On Monday, February 26, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger argued at the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME, arguing that forcing government workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment.
After oral argument, Messenger appeared live from the Court steps on Fox Business Channel:
SCOTUSblog provided a summary of the oral argument:
The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in Janus v. American Federation of State, Municipal, and County Employees, a challenge by an Illinois child-support specialist to the fees that he is required to pay to the union that represents him, even though he does not belong to any union. Although this is the first trip to the Supreme Court for Mark Janus, the employee, it was the third time in four years that the justices have taken the bench to consider the issue presented by Janus’ case. After roughly an hour of sometimes testy debate in the courtroom, the outcome almost certainly hinges on the vote of the court’s newest justice, Neil Gorsuch – who did not tip his hand, opting instead to remain silent.
Mandatory fees require dissenting nonmembers to support beliefs they reject. But the right of free speech, as the court long has recognized, includes the freedom not to speak. To force someone to pay for the advancement of political positions without his or her consent is incompatible with the First Amendment.
For background on Janus, click here.
Commentary: Does the NLRB’s Inspector General Have a Double Standard for When Board Members Must Recuse?
In a new commentary for The Federalist Society, National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond J. LaJeunesse discusses an inconsistent standard for recusals at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB):
Traditionally under the National Labor Relations Act, a company was considered to be a joint employer of another company’s employees only if the putative joint employer had direct and immediate control over the other company’s employees’ material terms and conditions of employment. However, in 2015, a National Labor Relations Board majority appointed by President Obama overturned thirty years of precedent in Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., 362 NLRB No. 186 (3-2 decision), holding that a company is a joint employer even if it only exercises indirect control of essential terms and conditions of employment or only reserves the right to do so.
The issue was addressed again by the Board in late 2017 in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, Ltd., 365 NLRB No. 156 (3-2 decision). In Hy-Brand, a Board majority appointed by President Trump overruled Browning-Ferris and returned “to the principles governing joint-employer status that existed prior to that decision.”
One of the Board Members in the Hy-Brand majority was William Emanuel. Neither Emanuel nor his former law firm was involved in Hy-Brand at any point, nor has anyone claimed that either represented a Hy-Brand party at any time in any other matter. However, the NLRB’s Inspector General was asked by someone to investigate whether Emanuel should have been recused in Hy-Brand because his former law firm, but not Emanuel, represented one of the employers in Browning-Ferris before the Board.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals asked to rule that law seeking to impose Teamsters unionization and forced dues violates drivers’ rights
Seattle, WA (February 5, 2018) – Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys are arguing Clark v. Seattle at the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for individual drivers whose federal lawsuit challenges a controversial Seattle ordinance designed to unionize independent for-hire and ride-sharing drivers and force them to pay union dues. Dan Clark, lead plaintiff in the suit, is an independent driver who picks up riders through both Uber and Lyft.
The drivers originally filed suit against the City of Seattle in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington with free legal representation by staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Washington State-based Freedom Foundation. The drivers argue that the Seattle ordinance is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and that imposing forced union representation and forced dues on them violates their First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of association.
A District Court judge ruled against the drivers last August, clearing the way for an appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Shortly after the District Court ruling, implementation of the ordinance was blocked by the Court of Appeals until that court could rule on the pending legal challenges to the first-in-the-nation ridesharing driver forced unionization scheme.
In addition to the drivers’ lawsuit, the Court of Appeals will also hear arguments in a separate legal challenge to the Seattle ordinance arguing that the forced unionization ordinance violates federal anti-trust law. A three-judge panel will hear arguments in both cases back-to-back in Seattle this morning.
“Big Labor’s one-size-fits-all, top-down forced unionism is the very antithesis of the ride-sharing model which attracts drivers by connecting them with consumers and providing them the freedom to decide when to work and through which mobile app to find customers,” National Right to Work Foundation president Mark Mix said.
“Not only is Seattle’s scheme to force independent ridesharing drivers under Teamsters monopoly representation through a coercive card check drive bad policy, but it violates federal labor law protections and the drivers’ constitutional rights,” continued Mix. “Hopefully the appeals court will rule to protect these independent drivers from this pernicious forced unionism scheme, but if it fails to we are prepared to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court to vindicate these drivers’ freedoms.”
