Ohio Worker Brings Class Action Lawsuit Against Union over Forced Union 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 Columbus, Ohio, city employee filed a federal class action lawsuit last week against the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 4502 for continuing to collect union dues from her paycheck despite her objections.

Connie Pennington says CWA violated her constitutional rights by continuing to seize dues from her paycheck, even though she broke with the union and revoked her dues deduction authorization after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

According to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which represents Pennington, CWA claims workers cannot relinquish membership in the union until its contract with the city ends in 2020. The union then claims an “escape period” policy that states, even after the expiration of the local’s contract, workers have only a designated 30-day period in which to inform the union of their desire to revoke their membership.

CWA refused to accept Pennington’s revocation of membership and then continued to deduct dues from her paycheck after Foundation attorney William Messenger, who argued the Janus case at the Supreme Court, sent a letter to union officials stating their policy was preventing her from exercising her First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the union’s policy and allow its 1,400 government workers to end their membership immediately.

Additionally, Pennington is seeking a refund of dues that were deducted from her paycheck after she had resigned her union membership, and those seized from all other workers who resigned as well.

In the Janus decision, handed down last June, the Supreme Court ruled that public sector unions could no longer compel non-members to pay dues because it violated their constitutional rights. In addition, the high court held that deducting union dues or fees without a public employee’s affirmative consent is a violation of his or her First Amendment rights.

“Ms. Pennington joins many other public sector workers across the country in standing up to Big Labor’s coercion,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, in a statement, adding:

Union officials have a long history of creating obstacles such as ‘escape period’ schemes, arbitrary union-enacted limitations trapping workers into forced dues. This case shows that the National Right to Work Foundation must remain vigilant to protect government employees’ rights under Janus.

National Right to Work Foundation has established a special website that addresses workers’ rights: MyJanusRights.org.

The case is Pennington v. Communications Workers of America, Local 4502, and the City of Columbus, No. 19-937, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division.

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