Freedom Foundation defends Army vet’s right to leave union

Freedom Foundation defends Army vet’s right to leave union

Freedom Foundation defends Army vet’s right to leave union

(LOS ANGELES) — On Tuesday, the Freedom Foundation responded on behalf of an Army veteran and helicopter mechanic for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit arguing his constitutional rights are being violated by the union dues deduction scheme relied on by Los Angeles County and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Michael Craine signed a deduction authorization card with AFSCME Council 36, Local 119 when he first went to work for the county in 1999. At the time, union participation was mandatory for California public employees.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, struck down such requirements with its 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.

Angered after watching AFSCME use his dues dollars to produce propaganda for the Democratic Party for more than two decades, the final straw for Craine was the union refusing to object when the county threatened to terminate employees who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 during the recent pandemic.

According to the authorization Craine signed in 1999, his membership and dues could be ended simply by sending the union a letter, which he did in January 2021.

AFSCME saw the issue differently and forced Craine to remain a member against his will.

Even worse, the union continued to take and spend his money on politics, with the direct aid of the county, because it claimed Craine’s membership agreement included language that limited opt-outs to the month of September.

These actions violated not only Craine’s rights to free association and free speech under the First Amendment, but also his rights to due process of law. 

Only after the Freedom Foundation filed suit did the union agree to honor his resignation and cease dues deductions. But the union and the government maintain they did nothing wrong.

In in his briefing before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Jan. 4, Craine made two primary arguments.

First, he asserted that when a union like AFSCME uses the power of state law to compel employees to pay for political speech against their will, it must be held accountable under civil rights statutes.

Second, Craine argued that consenting to deductions more than 20 years ago doesn’t mean he agreed to pay for the union’s speech forever. 

Craine properly opted out of union membership, and a system that grants the union power to claim it can still take his money is unconstitutional.

Craine’s attorneys at the Freedom Foundation will be presenting these arguments before the Court on Jan. 30, 2023.

Litigation Counsel
Tim Snowball is a civil rights attorney with Freedom Foundation, where his practice is focused on protecting the First Amendment rights of government workers to make their own decisions about whether to join or support public sector unions. In addition to his legal practice, Tim is an advocate for education in the areas of American government, constitutional history, and the Rule of Law. To this end, he has participated in hundreds of media interviews, written viral op-eds and blog posts, and regularly delivers speeches and other presentations to groups across California. Tim is also a part-time coach for UC Davis School of Law’s Mock Trial Program, where he teaches students the ins and out of trial practice, and has successfully lead teams to national competitions for the past three years. Tim received a JD from the George Washington University Law School, a BA in American Politics and Government from UC Berkeley, and an AA in Political Science from Grossmont College. At GW, Tim served as Notes Editor on the Federal Circuit Bar Journal, Coach on the Mock Trial Skills Board, and received the President’s Volunteer Service Award and Pro Bono Service Award for volunteering over 500 hours of pro bono service. When not fighting to protect the First Amendment, you can find Tim with his nose stuck in a book, working out, watching movies, or spending time with family and friends.