James Whitebread first opted out of AFSCME 75 a year ago this month. Shortly thereafter, he received the same response from the union hundreds of public-sector employees across the state have – he was informed he couldn’t opt out until an arbitrary, 15-day window of opportunity opening the following April — seven months later.
Understandably frustrated, Whitebread nonetheless waited impatiently for to April arrive and the dues to stop disappearing from his bank account.
Only they didn’t.
You’d think AFSCME would have the decency to keep track of their client’s opt-out windows to know when the dues deductions went from unjustifiable to straight up illegal, but apparently, its bean counters couldn’t be bothered.
The union continued to deduct full dues for several months, apparently waiting to see whether Whitebread took the matter seriously enough to fight it in court.
He did, and in June, Whitebread responded to a Freedom Foundation mailer to public-sector employees asking if their dues had ceased during their window.
Whitebread related his experiences to Freedom Foundation Oregon Attorney Rebekah Millard, who immediately fired off a letter to AFSCME 75 demanding his dues deduction be stopped and that Whitebread receive a refund of the dues wrongfully deducted.
The union confirmed it had received the letter and promised to look into the matter, but when there was no further communication, Millard followed up with the union again a month later.
This time, the union sent Whitebread a refund and ceased deducting from his account.
This isn’t a one-time occurrence, nor is it specific to AFSCME. Another public sector employee represented by SEIU 503 ran into the same problem when he attempted to opt out of SEIU 503 in December 2018. He was told that dues would continue to be taken out until April of 2019.
Then the union continued deducting dues even after the deadline had passed for the practice to stop. He, too, reached out to the Freedom Foundation, asking if there was anything that could be done.
Once again, Millard demanded the dues stop. They did, and the employee received a full refund.
Thankfully, these workers have the Freedom Foundation to fight on their behalf. But the unions’ actions make clear how unseriously they take their newly articulated responsibilities under last summer’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.
And why, for the Freedom Foundation, it’s not enough just to change the rules. You also have to constantly make sure unions play by them.