Minn. Union Settles Suit Over Withdrawal Window

Labor group will pay back dues to police clerk

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January 15, 2019

A Minnesota police clerk has won the right to cut ties from the union that attempted to continue deducting money from her paycheck even after the Supreme Court dubbed such payments unconstitutional.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 31 agreed to settle a suit with Brainerd Police Department Clerk Sandra Anderson after the 15-year veteran sued to obtain her resignation. In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public sector agencies could no longer mandate union membership or agency fee payments as a condition of employment. Within days of the ruling Anderson attempted to cease paycheck deductions, but the union insisted she was required to make the payments until January 2019 when her contract expired.

"I consulted with our attorney and was told that the dues deduction authorization form and its conditions still apply," the official said in an email. "This means that if you wish, you can opt out of paying union dues in writing during the ten day period prior to the expiration of the current contract."

Anderson was represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the same group that successfully argued the Janus case. Her attorneys said that the union should not be able to enforce the contract terms that the Supreme Court had declared unconstitutional. The suit said the union and state government should be forced to end all future dues deductions without Anderson's affirmative consent to join the union and pay full or partial.

"IBEW Local 31's maintenance and enforcement of its revocation policy violates Plaintiff Anderson's First Amendment rights to free speech and association," the November complaint says.

The union, which did not respond to request for comment, settled the case and acknowledged that it would no longer make deductions from Anderson's paychecks "unless and until she affirmatively chooses to become a member of Local 31 and authorize the deductions." The union also agreed to pay Anderson $474 for her back dues deductions.

"Local 31 agrees that it will neither seek to collect nor accept any future dues or fees deducted from the Plaintiff's wages," the settlement says. "It will remove Plaintiff from its membership rolls."

Foundation President Mark Mix said the settlement was a major victory for workers, as many face small window periods in which they are allowed to cut ties with labor organizations. Many unions and employers agree to contracts that minimize the ability of workers to resign, allowing workers to continue collecting smaller paychecks until the terms expire.

"Ms. Anderson is the first of thousands of government employees to successfully challenge union boss 'window period' schemes designed to limit workers from exercising their First Amendment rights under Janus," Mix said in a statement. "This victory serves as an inspiration for civil servants across the country who are stepping up to challenge union bosses' coercive tactics to limit public employees' constitutional rights."

The Minnesota settlement is just the latest hit that public sector unions have taken following the Janus decision. Workers have filed dozens of suits in state and federal courts challenging withdrawal policies and attempting to recover back dues collected prior to the decision.

Published under: Unions