Home-care workers and teachers are looking to walk through the gate opened by the Supreme Court decision on Janus v. AFSCME and collect dues previously taken from them by unions.
In the Janus decision, the Supreme Court ruled that forcing public employees to pay a union’s “agency fees” violated their First Amendment right to free speech.
The agency fees reimburse the union for the costs of representing the employees in contract negotiations, even if the employee does not want the union’s representation. The fees also, in effect, force the employee to fund the union’s political actions, even if the employee disagrees with them.
Now, less than two weeks after Janus was decided, lawsuits in Washington state and California seek to expand the Janus decision by asking for the reimbursement of past dues that had been collected against employees’ will.
In Washington, the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit asking that all of those home-care workers who did not opt-in to pay union dues should have their dues refunded to them.
Whether the home-care workers are public employees will be a matter of litigation. However, the state withheld dues from their checks, and they were forced to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, which represents public employees.
In California, seven teachers have filed a class-action suit asking that dues withheld from their salaries be refunded.
After Janus, public employee unions faced the likely dramatic shrinking of their membership rolls, as employees can now opt not to pay the agency fees or dues. With this reduction in their membership, the unions will see a big reduction in their budgets and political influence.
If these two class-action lawsuits are successful, the unions will, in addition, see sweeping retroactive financial losses, as employees across the country will file similar suits.