Institute found that a majority saw Janus as a “positive change.” Fewer than a third disagreed with that characterization.

And some local union officials who listen to and act on the concerns of their members are getting the message. Early this summer, Marty Sitler, who once organized an AFSCME local in Wethersfield, Conn., and until very recently served as the president of another AFSCME chapter in Vernon, Conn., heard from rank-and-file members who objected to having union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.

Over the past couple of years, at first anticipating Janus and more recently attempting to counteract it, union bosses have stepped up their demands for contract clauses and statutes that effectively require government employers to siphon money out of employees’ paychecks and funnel it to Big Labor without their consent.

A number of state statutes now on the books (though they are all being, or soon will be, challenged in court by Right to Work and other pro-First Amendment attorneys) actually prohibit public employers from ceasing to deduct union dues from employee paychecks because an employee personally informs them he or she no longer belongs to the union and does not wish to bankroll it.

Union members who belonged to Sitler’s AFSCME local told him they did not want their freedom to quit to be hamstrung in that way. To honor their wishes, as he explained to reporter Patrick Hauf of the Daily Caller in July, he decided to negotiate a new contract with the City of Vernon that ends the automatic deduction of union dues from employee paychecks. Employees may now continue paying dues directly to the union, or quit at any time, as they choose.

Sitler and the union rank-and-file are happy with the contract, which includes a $500 signing bonus and annual raises of 1.95% over the next three years, with no dues deducted from employees’ paychecks. “They [the employees] feel they are entitled to their dues,” Sitler explained to Hauf.

However, the Janus-compliant agreement enraged top officials of AFSCME Council 4, based in New Britain, Conn. They purport to act on behalf of all AFSCME locals in the Nutmeg State. They warned Sitler not to negotiate a contract eliminating automatic dues deductions, even though that was what the rank-and- file wanted.

Shortly after the contract was signed, the AFSCME Council 4 hierarchy announced it was severing its ties with its Vernon chapter. Henceforth, it will be an independent union.

While Council 4 bosses aren’t acknowledging publicly that their outrage over the erstwhile AFSCME Supervisors Union’s willingness to end automatic payroll deductions was their key reason for decertifying the local, Sitler has no doubt that is the case: “If we agreed to keep automatic deduction, they would have signed.”

More than a year after Janus, trapping workers they claim to represent into making continual dues payments, in violation of the workers’ First Amendment rights, is evidently AFSCME bosses’ priority. In many instances, rank-and-file unionized civil servants are finding they have to file a federal lawsuit in order to vindicate their freedom of speech. Fortunately, for members of what is now known as the Directors Independent Union in Vernon, that is no longer the case.