National Workplace Advocacy Group to Charter School Teachers: ‘Know Your Rights to Protect Yourself from Compulsory Unionism’
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation president issues statement in recognition of National School Choice Week
Washington, DC (January 25, 2018) – Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, issued the following statement in recognition of National School Choice Week 2018:
“Teacher union officials, armed with billions of dollars in mandatory union dues, have orchestrated a sustained campaign to delegitimize and block efforts to promote school choice and especially charter schools. But despite that opposition, charter schools have enjoyed steady growth and popularity.
“In response, union officials have decided that if they cannot reverse the growth of charter schools, then they would attempt to control charter schools by forcing teachers and other school employees under union monopoly power. Of course, this could prove disastrous for charter school teachers and students nationwide, many of whom are attracted to charter schools precisely because they reject the one-size-fits-all approach promoted by national teacher union bosses.
“All charter school employees are entitled to certain constitutional and statutory rights but unfortunately union officials frequently attempt to keep employees in the dark about those rights. That is why National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have provided direct, free legal aid to over 10,000 teachers since its founding and why the Foundation continues its Charter School Initiative.
“Led by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, the National Right to Work Foundation’s Charter School Initiative aims to enlighten charter school employees about their rights so that they can make decisions about union representation in an atmosphere free of union boss threats, harassment, coercion, or misrepresentation. To that end, Foundation attorneys have developed free educational materials for charter school teachers and employees. Furthermore, Foundation staff attorneys are prepared to continue defending charter school employees from the injustices of forced unionism.
“Charter school teachers and other employees: You have rights. For more information about your rights and the Foundation’s Charter School Initiative, check out our website at www.nrtw.org/charterschools.”
Worker Advocate Issues Statement on Judge’s Ruling Dismissing Union Lawsuit Against Kentucky’s Right to Work Law
Frankfort, KY – Today, at the Franklin County Circuit Court, three Kentucky workers with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys successfully defended the Blue Grass state’s Right to Work law against spurious legal arguments from union officials attempting to retain their forced dues powers.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling:
“We welcome today’s ruling by the Franklin County Circuit Court upholding Kentucky’s Right to Work law, which simply ensures that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary. Right to Work laws have long been upheld by appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, so it comes as no surprise that union bosses’ arguments against Kentucky’s Right to Work law were rejected in this case. Rather than wasting tax dollars and workers’ dues money continuing this frivolous legal attack on Right to Work, Kentucky union bosses ought to be working to ensure that the representation they claim to provide is actually a service Kentucky employees will voluntarily pay for.”
The ruling can be found here.
Dealership employee discovered insurance had been canceled by union after he exercised right to resign his union membership and filed an NLRB charge challenging union practices
Chicago, IL (January 12, 2018) – A Chicago-area auto mechanic has filed an unfair labor practice charge against International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 701 with free legal assistance from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The charge, filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), describes how union bosses wrongfully terminated the worker’s health insurance in retaliation for him exercising his right to resign union membership.
Mike Vallaro is employed at Gerald Subaru, Inc. in Naperville, IL. He exercised his right to resign from the union after IAM Local 701 union officials demanded that he and his co-workers abandon their jobs and join a union-initiated strike in August 2016. By resigning prior to the union-ordered work stoppage, Vallaro could continue working and not legally be subjected to IAM internal “union discipline.”
Despite this, union officials sent him a letter threatening a disciplinary trial for working during the strike. They claimed that, if he was found guilty by the union tribunal, Vallaro would be forced to pay a monetary fine. In similar situations around the country, union officials have levied fines in the tens of thousands of dollars against workers who defied strike demands.
Understanding his rights, Vallaro turned to Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys for free legal aid and filed the unfair labor practice charge. After National Right to Work Foundation’s involvement, IAM Local 701 notified Vallaro that its trial had been canceled. However, NLRB proceedings in the case continued.
