A group of custodians at Kent State University are suing their employer and its union representatives, who have continued to illegally deduct dues from their paychecks after they resigned their membership.
The custodians, Annamarie Hannay, Adda Gape, and John Kohl, are being assisted in their legal challenge by The Buckeye Institute and the Liberty Justice Center, which represented Mark Janus in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Janus v. AFSCME.
In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for government employers to withhold union dues from employees without their “affirmative consent.” As a result of that ruling, Hannay, Gape, and Kohl resigned their union membership and asked the university to stop deducting dues from their paychecks.
The union, which happens to be the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), said in response that members can only opt-out of union membership “once per year during a 15-day window preceding the anniversary of their signature on a union card,” according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs allege that AFSCME refused to honor their resignations outside of “arbitrary opt-out periods.”
“AFSCME is putting money before workers. The union is violating workers’ constitutional rights by denying their resignations in order to keep collecting dues,” said Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center. “Kent State is supporting the interests of a government union above the workers who serve their students every day.”
The lawsuit notes that, under the Janus ruling, any permission to deduct union dues granted before June 27, 2018 is null and void.
Hannay said that she’s been forced to pay almost $600 annually to AFSCME despite submitting her resignation.
“I’m being forced to pay the union for more than a year after I first submitted my resignation and withdrew any permission to deduct dues from my paycheck,” she said. “I sent my resignation to the union and Kent State in August 2018. Since then, not only has my resignation been denied, but I’ve also received confusing and contradictory messages from the union about when I could finally stop paying them money from every paycheck.”
Hannay and her co-workers filed a lawsuit against the university and AFSCME on April 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The lawsuit argues that “requiring a government employee to pay money to a union violates that employees’ First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association unless the employee ‘affirmatively consents’ to waive his or her rights.”
Robert Alt, president of The Buckeye Institute, said that the plaintiffs are “asking the court to rule against this egregious and ongoing violation of their First Amendment rights.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court spoke plainly in its Janus ruling that unions must obtain ‘clear and compelling evidence’ that a worker has consented to be a member of the union,” he added. “In this case, AFSCME has not done so. In fact, Annamarie and Adda have resigned their memberships and made it plainly known that they do not want to be members of the union.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Kent State University” by Kent State University.