Comments to Federal Labor Relations Authority point out that no union dues can be seized unless a federal employee provides a knowing waiver of their First Amendment rights
Washington, DC (Aug 12, 2019) – Today the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed comments with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) regarding the need for the federal government to fully protect the First Amendment rights of its employees as recognized in the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME.
The submission comes after the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) asked the FLRA to solicit public comments on how to proceed with union dues deductions in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.
In Janus, the High Court held that requiring public employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment violates their First Amendment rights “by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.” Justice Samuel Alito further ruled for the majority that no union dues or fees could be taken from a public employee “unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay” using a “freely given” waiver of his or her First Amendment rights.
Consistent with that standard, the Foundation urged the FLRA to issue guidance to agencies that they “must cease deducting union dues from the wages of employees who signed a dues deduction form that does not satisfy the [Janus] standard.” Federal employees who signed dues deduction authorizations before the Janus decision did not knowingly waive their Janus rights. Consequently, union dues cannot legally be deducted from their paychecks.
According to the Department of Labor, nearly one million federal employees (or 26.4% of all federal workers) are union members, most of whom are likely having dues deducted from their paychecks despite never having knowingly waived their First Amendment right not to subsidize union activities as protected by Janus.
Workers who want to voluntarily pay union dues must either provide the government with a valid waiver or pay dues on their own without using taxpayer-funded payroll systems to forward the money to union officials. The comments further argue that, even where workers provide a valid authorization for dues deductions that meets the Janus standard, the government should not block them from revoking that authorization if the request is submitted at any time at least a year after the Janus-complaint authorization was obtained.
Though federal workers have never been required to pay union dues or fees to keep a job, agencies and union officials frequently prohibit employees from stopping the seizure of union dues from their wages except during short annual escape periods. The comments filed by the National Right to Work Foundation say that this practice does not comply with Janus either.
“The Janus precedent is not ambiguous on this issue: Without an affirmative and knowing waiver from public workers, the government cannot collect union dues without violating the First Amendment,” explained National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The government is seizing union dues from close to one million federal workers in violation of the First Amendment, and federal agencies have an obligation to act swiftly to ensure that workers’ Janus rights are fully protected.”
Foundation staff attorneys have been hard at work ensuring that public workers’ constitutional rights under the Janus decision are protected, with more than 30 cases active in federal courts across the country to enforce the landmark ruling.