Original plaintiffs fought for First Amendment Janus rights with National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, now they and eleven others are vindicated

Lansing, MI (September 12, 2019) – As a result of a settlement won earlier this year by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, thirteen Michigan public school employees have been freed from Michigan Education Association (MEA) union boss demands for illegal dues.

In the case which led to the settlement, MEA officials spent several years trying to exact illegal dues from two employees of the Port Huron Area School District, Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams. Gervais and Williams exercised their right to resign union membership in September 2013, approximately nine months after Michigan enacted Right to Work legislation that protects workers from being forced to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment.

Despite the employees’ resignations and the statute, MEA officials continued to demand that Gervais and Williams pay dues for a period after their resignations, alleging that they had missed a short “escape period” to cut off union dues deductions. MEA continued to demand payments even though a 2014 decision brought by Foundation staff attorneys at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) declared the union officials’ “escape period” scheme illegal under Michigan’s Right to Work law.

Gervais and Williams later sued MEA in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. In that lawsuit, Gervais and Williams argued that the MEA’s requests additionally violated the precedent in the Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME. The Janus decision, which was argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys in 2018, held that forcing public employees to pay fees to any union as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment.

The two Michigan plaintiffs sought an end to the union’s demands for themselves and any other workers who faced similar demands, along with refunds for all workers who paid dues MEA agents illegally demanded.

Rather than face Foundation staff attorneys and the Janus decision in court, MEA officials settled the case. MEA officials ended their demands to Gervais and Williams for illegal dues, and letters sent from MEA offices to Foundation staff attorneys now indicate that “report[s] … of nonpayment of dues” have been “expunged” for eleven other Michigan public school employees to date.

“Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams stood up for their rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law and the Janus decision, and now they have not only won, but have secured protection for several of their colleagues around The Wolverine State from these illegal dues demands,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “But the fight is far from over. The Foundation will proudly stand with American workers until none are compelled into union membership or paying union fees in order to work.”