SEIU Bosses Refund Dues Seized from Chicago Mental Health Counselor After He Resigned Union Membership

Under unconstitutional ‘escape period’ scheme, healthcare worker paid union dues for months despite resigning SEIU membership

Chicago, IL (September 20, 2021) – Former University of Illinois Healthcare worker Johnathan Shepard won a full refund of money deducted from his paycheck by union officials who refused to stop charging Shepard unless he submitted a request during a fifteen-day annual “escape period.” Union officials returned the money after Shepard filed a federal lawsuit with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Shepard was a mental health counselor for the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System. Shepard sent a letter to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 resigning his membership, but was told union officials would continue seizing union dues from his paycheck unless he waited several months and sent another revocation letter during a narrow 15-day “escape period.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its 2018 Janus decision that public sector workers like Shepard cannot be forced to pay union dues or fees. The High Court agreed with then-Illinois state employee Mark Janus and his National Right to Work Foundation attorneys that taking union dues from public sector workers without their affirmative consent violates the First Amendment by forcing them to subsidize union speech. Shepard argued that he had withdrawn his affirmative consent by resigning from the union, giving union officials no basis to continue seizing his money.

The SEIU officials’ “escape period” scheme is designed to stop employees from exercising their First Amendment rights under Janus for 350 days of the year (351 during leap years). Shepard filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court against SEIU Local 73 and the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Rather than defend their “escape period” scheme, SEIU officials settled with Shepard and returned all the money they seized after he exercised his First Amendment right.

During Shepard’s lawsuit, SEIU Local 73 officials revealed that about two dozen other employees had similarly been blocked from cutting off union dues under the union’s “escape period” scheme. Foundation attorneys are challenging “escape periods” across the country, including in two pending Supreme Court petitions. One petition involves Chicago Public Schools educators Joanne Troesch and Ifeoma Nkemdi, whose ability to cut off union dues was confined to the month of August. Workers who have been victimized by compulsory unionism are encouraged to contact the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid.

“When the Foundation-won Janus decision outlawed compulsory union dues in the public sector – essentially giving Right to Work protections to every government worker – union bosses immediately created new restrictions to make cutting off dues time consuming and confusing,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “We won’t stop fighting until ‘escape period’ schemes everywhere are eliminated and no worker can be forced to pay union dues or fees without their consent.”

If you have questions about whether union officials are violating your rights, contact the Foundation for free help. To take action by supporting The National Right to Work Committee and fueling the fight against Forced Unionism, click here to donate now.

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