On May 11, 2020, six Minnesota state employees filed a lawsuit against two of the state’s largest public sector unions for an estimated return of $19 million in union dues that union officials seized from state and local employees.
According to the class action lawsuits, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that it is illegal to require public employees to pay unions dues as a condition of employment, and dues seized on prior occasions must be refunded to workers.
The unions in question, AFSCME Council 5 and Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) confiscated fees for years from workers who refused to join a union. The lawsuit against AFSCME may see 8,000 state and local workers who paid dues to the union before the 2018 Supreme Court ruling be able to recover $13 million in fees. The lawsuit against MAPE could see state employees recover up to $5.8 million.
The two lawsuits, Brown et al., v. AFSCME Council 5 and Fellows et al., v. MAPE were filed on May 11 by attorneys from nonprofit law firms that brought forward the U.S. Supreme Court case which ended forced union fees in the public sector, the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
“From 1993 to 2018 I was forced to pay AFSCME union dues for a union I never wanted to join in order to work for the state of Minnesota,” said Eric Brown, the lead plaintiff of the class action lawsuit against AFSCME. “It is time for AFSCME to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling, return the money that was taken out of my paycheck without my permission, and return money to other Minnesota state employees who were victim to this as well.”
MAPE also seized dues as a condition of employment from state workers, and three employees who have worked in various roles are suing the union to get their money back.
Mark Fellows, a licensed social worker for the Department of Human Services paid dues from July 2007 until June 27, 2018, and stated, “I joined this lawsuit because MAPE took money I didn’t want to pay and shouldn’t have been forced to pay. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, I should be entitled to get my money back.”
“Thousands of employees in Minnesota had millions of dollars illegally taken from them by AFSCME and MAPE and we’re suing to get that money back,” declared Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center. “Unions around the country have been playing this same game for years, and AFSCME and MAPE need to be held accountable because they violated the U.S. Constitution by taking money from public workers who weren’t union members. Liberty Justice Center is representing these public employees so that their hard-earned money is back in their pockets where it belongs.”
“It’s outrageous that almost two years after the Supreme Court ruled in Janus that requiring public sector employees to pay union dues to keep their jobs is a First Amendment violation, scofflaw union officials still refuse to give back millions and millions of forced fees seized from workers in violation of the First Amendment,” asserted National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation is proud to fight alongside the plaintiffs in these cases and the countless other workers across the country challenging attempts by union officials to continue to profit from their past unconstitutional behavior.”