Right to Work Legal Foundation Wins Case Challenging Big Labor Scheme to Keep New Mexico State Employees from Exercising Free Speech Rights

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys won a settlement during a case to protect New Mexico state employee’s rights in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision last year.

As a consequence of the federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union, CWA union officials plan on refunding thousands of dollars seized from state employees and discard a union policy that kept workers from opting out of forced union dues.

The settlement agreement was executed last Thursday, October 17, 2019, which settled the class-action lawsuit filed back in December by the New Mexico Department of Information Technology (DoIT) employee David McCutcheon against CWA union Local 7076 and New Mexico’s State Personnel Director Pamela D. Coleman.

Part of the settlement has union officials removing the union-created “escape period” which constrained workers’ ability to revoke dues authorization. Additionally, the union will also pay back fully, plus interest, all the dues seized from McCutcheon and others who tried to exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus, but were kept from doing so due to “escape period” restrictions.

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“Local 7076 and CWA will not enter into any [union contract] with the State of New Mexico that restricts to a yearly window period the time when a bargaining unit member may revoke a previously authorized dues deduction authorization,” the settlement stated.

In sum, CWA union officials are expected to return more than $15,000 seized from 67 state employees, on top of $1,000 paid to McCutcheon for all dues taken before Janus. The settlement was finalized on October 21, 2019 after District Court Judge Martha Vazquez greenlight a joint motion to throw out the lawsuit.

McCutcheon is employed as an IT technician at New Mexico’s DoIT and was subject to forced union dues before the Janus ruling last summer. Following the Foundation’s victory, McCutcheon tried to stop dues payments but was told that he could only do so during a brief two-week timeframe in December.

Public sector union bosses nationwide have tried to pull similar schemes to prevent workers from asserting their Janus rights. This has resulted in more than a dozen cases brought forward with National Right to Work Foundation legal counsel. On top of McCutcheon’s lawsuit, union officials in Minnesota, Ohio, and California have withdrawn such policies instead of litigating against Foundation staff attorneys in federal court.

“Respecting workers’ Janus rights is not optional, it’s the law. Public sector workers’ First Amendment rights cannot be limited to just a few days a year,” declared National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These union boss created ‘window periods’ clearly infringe on workers’ rights and are being struck down in lawsuits coast-to-coast brought with Foundation legal aid.”