Freedom Foundation

Unions Can’t Keep Paying to Make Lawsuits Go Away

Government unions have started using a new tactic to avoid lawsuits asserting workers’ First Amendment rights against compelled speech — giving them their money back after they get sued.

Three years ago, in Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that government unions cannot take a public employee’s lawfully earned wages without his or her consent. Otherwise, it violates their rights against compelled speech.

Unfortunately, this has not deterred the unions from unconstitutional behavior.

Consider, for example, Pete Morejon, who joined the Engineers and Architects Association (EAA) all the way back in 2005. After receiving a mailer from EAA endorsing a certain political ticket in the most recent presidential election, he decided to end his membership.

Similarly, Camille Bourque, who had never joined the union in the first place, concluded EAA’s formation of a political committee went beyond the union’s proper function.

EAA had two choices: It could honor Pete and Camille’s First Amendment rights as required by Janus, or simply ignore them.

Unfortunately, it chose the latter.

Relying on a broken legislative scheme that affords working people only extreme legal options to stop this type of abuse, they gambled that Pete and Camille would not have the resources to take them to court.

Besides, even if Pete and Camille did sue, they always had the fallback of then simply doing what they were asked to do in the first place: stop ignoring them, cease the deductions, and write them a small refund check.

Which is exactly what EAA did. With the help of Freedom Foundation, Pete and Camille sued EAA. But conveniently, EAA had a change of heart and sent Pete and Camille refund checks for the amounts wrongfully deducted in an attempt to end its lawsuit.

In this case, the union concluded discretion was the better part of valor because if the court actually did consider the issues, it might recognize EAA’s unconstitutional behavior.

Suppose your homeowners’ association made you put a political sign on your lawn supporting a candidate you don’t agree with. Clearly, this forced endorsement would violate the First Amendment.

The same logic applies here.

Except in the case of government unions, they aren’t even willing to own up to what they’re doing. The violation of Pete and Camille’s First Amendment rights were not a clerical error, and their case cannot be rectified with a refund.

Instead, their case is about a judicial acknowledgement and vindication of the First Amendment.

Because as long as unions can kill cases by cutting checks after being sued, they will continue to violate their members civil rights, and the First Amendment and Janus ruling will be rendered meaningless.