The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Staff attorneys submitted a petition for certioari, requesting the United States Supreme Court to take on the case of Nathaniel Ogle on October 9, 2020. Ogle is an employee of the Ohio Department of Taxation and was never a member of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union.
Despite not having union membership, Ogle has union fees slapped on to his paycheck by union bosses of the Ohio affiliate of the AFSCME union. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v AFSCME that requiring public sector workers such as Ogle to finance union activities is unconstitutional. Shortly afterwards, Ogle submitted his class action lawsuit attempting to receive a return of the fees confiscated prior to the Janus decision from himself and potentially thousands of public sector employees.
So far, AFSCME officials have turned to the so-called “good faith” defense to skirt payments of money they seized from non-union members before the Janus decision was made. However, in the Janus decision, the Supreme Court ruled against retroactive relief and also noted that union officials have been placed “on notice” for some time after the 2012 Knox v. SEIU Supreme Court decision which established stronger First Amendment standards that kept unions from potentially seizing dues in a arbitrary fashion.
Attorneys at the Foundation contend that there is no valid basis for the “good faith” defense as highlighted per existing law. In addition, AFSCME officials were well aware of the shaky constitutionality of their activities when they were collecting payments from nonmembers but still proceeded to go forward with their legally dubious collection of forced union fees.
Ogle’s case was thrown out by the district court on July 2019. A panel of three judges on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals later ruled that the union could stop paying back its victims, in spite of the Supreme Court’s claim that unions were put “on notice,” leading to the current petition for a writ of certiorari.
Ogle is the fifth dues repayment case the Court is being petitioned to reconsider. At the moment, Foundation staff attorneys are involved in active litigation in about 20 of these cases which altogether seek to return an estimated $130 million or more in forced union dues taken from workers in complete disregard of the First Amendment.
For a supplemental brief in Janus that was recently filed, Mark Janus’ attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center highlighted that two of three judges on a panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently remarked that the “good faith” defense is invalid. On the other hand, several other federal judges have maintained it. Based on these rulings, the Foundation and Liberty Justice Center believe that it is crucial that the Court hear this case to demystify any confusion among lower courts and ultimately discard this spurious argument permitting union officials to profit from infringing on workers’ constitutional rights.
“The so-called ‘good faith’ defense, which permits union bosses to continue to ignore an established Supreme Court precedent, has already been rejected by two federal judges. It is vital that the Supreme Court take up this issue to disabuse all lower courts of this flawed argument, and to ensure that the victims of union officials’ First Amendment violations finally get some justice,” National Right to Work President Mark Mix declared. “The Court already ruled in Janus that public workers cannot be forced to pay union dues. It is past time for the victims of these First Amendment violations, including Mr. Ogle and his coworkers, to receive justice.”
Public sector unions are a massive scourge that bleed taxpayers dry and make life miserable for Americans through paralyzing strikes and the provision of sub-optimal services. Groups such as the National Right to Work Committee work to expose public sector unions’ abusive behavior and ultimately hold them accountable.