Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed a class action lawsuit on August 27, 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, which challenges Ohio’s enforcement of illegal restrictions crafted by AFSCME Council 11 union officials. These restrictions curtail state employees’ First Amendment rights to stop payment of union dues.
The Foundation is filing the lawsuit on behalf of five state employees who are receiving free legal aid. This lawsuit aims to guarantee that Ohio state workers can freely exercise their free speech rights under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision, which overturned mandatory union fees on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment rights of government employees.
The Supreme Court acknowledged that any dues extracted from a government worker without their affirmative consent is a violation of the First Amendment. Additionally, this case clarified that these rights cannot be restricted “absent a clear and knowing waiver of them.”
The lawsuit takes aim at restrictions that unions created which keep workers from exercising their Janus rights outside of a brief “escape period” once every three years at the end of a union monopoly bargaining contract. AFSCME Council 11 is imposing such First Amendment restrictions on tens of thousands of state workers in the Buckeye state.
The Foundation’s lawsuit aims to lift those restrictions and guarantee that state workers only have union dues deducted from their paychecks if they give affirmative consent to such payments.
Given how the state of Ohio is seizing the dues from workers’ paychecks and enforcing this restriction, Governor Mike DeWine and another state official are the defendants in the complaint.
“Over a year ago the US Supreme Court ruled that public employees’ financial support of union activities must be completely voluntary, but the state of Ohio continues to enforce illegal union policies that violate the clear standards laid out in the Janus decision,” declared National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix.
Hed added, “Governor DeWine and Attorney General Yost should move quickly to stop this widespread violation of the First Amendment rights of Ohio public sector workers and cease collecting union dues from any worker who has not affirmatively consented to pay dues.”
In this lawsuit, the Ohio government employees’ lead Foundation staff attorney is William Messenger. Messenger argued the Janus v. AFSCME case before the U.S. Supreme Court. At the moment, Foundation staff attorneys are litigating dozens of cases that would make states comply with the Janus decision and protect workers across the nation.