Freedom Foundation

Oregon AFSCME’s Spineless Opt-Out Restrictions

In Oregon, AFSCME rolled up its sleeves months before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling this past June in Janus v. AFSCME, hoping to siphon as much dues money from public employees as possible.

In May 2018, an Oregon state employee, Alan Tarrant, submitted a letter to AFSCME Council 75 requesting to terminate his union membership and cancel the deduction of union dues from his wages.

Tarrant sent his resignation letter because AFSCME operates contrary to his beliefs and principles. He told the Freedom Foundation, “I’ve always wanted out of the union.”

Tarrant has witnessed firsthand the effects of a union on his workplace and he does not see it as beneficial.

AFSCME Council 75, gearing up for the pending Supreme Court ruling, responded with a stale form letter that rejected his request and provided no guidance on how to “properly” re-submit his letter.

The union responded flatly, “We cannot process your request for a rebate at this time. A request must be made in the agreed-upon time frame as specified on the membership card and/or Local 3942 collective bargaining agreement.”

AFSCME may as well have said, “Why don’t you try again later… and good luck figuring out when ‘later’ is.”

As if that wasn’t enough, AFSCME also noted that it had processed Tarrant’s membership withdrawal, so he was no longer eligible for any “union benefits” or union voting rights that come with paying full dues – even though full dues would still be forcibly deducted from his pay.

Tarrant tried again, right after the justices ruled that public employees have a First Amendment right not to pay dues or fees to a union. He sent in another resignation letter, objecting to all further dues deductions.

Nice try, said AFSCME, but your opt-out period is June of 2019. Please pay those dues for another year. And don’t forget – you aren’t a member, so you can’t vote.

For months, Tarrant’s employer deducted full dues from his wages against his will, even after the Supreme Court ruled that it violates public servants’ First Amendment rights to be forced to pay union dues.

Tarrant noted in July, “I am very angry at the union’s arrogance in ignoring the Supreme Court’s decision.”

 On Oct. 30, AFSCME Council 75 sent an abrupt letter to Tarrant with no explanation, just this statement: “Your request to resign union membership has been processed. Your status has been changed in our records to non-dues payer.” This notice came seven months prior to the date the union quoted Tarrant in a previous letter.

AFSCME Council 75’s sudden change of heart could be attributed to many things. Perhaps its leaders couldn’t sleep at night, knowing they’d be held accountable for their actions by the Freedom Foundation as they have been in the past.

Perhaps the union caught whiff of Freedom Foundation’s soon-to-be-filed lawsuit challenging opt-out restrictions in light of Janus v. AFSCME. Or perhaps AFSCME dug up Mr. Tarrant’s membership card and discovered that he never agreed to opt-out restrictions in the first place.

Sometimes the fear of accountability is all it takes. AFSCME Council 75 finally did for Tarrant what it should’ve done more than five months ago. Thanks to the class-action lawsuit filed last week by the Freedom Foundation, public employees like Alan Tarrant can request relief for the dues that were wrongfully taken by AFSCME since their opt-out letters were delivered.