Ohio School Bus Driver Sues AFSCME Union for Violating First Amendment Rights

Last week, a Ohio public school bus driver filed a federal suit against the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) union, demanding that union officials stop violating her First Amendment rights by mandating the deduction of illegal dues from her paycheck. This complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

The lawsuit urges union bosses to cease infringing on her rights under the Foundation-won 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision, which ended compulsory union dues as a condition of employment for all public employees.

According to Donna Fizer’s complaint, in September 2018 she informed school board officials that she was “immediately withdrawing [her union] membership” and exercising her Janus rights to cease union dues deductions. The Janus decision mandates that no public employee can be obligated to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Unions can only collect fees from a public employee with an “affirmative and knowing” waiver of his or her First Amendment rights.

After the Janus decision, the school district treasurer stopped deducting dues from Fizer’s paycheck right after receiving her request. However, OAPSE union bosses fought back by filing a grievance which argued that Fizer did not submit her revocation within a small, union-fabricated “escape period” that takes place 10 days every few years. In the grievance, OAPSE officials called for the school district to continue seizing fees from Fizer in addition to making “OAPSE whole for all lost dues.”

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Though the district rejected the union’s request at first and responded that “the district will honor the Supreme Court ‘Janus Decision,’” later arbitration proceedings between the district and OAPSE went in the union’s favor and maintained the enforcement of the narrow “escape period.”

Currently, Foundation staff attorneys aiding Fizer are going to federal court, arguing that “escape periods” place illegal hindrances on public employees’ Janus rights.

“Contrary to the wishes of union bosses, their concocted ‘escape period’ schemes cannot limit public employees’ First Amendment rights to just a few days every few years,” declared National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “OAPSE union officials are ignoring the Janus decision so they can greedily continue siphoning off Fizer’s hard-earned money.”

“The Foundation is proud to stand with Donna Fizer and countless other public employees in dozens of cases all across the country who are fighting to force union bosses to respect their First Amendment Janus rights,”  Mix continued.