Lawsuits by Trapped Union Members Piling Up

Curtis Thompson loves his school, his district, and helping students succeed. He considers his job as an education aide for at-risk students in the Cumberland Valley School District “an opportunity to give back.”

Yet Curtis believes his union (AFSCME Council 89) doesn't properly represent him in the workplace. So, in May 2017, he resigned his membership…but AFSCME won’t let him leave. They claimed he can’t resign until a 15-day window at the end of the union contract—in 2020.

According to Curtis:

My resignation from the union was the last and final straw. They were unable to do or fulfill what I needed. They were against me…I want the union to immediately stop taking money out of my paycheck. I don’t owe them anything. I think this union lacks the necessities in order to represent me in the current position that I hold as an education assistant.

Curtis recently filed a lawsuit to force AFSCME to honor his resignation and stop taking money from his hard-earned paycheck. Hear Curtis' story here.

Similarly, Tammy Wessner is suing her union, AFSCME Council 13, for the same right to resign. A psychiatric aide at Wernersville State Hospital in Berks County, Tammy became increasingly frustrated with her poor union representation and searched for ways to leave. When the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public employees can no longer be forced to pay union fees if they resign their membership, Tammy submitted her resignation letter.

AFSCME officials never responded. Instead, they continued to take her money.

In Tammy’s words:

I paid my dues, literally, for 10 years, but union officials didn’t even have the courtesy to respond to me. This illustrates just how out of touch with members they really are. I shouldn’t be forced to file a lawsuit to get their attention. At the same time, they’re taking money out of my paycheck every month. I want out of the union, and I want my money back.

Curtis and Tammy, with representation from the public interest law firm The Fairness Center, believe that union leaders’ refusal to let them resign violates their constitutional rights. They join a growing list of public employees suing their unions for the right to resign.

(Map: Pa. Right to Resign Lawsuits)

Public employees no longer have to pay a union to keep their jobs, but government and union leaders aren’t telling them, and instead obstruct workers’ ability to exercise their rights. Luckily, legislators are taking a stand for these workers.

It's called the Employee Rights Notification Act.

Rep. Kate Klunk’s legislation, HB 785, would ensure these workers know their union membership options, while also correcting Pennsylvania’s unconstitutional laws. Meanwhile, HB 506, sponsored by Rep. Greg Rothman, allows workers to more freely leave a union they don’t support.

Such legislation will make Pennsylvania’s public workplaces more fair and free—and restore the rights workers like Curtis and Tammy are fighting for and deserve.