Pro-Worker Organization Files Brief Against Union that Seized Union Dues in Violation of First Amendment Rights

On September 25, 2020, staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed a reply brief with the Supreme Court in the class-action case Casanova v. International Association of Machinists, Local 701. Given this development, the petition is now requesting the Supreme Court to hear the case. In addition, the case will now be considered at the Court’s conference on October 9.

The plaintiff in this case, Benito Casanova, who is an employee at the Chicago Transit Authority, is looking to receive a refund of union fees that union bosses took from his paycheck and the paychecks of other coworkers that are in a similar situation. Such actions were carried out in violation of the First Amendment, as the landmark Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision established in 2018.

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys argued and won the Janus case,where the Supreme Court ruled that public sector workers who are forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment or maintaining their job is a violation of the First Amendment. The Court sustained that the union dues can only be taken from a public sector worker’s paycheck if they give their affirmative consent.

Casanova wants the Court to issue a ruling that compels International Association of Machinists (IAM) union bosses to return money taken from nonmember workers’ paychecks from 2016 until 2018, which is in line with Illinois’ two-year statute of limitations.

This the second case which the Foundation is backing that seeks this kind of refund. Now, it is waiting on a certiorari petition from the Court. The other case is the continuation of the Janus case itself. In this case, the original plaintiff, former Illinois child support specialist Mark Janus, is petitioning the High Court to hear his case which requests a return of unconstitutional union dues seized from him in 2013 (two years before his case started) up until the day the Janus decision was made in 2018. Foundation staff attorneys formed a partnership with attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, an Illinois nonprofit, to litigate this case.

Union bosses have turned to a so-called “good faith” defense in the lower courts to avoid returning confiscated fees that were seized from public employees’ paychecks in an unconstitutional manner. In a recent supplemental brief in Janus, Foundation attorneys highlighted that two of three judges on a panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently put forward the opinion that such a defense will not hold, while other federal judges have supported it. Based on these facts, it’s crucial that the Court hear the case to get rid of any form of confusion between the lower courts and ultimately reject the dubious argument enabling union officials to make money by violating workers’ constitutional rights.

Both cases, which have Foundation support, are set to be heard on the Court’s conference on October 9. Two additional class-action cases regarding the same matter, Danielson and Mooney, have also been scheduled for the same conference. Foundation staff attorneys are busy conducting litigation in 20 of these cases which, in sum, aim to receive refunds on approximately $130 million or more in forced union fees confiscated from workers in complete disregard to the safeguards outlined in the First Amendment.

“The Supreme Court pointed out in the Janus decision two years ago that public sector union bosses had unjustly gained a ‘considerable windfall’ by violating the First Amendment rights of public servants who wanted to disassociate with unions,” declared National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “We are proud to stand with Mr. Janus, Mr. Casanova, and scores of other public sector workers across the country as they seek to reclaim their hard-earned dollars that union bosses refuse to return despite the Supreme Court’s clear ruling in Janus.”

“The so-called ‘good faith’ defense, which permits union bosses to continue ignoring 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,” Mix continued.

The National Right to Work Committee and its legal arm do yeomen’s work in trying to hold labor union bosses accountable and protect workers from the excesses of Big Labor. Without their presence, union bosses would be having a field day against American workers.