Government unions have always been fond of claiming their ‘members’ join voluntarily rather than as a condition of public employment. Legally speaking, that’s now true – thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.
Yet even now, union leaders resist any effort to test those claims and are all too eager to profit from keeping public employees in the dark and misinformed about their rights.
Case in point, the Freedom Foundation is currently representing three Oregon teachers in a lawsuit against the Oregon Education Association (OEA) for return of union dues wrongfully taken from their pay after they opted out of union membership.
Unsurprisingly, union leaders argue they’re entitled to keep taking money from non-member employees as long as they have a signed authorization on file – even if the employees didn’t know they could refuse to sign the authorization in the first place.
What’s worse, the OEA never informed the employees of the restrictive terms placed into the fine print.
For teachers and other school employees seeking to resign their union membership and stop having union dues taken from their salaries, the OEA’s answer is no. The fine print of the union’s membership agreement conveniently restricts the right to end dues payments until the month of September – and union leaders enforce every syllable to ensure they can keep squeezing as much money as possible from teachers’ hard-earned paychecks before inevitably accepting that yet another ‘member’ has left their ranks.
In newly filed briefs supporting the union’s motion for summary judgment, the OEA’s attorneys strenuously resist any effort to present evidence of the teachers’ mistaken belief that they were required to sign union membership agreements. Furthermore, they claim that whether the teachers had any knowledge of their rights under Janus before they signed these membership authorizations is irrelevant.
Instead, they insinuate that the OEA bears no responsibility for making sure employees know their rights and that teachers’ decisions regarding union membership are truly “voluntary.”
It doesn’t take a lawyer to see that those two claims are mutually exclusive.
Thankfully, the Freedom Foundation is gladly accepting the responsibility the OEA refuses to by ensuring that public employees truly do know their rights and by offering legal protection when those rights are violated.
The OEA is far from the only government union in Oregon to demonstrate utter contempt for public employees’ rights and a willingness to profit from fostering ignorance and misinformation. Unfortunately, the Freedom Foundation receives regular reports of union representatives flat-out lying to employees, in some cases telling them that signing membership cards is a mandatory part of their employment, and in others forging signatures on so-called “authorizations.”
When it comes to the constitutional rights of individual employees vs. government union leaders’ desire for – well, to be frank, money – their priorities are evidently clear. They will use any means necessary – including stretching the meaning of the English language – to keep taking it from hard-working public employees.