Later this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a decision in Janus v. AFSCME, a case seeking to end the requirement that public employees in states like Oregon pay union fees as a condition of employment. Although it’s impossible to know for certain how the court will rule, the outcome is expected to be the pro-worker one, declaring mandatory union fees in the public sector unconstitutional and allowing public employees nationwide to choose for themselves whether to pay union dues or fees.
In anticipation of the ruling, public employees hoping to exercise their Janus rights should be careful of anything the union asks them to sign.
Most notably, union membership applications now commonly include fine print that locks public employees into “irrevocable” automatic dues payments unless they jump through a series of difficult hoops to cancel.
The largest state employees’ union, SEIU 503, has already applied this scheme to a select group of state-paid caregivers and been sued as a result. Another of Oregon’s largest public employee unions, AFSCME, has recently begun denying members’ cancellation requests based on similar restrictive language in their membership cards.
The point is, Oregon’s government unions have been gearing up for the Janus decision for many years. But they haven’t been doing so in ways that will increase their value to the employees who might finally be able to choose whether to pay.
Instead, they’ve revealed their playbook perfectly in their response to Harris v. Quinn, the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended to state-paid caregivers the same opt-out rights that Janus could extend to all public employees.
As noted above, SEIU 503’s playbook was a simple, if unethical, one. It involved locking those caregivers into “irrevocable” dues payments and denying their cancellation requests. While several caregivers have sued the union with Freedom Foundation’s help, thousands more have responded to the Foundation’s outreach and successfully protected their constitutional rights in the first place by refusing to sign a union membership application.
State and local government employees who object to paying union dues or fees – and even those who are on the fence about union membership – should do the same.
Public employees should know that signing a union membership application – especially one circulated by SEIU or AFSCME – is not required and might even restrict their legal rights under the Janusdecision. Fortunately, even for those who are worried they’ve already signed one of these restrictive applications, the Freedom Foundation will be there to help them exercise their right to opt-out if (and when) the time comes.
Until then, public employees in Oregon can find out more about how to protect their rights leading up to Janus v. AFCSME by contacting the Freedom Foundation today.