With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, two Chicago Public School educators have filed a federal class-action civil rights lawsuit against the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Board of Education. The suit challenges a union policy that blocks teachers from exercising their First Amendment right to stop payments to the union outside of the month of August. The lawsuit also seeks refunds of all dues seized as a result of the unconstitutional policy, which the Board of Education enforces.

The complaint, filed for Joanne Troesch, a Technology Coordinator at Jones College Prep, and Ifeoma Nkemdi, a second-grade teacher at Newberry Math and Science Academy, charges CTU officials breached the First Amendment protections laid out in the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The lawsuit explains that Troesch and Nkemdi “did not know they had a constitutional right not to financially support” the union hierarchy until the fall of last year. They sent letters the same month to CTU officials to exercise their Janus right to resign union membership and cut off all dues deductions.

According to the complaint, Troesch and Nkemdi received no response until November, when CTU officials confirmed receipt of the letters but said that they would continue to seize dues from the teachers’ paychecks “until September 1, 2020.” CTU bosses relied on the fact that Troesch and Nkemdi had not submitted their letters within a union boss-created “escape period,” which limits when teachers can exercise their First Amendment right to end dues deductions. The suit reveals that to date the Board has continued seizing dues from the teachers’ paychecks and transmitting them to the union.

Troesch and Nkemdi contend in their lawsuit that CTU officials’ attempt to curb employees’ right to stop dues deductions with an “escape period” and the Board’s continued dues seizures both violate the First Amendment. The complaint asks the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to order the CTU union and Board of Education to stop enforcing the unconstitutional “escape period” and notify all bargaining unit employees that they can stop the deduction of union dues at any time and “retroactively exercise that right.” The complaint also demands that the union refund the dues seized because of the unconstitutional policy from Troesch and Nkemdi and all other educators after they attempted to cut off deductions.

“Once again, teacher union officials are violating the First Amendment Janus rights of teachers they claim to represent just so they can keep the teachers’ hard-earned money rolling into their union’s coffers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation is proud to stand with Ms. Troesch and Ms. Nkemdi, and will continue to defend all educators who simply want to serve their students and community without being forced to subsidize union activities.”