The mechanic thought that was the last of IAM Local 701’s illegal intimidation, until he went into the doctor’s office for a medical procedure, only to find that his medical insurance had been canceled. Under the monopoly bargaining contract between the IAM and his employer, all employees are entitled to health insurance. The union controls and selects the insurance plan that covers the employees irrespective of whether they are a union member or not. Additionally, because Illinois is not a Right to Work state, Vallaro is still forced to pay fees to IAM Local 701 officials each month.
Vallaro never received prior notification that his health insurance had lapsed. After conferring with his co-workers he discovered that he was the only worker in the monopoly bargaining unit to have his insurance canceled, making it clear it was in retaliation for his previous resignation and unfair labor practice charge.
In response Vallaro again turned to Foundation staff attorneys, who assisted him in filing another unfair labor practice charge against IAM officials, this time for illegal retaliation and discrimination by violating their monopoly bargaining contract to cancel Vallaro’s insurance. Both charges are now being investigated by the NLRB Region 13 office in Chicago.
Meanwhile, Vallaro faces mounting medical bills as a result of his insurance being canceled. Fortunately, for now, his employer Gerald Subaru is assisting Vallaro with the bills that would have been covered had IAM union officials not wrongfully canceled the coverage.
“Mr. Vallaro simply wanted to continue working to support himself and his family instead of engaging in a union boss-ordered strike. Now, because he exercised his protected rights under federal law, he is facing a relentless campaign of illegal union intimidation,” said Mark Mix president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Union bosses’ willingness to cancel the health insurance of a worker they still claim to ‘represent’ just when he needs to rely on that insurance, is another ugly example of union officials abusing their monopoly forced dues powers to attack workers who refuse to toe the union line.”
Illinois Homecare Assistants Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case Seeking Ruling That First Amendment Is Violated When Union Dues Are Seized Without an Individual’s Consent
Providers denied refunds of $32 million in union fees which the High Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn were seized in an unconstitutional scheme
Washington, DC (January 9, 2018) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to hear a case that could determine whether individuals’ First Amendment rights can be limited by union opt-out procedures. In the case, thousands of homecare providers are being denied refunds of over $30 million seized by union officials without their consent.
The case stems from an executive order issued by former Governor Rod Blagojevich that classified more than 80,000 individuals who receive state subsidies to provide in-home care to disabled persons as “public employees” solely for the purpose of the providers being unionized and required to pay union fees. As a result, these in-home care givers, many of them parents caring for their own children, were unionized through an SEIU “card-check” union organizing drive.
Staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation assisted eight of these providers in filing a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the forced dues seizures. The High Court took the case and, on June 30, 2014, it ruled that SEIU’s forced dues scheme imposed by Governor Blagojevich is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of the in-home care providers.
After the Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling in Harris v. Quinn – now designated Riffey v. Rauner – the case was remanded to the District Court to settle the remaining issues, including whether SEIU would be required to return more than $32 million in dues confiscated from nonmembers through its unconstitutional scheme.
In June 2016, the District Court ruled that, despite the Supreme Court ruling in Harris, the SEIU did not have to repay these funds on a class-wide basis. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals where Foundation staff attorneys argued the case in May 2017. The Appeals Court ruled that even though these workers never consented to their money being taken for forced dues, their First Amendment Rights were not violated. Foundation staff attorneys now ask the Court to determine whether the “government inflicts a First Amendment injury when it compels individuals to subsidize speech without their prior consent.”
The petition can be found here.
“The Supreme Court’s Harris decision ruled that forcing homecare providers to subsidize union speech violates their First Amendment rights,” stated NRTW President Mark Mix. “This petition asks the High Court to further clarify its Harris ruling, by making it clear that individuals who have never joined a union cannot be required to take affirmative steps just to protect those Constitutional rights.”
“An individual’s First Amendment rights should never be limited by bureaucratic opt-out procedures,” continued Mix. “With the Supreme Court considering the Constitutionality of mandatory union fees for all public employees next month in the Foundation’s Janus case, this issue could be critical in protecting the freedom of speech of millions of Americans.”