Kent State Employees Sue Over Union Dues

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Three Kent State University employees are suing their AFSCME council, alleging that the union continued to take dues out of their paychecks despite the employees attempts to resign.

The employees—Annamarie Hannay, Adda Gape and John Kohl—are being represented by attorneys from two non-profits: the Ohio-based Buckeye Institute and the Illinois-based Liberty Justice Center.

"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," Hannay said, according to a news release. Hannay’s dues are about $600 every year.

"I sent in my resignation to the union and Kent State in August 2018," she said. "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."

Many states could legally permit mandatory union dues for non-members before the June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus V. AFSCME, which found that forcing public employees to pay mandatory dues to a union they didn't want to join violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and association.

To continue the inflow of money from union dues, some unions updated or changed their policies to make it more difficult for members to opt out and stop paying dues. Ohio Council 8, which represents Kent State employees, only permits employees to opt out of the union within one 15-day window in August every year. If they fail to opt out in that window, the union will not recognize their resignation from the union, and will continue to withdraw union dues from their paychecks.

Although these three employees resigned from the union outside of the 15-day window, the lawsuit alleges that the union must honor the resignations because the workers did not offer affirmative consent to enter into the union after the Janus decision.

"Annamarie and Adda are asking the court to rule against this egregious and ongoing violation of their First Amendment rights, which—to date—their union has refused to acknowledge," Robert Alt, the president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute said in the news release.

"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," Alt said. "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."

In July 2018, a union in Maine and a union in Minnesota backed off strict opt-out rules that were similar to this union’s rules. After a lawsuit was filed with the Buckeye Institute, the unions honored the resignations of the plaintiffs outside of the opt-out window.

The case was filed on April 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.