Public Employees in Three States File Federal Lawsuits to End Public Sector Forced Union Dues
National Right to Work Foundation cases follow up on Supreme Court split on constitutionality of mandatory union fees for government employees
Springfield, VA (January 18, 2017) – Government employees – including Pennsylvania teachers, California medical center employees, and New York school employees – across the nation are filing three new federal court cases challenging the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced dues powers. These cases, being filed today with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, argue that state requirements that the plaintiffs pay mandatory union fees as a condition of government employment violate the First Amendment.
Nearly 40 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in that public-sector workers could be compelled as a condition of employment to pay union fees. However, in two recent National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court decisions, Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), the High Court suggested it was ready to revisit a 1978 precedent in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, expressing skepticism about the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced-dues privileges.
Assisted by staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation, two California Santa Clara Valley Medical Center pharmacists – Jeffery Lum and Andrew Li –are filing suit against SEIU officials in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose assisted by Foundation staff attorneys.
Three school workers in New York state have filed suit against the electrical workers union and Governor Cuomo in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York in Utica.
In Pennsylvania, the Foundation is working with the Fairness Center on behalf of four schoolteachers from three school districts that have filed suit against the Pennsylvania State Education Association union in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.
A similar challenge came before the Supreme Court last year, in Freidrichs v. CTA. While the Court ended up tied 4-4 in Friedrichs after the death of Justice Scalia, these three new cases join the growing number of lawsuits that challenge forced dues and fees in the public sector. Foundation staff attorneys have previously filed cases on the issue in Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
“It takes a lot of courage to stand up for freedom,” said Rebecca Freidrichs, lead plaintiff in Freidrichs v. CTA. “I’m so proud of and cheering for these four courageous Pennsylvania teachers, three brave New York school employees, and two more Californians who are standing up for our hard fought liberties and bringing these cases – it is my prayer they will be victorious so all Americans can have their First Amendment rights restored.”
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation issued the following statement on the three new cases:
“It is wrong that public employees are forced by the state government to pay fees and dues to a third party, a union, in order to keep their job as school teachers and public servants. For too long, the rights of public employees have been trampled by states that require them to pay dues to a labor union just to get or keep a government job.
“Over eighty percent of Americans support the right of all employees to work without being forced to pay tribute to union officials. Many public sector employees oppose the one-size-fits-all union monopoly bargaining contract, which makes it even more shameful that the government turns around and then forces these public servants to pay union officials for so-called representation they never wanted in the first place.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in nearly 200 cases nationwide. Its web address is www.nrtw.org.