A $3,000 settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought by an Oregon state worker over mandatory union fees she was charged over the years, the first of many similar results expected because of the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate those mandatory fees and payments.
The AP reported the settlement was between Debora Nearman, who works for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the state’s Service Employees International Union.
The report said the case marks “the first refund of forced fees since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June that government workers can’t be required to contribute to labor groups.”
Nearman brought a case against the union on First Amendment grounds.
WND had reported when the Supreme Court ruling was released, it was a major blow to organized labor that also will weaken support for Democratic political candidates.
“This is catastrophic for Democrats,” commented Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano regarding the 5-4 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
The court ruled states are not allowed to force government workers to pay the equivalent of union dues, called “fees,” if they opt not to join a union.
The decision overturned a 40-year-old precedent.
Nearman had claimed the state’s requirement that she pay fees was improper, especially since the political organization opposes her political and religious views and “even led a campaign against her husband Mike when he successfully ran as a Republican candidate for the state Legislature,” the report said.
Hundreds of similar cases right now are in various stages of development, confirmed Patrick Semmens, of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. One is a class-action lawsuit by 30,000 state employees in California who could, if the 9th Circuit rules in their favor, be due an estimated $100 million.
Semmens told AP while Nearman will get about $3,000 back, a statute of limitations prevents her from collecting earlier payments.
AP reported that the SEIU chapter involved in the case has 72,000 members and spokeswoman Jill Bakken confirmed the court ruling triggered a drop in membership.
But the high court’s ruling was on behalf of Mark Janus, a child support specialist for state government in Illinois.
“I’m thrilled that the Supreme Court has restored not only my First Amendment rights, but the rights of millions of other government workers across the country,” he said when the decision was announced. “So many of us have been forced to pay for political speech and policy positions with which we disagree, just so we can keep our jobs. This is a victory for all of us. The right to say ‘no’ to a union is just as important as the right to say ‘yes.’ Finally our rights have been restored.”
Even though many union workers vote Republican, their leaders are heavily Democratic, and union coffers regularly fund Democrats running for office.
Janus filed his case in Illinois in 2015 with free legal representation from the Illinois-based Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
“Big loss for the coffers of the Democrats,” said President Trump.
The majority opinion said the state’s “extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment.”
Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority: “Fundamental free speech rights are at stake. Abood [the previous precedent] was poorly reasoned. It has led to practical problems and abuse. It is inconsistent with other First Amendment cases and has been undermined by more recent decisions.”
Janus had objected to many of the public policy positions that the union was pursuing. Yet some $535 was taken out of his pay annually and given to the union to fund its activities.
Alito pointed out the court has held “time and again that freedom of speech ‘includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.'”
He continued: “Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionably violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned. Suppose, for example, that the state of Illinois required all residents to sign a document expressing support for a particular set of positions on controversial public issues – say, the platform of one of the major political parties. No one, we trust, would seriously argue that the First Amendment permits this.
“Perhaps because such compulsion so plainly violates the Constitution, most of our free speech cases have involved restrictions on what can be said, rather than laws compelling speech. But measures compelling speech are at least as threatening.”