On July 14, Ohio public employees won a settlement in a federal class-action lawsuit accusing the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 11 union and the State of Ohio with imposing illegal restrictions on their First Amendment right to end union dues deductions. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation helped provide legal counsel during this lawsuit process.
The lawsuit was filed by four state employees, who challenged an “escape period” for dues seizure that unions manufactured. They believed that this dues deduction scheme as was unconstitutional per the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In the Janus decision, the Court ruled that mandatory union fees for public sector workers constitute an infringement of their First Amendment rights. On top of that, it ruled that the government can only extract union dues or fees with an individual’s affirmative and knowing consent.
The State of Ohio and AFSCME’s “maintenance of membership” policy kept workers from asserting their right to opt out of union dues deductions with the exception of a brief escape period. The State of Ohio subjected approximately 28,000 Buckeye State public worker to this AFSCME-sponsored scheme.
Due to the lawsuit settlement, AFSCME bosses and the State of Ohio have walked back their “maintenance of membership” restriction on when state workers can exercise their First Amendment right to stop paying union dues. They also are required to comply with requests to stop dues seizures from any employees who signed the AFSCME dues authorization form that the lawsuit addressed. Last but not certainly least, the settlement obligates AFSCME bosses to return dues seized illegally to the plaintiffs and more than 150 other employees who tried to stop paying union dues after Janus was ruled on.
Back in January 2019, seven other Ohio public employees scored a first-time victory against unconstitutional “escape periods” with Foundation aid. These workers filed a class-action lawsuit at the federal level challenging a similar dues confiscation policy crafted by AFSCME Council 8 bosses and won a settlement ending this practice imposed on them and their coworkers.
“Although this string of victories for Buckeye State public employees and their First Amendment rights is certainly encouraging, the widespread nature of these schemes shows there remains much work to do to force union bosses to end their unconstitutional restrictions on public employees’ First Amendment Janus rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost need to move quickly to stop violations of the First Amendment rights of all Ohio public sector workers and should cease collecting union dues from any worker who has not affirmatively consented to pay them.”