One of the most awaited rulings that the United States Supreme Court handed down this year was the Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees decision. With one decision, the court restored the right of choice to workers, allowing them to choose whether or not they wanted to spend their money to support the political speech of public-sector unions.
Now that Janus v. AFSCME has been decided by SCOTUS, public unions are already feeling the results, and finding out that perhaps they aren’t as popular as they thought they were. In particular, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and other teachers’ unions face a lawsuit attempting to recoup ‘unconstitutional’ fees as a result of the ruling.
Dem coffers would likely be bare if the unions are ordered to provide ‘redress’ for the money illegally taken. This could be huge!
Scott Wilford and a number of other California-based litigants filed a class action lawsuit against a number of teachers unions, hoping to recoup the fees that they were unjustly forced to pay.
If the name Wilford is familiar, that’s because he and Rebecca Friedrichs, both who are plaintiffs in class action suit against the unions, were also co-plaintiffs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (2016).
That case also involved agency fees, and challenged the precedent set in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which allowed public unions to collect ‘non-political’ agency fees, even from non-members who didn’t agree with their political stances.
In fact, it is likely that, had Antonin Scalia not died mid-case, the Friedrichs case would have undone the Abood precedent. However, instead the case ended in a deadlocked 4-4 vote along predictable political lines. Democrats were determined to protect the money they extort from workers.
In the Janus case, lawyers for the plaintiff made the point that due to the fact that public sector unions are, by their very nature, engaging in political speech when they lobby for higher pay or greater benefits, individuals being forced to pay the agency fees means that they are being forced to support political goals.
It just happens that public unions were mostly left-leaning in nature, and that they most often spent that money supporting left-leaning politicians and policies.
Now that the Abood ruling has been undone, though, public sector unions no longer have any legitimate claim to fees from non-members for allegedly ‘non-political’ purposes.
Now that Janus struck down the mandatory agency fees as unconstitutional, former union members are demanding that the unions return the money that they took.
It’s difficult to find an average number for agency fees paid by those nearly 200,000 teachers. However, even if it amounts to only a few hundred dollars a year, that is still a sizable amount of money that the unions would have to repay.
Matt Frendewey, an education policy consultant who formerly served as the spokesperson for Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, said that the teachers who refused to join the union are owed their money back.
The court ruled that the fees the unions collected are not only illegal, but unconstitutional, and said that the money was “improperly collected” from teachers around the United States.
In other words, such individuals are due most, if not all, of that money back.
However, the union leaders don’t seem to agree.
Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, complained in an article in Education Week that the lawsuit is nothing more than a direct attack on unions (who, remember, improperly collected money from non-members).
Weingarten also said that there was nothing in the Janus ruling that mandated the money had to be repaid to people who were improperly charged for political speech via agency fees.
In other words, the union doesn’t feel like it should have to give back their ill-gotten gain, because there was nothing in the ruling that their fees were unconstitutional or that ordered the move.
Some have suggested that the fees collected are a matter of contractual law, not constitutional law, and that it is not likely that they will be returned.
However, there is ample reason to return those funds, legally and ethically speaking.
At this point, the public sector unions have two paths they could take.
They can save money and face, apologize for taking money that they were not entitled to, and opt for some sort of settlement with the class action clients. This will likely save them money in the long run, and could ensure that they don’t have to pay the full amount that they took.
On the other hand, they appear to have chosen the other option; taking the case to court and hoping that a friendly leftist judge in California will take pity on them.
It’s time that the people have a real choice about joining a public sector union or not. That means that their money should be returned, if they were forced to pay for a union that they didn’t agree with.