Special Legal Notice to Rhode Island Public Employees: Supreme Court’s Janus Ruling Means You Can Resign from Union & Cut off Dues at Any Time

Legal group that won Janus case denounces Rhode Island union bosses and public officials who are misleading workers about their rights

RHODE ISLAND (October 11, 2018) – In response to reports that the Rhode Island Attorney General and Ocean State union officials are misinforming teachers and other public employees of their legal protections under the Foundation-won Janus decision, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have issued a Special Legal Notice for all Rhode Island teachers who wish to exercise their right to stop financially supporting a union.

The notice can be found here: Setting the Record Straight on Teacher Rights in Rhode Island after Janus v. AFSCME Council 31.

The notice comes after Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin – who signed onto an anti-Janus brief at the Supreme Court and received major support from union officials in his runs for public office – made the false claim that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling “only affects non-union members” and does not apply to union members.

The Attorney General is wrong. Under Janus all government employees have the right to resign their union membership and immediately stop any financial payments to union officials. Because the Supreme Court decision made it clear that public workers must opt-in to any union payments and explicitly waive their constitutional rights, union members cannot be restricted if they seek to resign from the union and stop the payment of any union dues or fees.

The Bristol-Warren Education Association (BWEA) and the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) also issued a letter blatantly misleading teachers about their Janus rights. The letter claims that union nonmembers must pay a NEARI attorney to file a grievance against the union. However, as the Foundation’s notice states, unions are legally obligated to provide grievance service to both members and nonmembers as part of its exclusive monopoly bargaining status.

The BWEA and NEARI union officials’ letter also incorrectly claims that nonmembers are unable to request days from the Sick Leave Bank, even though the BWEA’s monopoly bargaining agreement establishes the Sick Leave Bank for all teachers, including nonmembers, covered by the agreement.

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, released the following statement regarding the notice:

“It’s shameful that the Attorney General of Rhode Island and union officials in the state are attempting to mislead public employees about their legal protections. Under Janus, any public sector employee can at any time exercise the First Amendment right to stop paying union dues and fees to a union they do not wish to support. Any suggestion to the contrary is false and is simply a cynical union boss money grab.

“Union officials ought to focus on earning the trust and support of the workers they claim to represent. Instead, they and their political allies are attempting to wield their unique monopoly bargaining privileges to discriminate against workers who seek to exercise their Janus rights. Any Rhode Island public teacher or other public employee who has been blocked from stopping union payments as is their right under Janus can turn to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal assistance.”

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are already representing workers in lawsuits across the country who have been wrongly blocked from exercising their rights under Janus.

Because of the numerous requests from workers for information about their rights under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME decision, the Foundation established MyJanusRights.org to educate public employees about their protections under Janus.

The site also enables workers to request free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation if their rights are not being respected by union officials.

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.