Freedom Foundation

Oregon Bus Drivers Sue Local AFT Union

On Thursday, four Oregon school employees were forced to take legal action against their local union for its refusal to honor their request to opt out of membership and cease deductions from their paychecks.

The Hillsboro bus drivers are being represented by the Freedom Foundation, which is currently litigating approximately 10 similar lawsuits along the west coast against public employee unions attempting to undermine the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in Janus v. AFSCME (2018) that public employees have a constitutional right to disassociate from their overtly political unions and cease paying union dues.

Because of this decision, public-sector unions — which are already losing millions of dollars annually from defections— are doing everything in their power to keep members in the fold.

For Hillsboro Classified United Local 4672, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, that means holding members hostage until the union deems it appropriate to let them leave.

Each of the four plaintiffs received a letter from HCU in response to their request to opt out claiming they are locked into membership because of cards they signed.

Further, the letter states that employees can only formally resign membership during the month of June, an arbitrary window designed by the union to further restrict their civil rights.

Either one of these rules would be bad enough, but the union applies them together. Instead of letting members out either a year after they sign a membership card or every June, the union is saying both rules apply and keeping employees locked in for the maximum period of time.

Due to language the small Oregon union believes should usurp the highest court in the land, some of the plaintiffs are being told they are required to continue to paying dues for more than a year after their initial request to opt out.

“HCU 4671’s draconian reading of its own policies demonstrates disregard for the rights of the individuals it represents,” says Rebekah Millard, litigation counsel for Freedom Foundation. “To refuse to allow public employees to choose whether or not they want to be members and pay money to a union is to force their participation in political speech, a clear violation of the First Amendment.”

This new lawsuit is one of many along the west coast that stands up to the intimidation and abuse of power public-sector unions have made common practice.

“The wording of the Janus ruling was unambiguous, and so was its meaning,” Millard said. “It’s important for workers to have the right to organize, but the First Amendment rights of those who choose not to are no less important. The union can’t run roughshod over someone’s rights just because it wants to keep confiscating their money.”

Thanks to the important outreach work done by the Freedom Foundation, as public employees become more aware of their rights, they are also becoming more aware of how they are being taken advantage of.

The Freedom Foundation is proud to stand and fight on the behalf of public employees, and we will continue to do so on the West Coast and across the nation.