In a scenario that could deal a serious blow to the power of labor unions in this country, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to render a decision in the case of a pair of workers from New Hampshire who had dues withheld from their paychecks without their consent, as the Washington Examiner reports.
Forming the basis of a class-action lawsuit filed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of two Granite State public employees is the allegation that the State Employee’s Association of New Hampshire took three years’ worth of union dues from the workers’ paychecks without their consent, in contravention of the high court’s own 2018 ruling prohibiting such action.
The complaint in the case requests repayment of membership amounts taken from workers Randy Severance, Patrick Doughty, and others who did not wish to become union members but were still forced to remit dues, as the Examiner noted.
Pursuant to the Supreme Court petition, the named workers seek the reversal of a series of lower court decisions that have thwarted their demands for dues refunds, despite the 2018 ruling in the case of Janus v. AFSCME in which the justices voted 5-4 that government employee unions may not force workers to pay anything in fees or union dues.
In a press release discussing the New Hampshire workers’ case, the National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF) explained that the Janus decision found that “public employees must affirmatively consent to union dues payments and knowingly waive their constitutional right not to pay,” and that any attempt to force such payments represented a violation of workers’ First Amendment rights to free speech and free association.
NRWF president Mark Mix articulated the organization’s position, saying, “Union bosses violated the rights of workers in New Hampshire and across the country for decades and now they must return a few years of those ill-gotten gains”
“The Court should grant Doughty and Severance’s petition and make it clear that union bosses cannot simply pocket the proceeds of their unconstitutional dues scheme,” Mix added, according to the Examiner.
The foundation also noted that “this case was only necessary because New Hampshire lacks a Right to Work law that ensures union membership and financial support are voluntary, not coerced. Had union dues been voluntary during the period covered in the lawsuit, union officials could not have seized forced fees from unwilling workers to begin with.”
Time will tell whether the Supreme Court will agree to hear this case or whether, as the petition in this case asserts, lower courts will continue to be allowed to “manipulate constitutional claims to achieve what they feel is the best policy” and to leave victims of similar civil rights violations without a viable remedy.