The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed an amicus brief on Sept. 29 with the U.S. Supreme Court in the ongoing case of Alaska v. Alaska State Employees Association. The brief supports the state’s attempt to safeguard public sector workers’ First Amendment right to refrain from paying dues to a union they disapprove of.
The Foundation is a non-profit that provides free legal aid to employees whose rights have been violated by compulsory union abuses.
The right to abstain from union dues was initially recognized in 2018 U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, when the high court held that the First Amendment protects public sector employees from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of getting or keeping a job. The Supreme Court further recognized that unions must obtain a worker’s freely given waiver of his or her Janus rights before deducting union dues or fees from his or her paycheck.
“Public sector union bosses, who prize their own dues-funded political influence far above the individual rights of the employees they claim to ‘represent,’ have tried everything in their power to dodge the Janus ruling and keep siphoning money from workers.”
In an attempt to ensure Alaska didn’t violate employees’ constitutional rights, Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued an executive order in 2019 requiring the state to obtain consent from workers each year to deduct union dues from their paychecks. This arrangement aimed to ensure that the “freely given consent” element of Janus was satisfied, while also preventing unions from continuing to deduct money from a worker’s wages based on a “yes” that was given years ago.
However, Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA) union bosses sued the State of Alaska over its Janus protections, and were able to get the Alaska Supreme Court to block the arrangement in May.
What’s worse, as National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys point out in the amicus brief, “five Circuit Courts have now held that states and unions can constitutionally seize payments for union speech from dissenting employees without proof they waived their constitutional rights.”
While many Alaskan workers have opted out of union dues since the Janus decision, they still face hurdles.
The Foundation’s amicus brief maintains that, after the Janus decision, at least 17 states either “amended their dues deduction laws…to require government employers to enforce restrictions on when employees can stop payroll deductions of union dues,” or “enforced restrictions on stopping payroll deductions under preexisting state laws.” Both lead to unacceptable restraints on public sector workers’ Janus rights, the amicus brief argues.
The amicus brief further contends that lower courts, especially the Ninth Circuit, have misinterpreted Janus to not require public employers to notify public workers of their Janus rights before collecting dues.
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Additionally, the amicus brief points out that the Ninth Circuit has issued decisions that free public employers from any obligation to prove that union bosses obtained authentic consent from workers before dues are taken from their wages.
“Unless the Court grants review and breathes new life into Janus’ waiver requirement, unions and their government allies will continue to severely restrict the right of millions of employees to stop subsidizing union speech,” the amicus brief concludes. “The Court should not tolerate this resistance to its holding in Janus.”
“Public sector union bosses, who prize their own dues-funded political influence far above the individual rights of the employees they claim to ‘represent,’ have tried everything in their power to dodge the Janus ruling and keep siphoning money from workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “The Supreme Court has an opportunity in the State of Alaska’s case to set the record straight and ensure that workers’ free association rights can’t simply be molded according to their own schemes.”