Minnesota Court Employees Win Full Refunds of Forced Union Dues Seized in Violation of Supreme Court’s Janus Decision

Teamsters officials forced to return every dollar, plus interest, of fees seized by the union from the court workers

Minneapolis, MN (September 10, 2018) – A federal First Amendment lawsuit brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for two Minnesota court employees against a Teamsters local union has ended with the workers winning a settlement that will return to the workers all forced union dues seized by union officials. The refund is a result of the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision, which held that the First Amendment prohibits mandatory union fees for public sector workers.

Carrie Keller and Elizabeth Zeien, employees of the State of Minnesota Court System, filed the lawsuit after Teamsters Local 320 union officials and Minnesota state officials forced them into union ranks without a vote and against their desire.

When Keller and Zeien starting working for the State, neither was a union member, and they both negotiated their own terms and conditions of employment and salaries free from union interference. In 2015, Teamsters union officials started proceedings to force a number of state employees who were not in monopoly bargaining units into union ranks, in which they could be required to pay union dues and fees.

In March 2017, Minnesota state officials complied with the Teamsters’ demands and added a number of employees, including Keller and Zeien, to a Teamsters controlled bargaining unit. Keller and Zeien were never given a vote on whether they should be part of the union bargaining unit, and they objected to the scheme.

Before being forced under the union contract, Keller and Zeien had pay scales and benefits for themselves that equaled or exceeded what they received under the union-mandated contract. The lower potential compensation and the imposition of mandatory union fees led them to approach the National Right to Work Foundation for assistance in challenging the forced unionization scheme.

The Foundation-won Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME overturned the erroneous 1977 ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that public sector workers could be compelled as a condition of employment to pay union fees for bargaining-related purposes. In Janus, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require government workers to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Additionally, the Court clarified that no union dues or fees can be taken from workers without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right not to financially support a labor union.

Deciding to settle the lawsuit after the Janus decision, Teamsters union officials will refund to Keller and Zeien the entirety of the unconstitutionally seized union dues plus interest. They and the Court System will not collect any dues or fees from the employees’ future wages unless either affirmatively chooses to become a member of Teamsters and authorizes such deductions.

“These two workers are among the first of millions of government employees to finally receive justice for the violation of their rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Thanks to the Foundation’s Janus Supreme Court victory, public sector workers can no longer be coerced into signing away their First Amendment rights to keep their jobs. The Foundation will continue to hold union officials accountable when they attempt to force workers into unconstitutional forced-fees schemes.”

The Foundation has created a special website, MyJanusRights.org, to assist public employees in exercising their rights under Janus, which was successfully argued by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.