On December 14, 2020, City of Hamilton employee Timothy Crane filed a lawsuit against International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 20 union bosses and the City of Hamilton for extracting compulsory fees from his paycheck, which is a clear violation of his First Amendment rights. His complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and argued that union bosses are transgressing on his rights that are protected under the Janus v. AFSCME ruling by compelling him to pay a so-called “agreement administration fee” that is the equivalent of more than 90 percent of full union dues as a condition of his employment.
In the 2018 Janus decision, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that no public worker can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of acquiring or maintaining a job. In addition, the Supreme Court determined that union dues or fees can only be taken from a public employee’s paycheck if that employee goes out of their way to explicitly rescind their right not to pay. In addition, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion and declared that union and state officials cannot presume “such a waiver.”
Crane is a City of Hamilton employee. He sent letters to IUOE union officials in both August and September of 2020 in an attempt to exercise his First Amendment Janus right to stop dues from being deducted from his paycheck. After he sent two letters, Crane discovered that the City was seizing an “agreement administration fee” from his paycheck. Further, union bosses were requesting that these dues be seized.
Crane’s lawsuit referenced the most recent contract between the City of Hamilton and IUOE Local 20 and how it mandates employees who have withdrawn from their dues deduction authorizations to still pay forced agreement administration fees. The complaint alleges that this fee is just a so-called “agency fee” – compulsory union fees slapped on to employees who refrain from formal union membership that the Janus v. AFSCME decision resoundingly made illegal– using a different name.
The suit demands that the District Court rule it unconstitutional for IUOE Local 20 and the City of Hamilton to compel him to pay the mandatory union fee. Crane’s lawsuit also seeks a refund of all money that the union illegally took from his paycheck under the unconstitutional union arrangement.
Ever since the Supreme Court ruled on Janus, Foundation staff attorneys have racked up a nice winning streak in the Buckeye State. Foundation attorneys won positive settlements in four cases for Ohio public sector workers who have resisted illegal restrictions on the exercise of their First Amendment rights as spelled out by the Janus decision. In a July settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by four public sector workers, about 30,000 Ohio public employees were no longer subject to an “escape period” scheme that the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) union bosses imposed on them, which limited to a few days every few years the time when a public employee could assert their Janus rights.
“IUOE bosses, who may have thought they were going to trick employees into funding their agenda against their will with this blatantly unconstitutional scheme, have now been caught red-handed,” declared National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Rank-and-file workers like Mr. Crane now see that IUOE officials are far more interested in keeping hard-earned employee cash flowing into their coffers than in respecting the First Amendment rights of the workers they claim to represent.”
Mix continued: “The string of Foundation victories for independent-minded Buckeye State employees who just want to exercise their First Amendment rights is not going to end here.”