Las Vegas, NV (May 20, 2021) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Las Vegas police officer Melodie DePierro has filed response briefs in her case seeking to vindicate her First Amendment right to abstain from union membership and financial support.
DePierro’s original complaint, filed in the US District Court for the District of Nevada, challenged an “escape period” scheme created by Las Vegas Police Protective Association (PPA) union bosses and enforced by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD). This arrangement forbids her for over 90% of the year from exercising her First Amendment right under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision to resign her union membership and cut off dues deductions.
In Janus, which was argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys, the High Court ruled that forcing public sector workers to subsidize a union hierarchy as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment. The justices also declared that union dues can only be deducted from a public sector employee’s pay with an affirmative and knowing waiver of his or her First Amendment right not to pay union dues.
According to DePierro’s original complaint, she began working for LVMPD in 2006 and voluntarily joined the PPA union at that time. Her response explains that in 2006, the union monopoly bargaining contract permitted employees to terminate dues deductions “at will.”
In January 2020 she first tried to exercise her Janus rights, sending letters to both union officials and LVMPD that she was resigning her membership. The letters demanded a stop to all union dues being taken from her paycheck.
Her complaint reports that union and police department agents rejected that request because of a union-imposed “escape period” restriction previously unknown to DePierro that limited the time when employees could exercise their Janus rights. Union agents rebuffed her again after she renewed her demands in February 2020. When she filed her lawsuit, full union dues were still being seized from her paycheck.
DePierro’s latest briefs were filed in response to motions for summary judgment submitted by PPA and LVMPD. DePierro’s Foundation-provided attorneys notably refute a union argument that DePierro had “somehow consented to the 20-day annual escape period.” They contend that the “fact that the CBA was later amended to introduce the escape period does nothing to rectify LVPPA’s failure to obtain DePierro’s valid consent to such a limitation…Without such a voluntary agreement, there is no basis to enforce it against her.”
Foundation attorneys also reject union contentions that DePierro’s claims are moot because police department and union officials recently stopped seizing money from her paycheck.
“DePierro has not been reimbursed for the amount of money equal to the unlawfully withheld union dues collected subsequent to her revocation demand,” her response to the union’s motion for summary judgment reads. “As such, this is a live controversy enabling her to challenge the constitutionality of the restrictive revocation policy imposed on her, as well as to ask the Court to determine the rights and duties of the parties under the collective bargaining agreement.”
DePierro still demands that the US District Court declare the “escape period” scheme unconstitutional, forbid PPA and LVMPD from further enforcing it, and order PPA and LVMPD to refund with interest all dues that were unlawfully withheld from her pay since she tried to stop the deductions.
“Officer DePierro is a distinguished veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. With their motion for summary judgment, PPA union bosses are doubling down on their rank violations of DePierro’s First Amendment right to abstain from union membership and monetary support,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “PPA officials’ seizures of DePierro’s money with no consent from her whatsoever is a textbook violation of the Supreme Court’s standard in Janus, and the District Court must ensure that she receives justice.”
If you have questions about whether union officials are violating your rights, contact the Foundation for free help. You can also support our cause and help those suffering from Forced Unionism by donating.