It’s been more than four months since Right to Work staff attorney Bill Messenger led a legal team and argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Illinois civil servant Mark Janus.
Yet, just at the curb of the U.S. Supreme Court, it appears that the Justices’ Janus v. AFSCME decision is being brazenly violated.
On June 27, the High Court ruled, in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, that it is absolutely unconstitutional for government union chiefs and public employers to cut deals forcing civil servants to pay for the advocacy of a union they would never voluntarily join, or be fired. Thanks to this decision, government union bosses now face the potential loss of hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in coerced dues and fees.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Big Labor kingpins in longtime government union stronghold jurisdictions across the country are brazenly trying to deter educators, public safety officers, and other government employees from ever exercising their right to resign from, or never join, an unwanted union. And as long as public employees remain union members, even if they don’t want to be, union chiefs can keep extracting dues from them.
Perhaps because they are often ideologically aligned with or intimidated by top union bosses, public officials generally do not put up much resistance when government union bosses trample the First Amendment rights of public employees. Executives for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), the tri-jurisdictional agency that operates the Metrorail and Metrobus services in the D.C. region, appear to be a case in point.
Early last week, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation sent a letter to Metro officers warning them that they risk being sued by Foundation staff attorneys if the WMATA continues to collect forced union dues or fees from any of its roughly 11,300 employees. The letter alerted Metro executives to the fact that, according to Metro employees who have contacted the Foundation, money is still being taken out of their paychecks without their consent.
Responding to the Foundation’s charges, Metro spokesmen Dan Stessel has tacitly acknowledged that Metro employees who joined Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 or any of the other four unions that wield monopoly-bargaining over subsections of the Metro workforce prior to Janus did not thereby give their consent to have dues siphoned out of their paychecks. That’s because, until the Janus ruling was announced this summer, employees who didn’t join were all the same forced to bankroll ATU Local 689 or another union.
But Stessel also acknowledged that WMATA executives are relying entirely on union bosses’ word to determine whether or not they continue deducting dues from particular workers’ paychecks. (See the first link below for more information.)
Meanwhile, Local 689 spokesman David Stephen has plainly admitted to Bloomberg Law that at least some of his union’s members have yet to sign re-authorization cards, and refuses to say whether even as many as half of them have done so. (See the second link below.) Yet, according to the Foundation’s sources, forced dues are being deducted from WMATA workers who haven’t given their consent.
In the wake of Janus, there’s no excuse whatsoever for a public employer to keep taking union membership dues out of an employee’s paycheck, without getting his or her permission, just because the union says, without furnishing any meaningful evidence, that the employee is a member. But four months after Janus it appears this decision is being brazenly violated just a mile or two away from the Supreme Court Building in our nation’s capital.
The apparent lawlessness of D.C. Metro union bosses and the apparent indifference of WMATA executives regarding their employees’ First Amendment rights are illustrations of why the ongoing work of Bill Messenger and many other Right to Work Foundation attorneys to ensure employees are able to vindicate their Janus rights are absolutely critical.
Metro and union accused of unfairly deducting dues from workers, Washington Post
DC Agency Told: End Union Fee Deductions or We’ll Sue, Bloomberg Law