Flagrantly violating a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Pennsylvania government union leaders are rejecting many workers’ efforts to resign from their unions. While they’re keeping workers trapped, union officials continue siphoning union dues from their paychecks.
These workers are fed-up and fighting back in court. William Neely, Francisco Molina, and a group of Greensburg workers have already filed lawsuits over resignation restrictions.
This week, two more lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania by public sector employees demanding the right to resign from their unions.
It almost came across like it was a blood contract.
Shalea Oliver, lawsuit plaintiff
Shalea Oliver, a caseworker for the Department of Human Services in Philadelphia since 2014, cares for vulnerable Philadelphia citizens, including the disabled and unemployed.
She has long had issues with her union, SEIU Local 668, and when she resigned after the Janus v. AFSCME decision in June 2018, union leaders ignored her and kept taking dues for six months—costing approximately $50 monthly.
“Once they realized that I wasn't willing to negotiate in order to stay, that's kind of when ignoring me came into play,” Shalea says. Referring to the union contract, she says, “It almost came across like it was a blood contract,” according to a Watchdog.org report.
Likewise, four Lebanon County mental health workers have sued Teamsters Local 429 for refusing to honor their post-Janus resignation and continuing to take dues from their paychecks.
All are represented by the Liberty Justice Center, the nonprofit law firm which brought the Janus v AFSCME lawsuit that struck down so-called “fair share fees.”
These lawsuits mirror those filed by other Pennsylvania workers, charted in the map below.
(Map: Pa. Right to Resign Lawsuits)
As highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by CF President Charles Mitchell, Janus broke down one barrier facing public sector workers, but others remain. The primary reason unions cite in blocking workers’ resignation is “maintenance of membership” clauses written into union contracts, prohibiting workers from resigning except during a brief window every few years. Many workers don’t know about this restriction. Worse yet, they may not know fair share fees were eliminated.
This lack of disclosure is a major obstacle for public employees and allows union leaders to manipulate members, according to Shalea:
If you don't have any personal knowledge, if you didn't read the news, if you didn't look into things yourself, you wouldn't even know that you have the right to leave this union at this point….And I think that they purposely try and keep those who are hypothetically ignorant of the situation in the dark.
Luckily, Pennsylvania legislators want to proactively inform government employees about all their options. Rep. Kate Klunk and Sen. Scott Martin are introducing legislation requiring government to inform workers of their right to choose not to join a union without paying a fee.
The Supreme Court gave workers a choice whether to join a union, but they can’t make an informed choice if they don’t know their options. And government union leaders should not be permitted to side-step the court’s ruling and trap workers in unwanted union membership.