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NH State Employees Sue Union Seeking Refund of Dues

A union member holds a sign during a rally outside of San Francisco City Hall on February 26, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Hundreds of union members held a rally outside of San Francisco City Hall as the US Supreme Court begins to hear oral arguments in the Janus V. …
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DR. SUSAN BERRY

A federal lawsuit filed by New Hampshire state workers claims union officials illegally compelled them to pay union dues as a condition of their employment.

A press release from the National Right to Work (NRTW) Legal Foundation  – which is representing Patrick Doughty and Randy Severance in their class action lawsuit against Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1984 – states the workers are “asking the court to order union officials to refund the fees seized from their wages.”

The lawsuit seeks refunds of all dues and fees retroactive to at least three years.

“For years, New Hampshire union bosses violated the First Amendment rights of the very public employees they claimed to represent,” said Mark Mix, president of the NRTW Legal Defense Foundation.

He added:

Just as a bank robber caught red-handed would never be allowed to keep the proceeds of such criminal behavior, union officials must also return the money they’ve pilfered from the paychecks of hundreds of thousands of workers across the country in violation of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

The New Hampshire state employees are arguing that, by compelling them to pay fees as a condition of their employment, the union has violated their constitutional rights. The complaint cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, in which the high court ruled public sector unions could no longer force non-members to pay dues since it is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

According to NRTW:

Taking union fees from Doughty and Severance without their explicit authorization violated their First Amendment rights, according to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, a case argued and won by Foundation staff attorneys in 2018. The High Court ruled in Janus that coercing civil servants into financially subsidizing a union violates their rights to free speech and free association.

The New Hampshire State Employees Association (SEA) refers to fees collected from non-members as “fair-share” fees.

“For decades, the Supreme Court determined the collection of fair share fees was legal, and the SEA followed the Supreme Court’s interpretation,” said SEA General Counsel Gary Snyder, reported the Union Leader. “After the Supreme Court reversed its decision this past summer, the SEA immediately ceased collection of those fees in accordance with the court’s ruling. We believe the SEA will be successful in defeating this action.”

NRTW also observed the Janus ruling made clear public employees must “affirmatively opt in” to union membership before officials can collect dues from them.

The case is Doughty and Severance v. State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire, SEIU, Local 1984, CTW, CLC, No. 1:19-cv-00053 in U.S. District Court, New Hampshire.

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