Freedom Foundation fires back in ‘The Case of the Undelivered Mail’  

Freedom Foundation fires back in ‘The Case of the Undelivered Mail’  

Freedom Foundation fires back in ‘The Case of the Undelivered Mail’  

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME affirming the right of public employees to decline union membership and dues, determined unions have employed a variety of unconstitutional tactics, including the functional equivalent of putting their fingers in their ears and chanting “la-la-la” to avoid hearing bad news.  

This week the Freedom Foundation fought back against that one by filing a response to a motion for summary judgment filed by three Washington Teamster locals being sued in federal court for trying to simply ignore the expressed wishes of their disgruntled members.  

In 2021, Teamsters 117 began refusing to accept mail from the Freedom Foundation knowing our packages contained completed opt-out cards from public employees who wanted to exercise their hard-won Constitutional rights.   

Even by union standards, the idea of brazenly refusing to acknowledge receipt of a legal document was novel, but before long at least two other unions in Washington state followed suit when the Freedom Foundation’s name was on the return address.  

Sending opt-out cards to unions on behalf of public employees is one important way the Freedom Foundation helps public employees leave their unions and stop financially supporting the unions’ political speech through union dues.   

The Freedom Foundation tracks the mail it sends to the unions and creates a paper trail that can help workers counter union attempts to keep them in the fold and their money flowing to leftist political candidates and causes.   

If the courts permit unions to refuse to even accept mail from the Freedom Foundation, the employees would have to track and keep all the documentation necessary to force the unions to acknowledge the workers’ First Amendment rights.  

When the unions first refused its mail, the Freedom Foundation resorted to sending packages with different return addresses, and the strategy worked — until the unions started recognizing those new return addresses and refusing mail from them, too.   

The organization went to great lengths to get the cards to the unions so employees could exercise their First Amendment rights. At one point, the Freedom Foundation even hired a process server to deliver the package of opt-out cards to one of the unions.  

Because the unions refused to acknowledge their obligation to accept mail sent on behalf of their own members, the Freedom Foundation filed suit against Teamsters 117 and two others in the Western District of Washington.   

Stunningly, the court issued an initial ruling that refused to require the unions to accept the opt-out cards. Then, five days after Freedom Foundation attorneys requested relevant information from the unions, their attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment, hoping to quash the case with no further discussion.   

The unions clearly had much to hide.  

In their January motion for summary judgment, the unions insisted they had accepted and processed the opt-out cards but neglected to mention that was only true for the cards they had been tricked into accepting.  

The unions then tried to convince the court all the opt-out cards had been received and processed by them months before the Freedom Foundation filed its lawsuit.   

This is yet another example of the lies unions tell.   

The Freedom Foundation filed documents with the court in May that showed that the unions had refused to accept opt-out cards even after the suit had been filed.  

Finally, the unions asserted the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decisions in Belgau and Wright dictated the court decide the case in the unions’ favor. They argued it was simply a matter of a contract between the unions and the employees instead of recognizing there cannot be any question about a contract until after they accept and open the mail that tells them an employee wants out.  

Freedom Foundation attorneys noted that an employee’s First Amendment right to resign and stop paying union dues cannot be exercised until after the unions receive notice from the employee.   

In the meantime, unions can’t just pretend the opt-out request wasn’t received just because they choose not to honor it.  

The Freedom Foundation fully expects the court will see through the unions’ obfuscation so that this case can continue to progress and win vindication for employees whose only desire is to exercise their First Amendment rights.  

Chief Litigation Counsel
Eric Stahlfeld has practiced law in Washington State for 25 years, after graduating from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. He previously worked in the administration of President Ronald Reagan. He lives outside Seattle with his wife Susan. They have two children, Marta and Karl.