Court gets three more chances to reinforce public-sector union ruling

Court gets three more chances to reinforce public-sector union ruling
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Court gets three more chances to reinforce public-sector union ruling

(OLYMPIA, Wash.) — The U.S. Supreme Court will have several more chances this spring to stand up for its own landmark 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.

The decision, which recognized that requiring government employees to join or pay dues to a labor union violates their First Amendment rights, is the subject of three appeals filed this week by the Freedom Foundation, a nationally recognized labor watchdog organization.

“In the six years since Janus, the justices have considered dozens of appeals intended to clarify the ruling and ensure it’s enforced,” explained Eric Stahlfeld, the group’s chief litigation counsel. “For whatever reason, they’ve passed on every single one. It’s reached the point where unions, the politicians they bankroll with someone else’s money, lower court judges and public agencies that employ millions of free Americans can all act like the ruling never even happened.”

The three appeals filed by the Freedom Foundation differ in various ways but have in common government employees whose r­equest to end their monthly dues and political deductions was denied by a union anxious to continue spending their money — and discourage coworkers considering taking the same action.

The cases include:

  • Laird v. UTLA, in which longtime Los Angeles teacher and union officer Glenn Laird was so incensed by United Teachers of Los Angeles advocating to “defund the police” after seeing a former student murdered on campus, he decided to leave the union. Laird had affirmatively objected by striking out with a felt marker language supposedly restricting his ability to stop paying dues at any time, but the union required his employer to continue taking dues from his paycheck. Mr. Laird tells his story in this short video.
  • Cram, et al, v. SEIU 503, in which eight Oregon state employees were allowed to terminate their membership but the union continued to deduct a $2.75-per-month assessment to fund union political activities. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the case based on its conclusion that First Amendment rights do not apply to workers who previously joined the union, even though the Supreme Court has never allowed unions to take political donations from objecting public employees, and has expressly allowed employees to change their mind after seeing how a union is spending their money.
  • Kant v. SEIU 721, in which a pair of San Bernardino, Calif., Superior Court employees sought their release from union membership and dues only to have their request denied on the basis of a California statute banning all opt-outs while the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the state employer remains in force. The CBA was even extended for an additional two years — an agreement to which the plaintiffs were not a party and did not agree.

“The justices usually wait a few years to revisit a landmark decision like Janus, and maybe that’s what’s going on here,” Stahlfeld said. “But while they’re showing judicial restraint, people’s rights are being trampled. It’s no longer too soon to hear a Janus-related appeal. For many public employees, it’s getting closer to too late.”