Federal statute must be interpreted to protect employees’ First Amendment rights under Janus

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed comments with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) supporting the agency’s proposed final rule to permit federal employees to exercise their right to cut off union dues deductions from their paychecks any time one year or more after authorizing such deductions. The comments are submitted in response to the FLRA’s February request for comments on the proposed rule.

The FLRA noted in its request that such a standard would adhere better to the statute governing dues deductions for federal employees. It would also stop federal union officials from limiting workers to just a small “escape period” once every year in the exercise of their right to end dues deductions. On the other hand, the proposed rule would not prevent any employee from voluntarily paying union dues.

The Foundation supports the proposed rule’s elimination of non-statutory restrictions on employees’ right to stop union dues deductions because the rule would effectuate employees’ right to choose whether to support a union under both the applicable federal statute and the First Amendment.

In the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Court ruled that public employees have a First Amendment right not to subsidize union speech and that the government violates that right by seizing union dues from nonconsenting employees. The proposed rule will be a step forward to bringing federal labor law into compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus.

“We are encouraged by the FLRA’s attempt to stop federal union bosses from unfairly restricting the rights of the workers they claim to represent just to fill their coffers with more dues,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, more still needs to be done. To fully comply with the Janus decision, the FLRA also should ensure that affirmative and knowing consent is obtained from federal workers before union dues are deducted from their paychecks so none are compelled to support union activities against their wishes.”

The FLRA is also currently accepting comments on whether or not union officials can legally use official time, which occurs when union officials are paid by taxpayers while doing union business, on lobbying activities. The agency has sought those comments – due April 24th – because of a request filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation which argued that such activities violate longstanding federal law.

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