Lawsuit argues UW made it difficult for workers to opt out of union, dues
UW employees tried to get out of union membership and their dues, but they say the school and the union wouldn’t make it easy for him. Now the Freedom Foundation has filed a class action lawsuit so these employees can engage in their constitutional rights to opt out.
James Abernathy is the senior litigation attorney for the Freedom Foundation and joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss.
“These are University of Washington employees that simply want to be left alone by the union, which is SCIU 925. They want to stop paying money to the union, but the union will not let them and the university refuses to do anything about it,” he said. “What they knew (the union) was happening was that the Janus decision was going to make it illegal for them to force employees to pay compulsory union dues.”
The 2018 U.S. Supreme Court Janus decision ruled that the Constitution prohibits public employers and unions “from entering into agreements that require bargaining unit members to pay an agency fee or a representation fee.”
“They knew that in order to get a proper waiver after Janus, they were going to need to let the workers know what their rights are,” Abernathy said. “The great thing about Janus is that Supreme Court decisions are retroactive, so the union knew even before Janus that they were not following the law when they tricked these people into signing these agreements.”
Abernathy is representing a number of UW employees who are suing to get out of union membership and paying dues for their work at the University of Washington. They say that the school and the union either tricked them into this or wouldn’t let them out afterwards.
So how is this whole process of getting out of paying union dues supposed to work?
“The burden is on the university to make sure that the dues the university is deducting from its own employees’ wages are legal and properly authorized,” he said. “The problem is that before Janus was even decided, the union knew it was coming down, and they lobbied the Washington Legislature to pass a law that says the university — and public employers in Washington — can only listen to the union when it comes to who to deduct union dues from and who not to.”
“So when the employees go to the employer and say, ‘Hey, stop taking my money I haven’t authorized these deductions,’ the university says, ‘Sorry, there’s a law that says we have to listen to the union.’ And of course, the union has a conflict of interest. They want to violate these workers’ rights.”
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