A free market policy organization from Ohio filed separate lawsuits against two different unions – one in in Ohio, one in Minnesota – claiming that their exclusive representation policies violate workers’ First Amendment rights following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus vs. AFSCME.
When a union has exclusive representation regarding employer-employee relations and contracts, these workers cannot represent themselves and have no ability to disassociate themselves from the union that represents them, Robert Alt, president of The Buckeye Institute and lead attorney in the lawsuits told Watchdog.org.
The Supreme Court ruled in the Janus decision that forced public-sector union fees violates workers First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association. Alt said the new legal precedent should not just apply to fees, but it should also apply to forced association with a union through exclusive representation policies.
"The Janus decision was an important victory for hardworking public servants across the country, but many of these same employees are still forced to accept their union's representation that they didn't ask for and do not want," Alt said in a news release. "The two cases The Buckeye Institute has filed call on the courts to immediately end compelled 'exclusive representation.' These capable public servants have the right to speak for themselves and should be released from forced association with unions and advocacy with which they disagree."
Many unions, Alt told Watchdog.org, have argued that non-members should have to pay them fees because the unions still represent them. However, Alt said that these non-members ought to have the ability to represent themselves in negotiations with their employer, especially considering unions do not always have their best interests in mind.
“This has the potential to be the next big issue in labor policy,” Alt said.
The Buckeye Institute is prepared to take these cases all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to set binding precedent, he said.
The first lawsuit that The Buckeye Institute filed was against the Marietta Education Association and on behalf of Jade Thompson, a Spanish teacher in Ohio. The second was filed against the Inter Faculty Organization and on behalf of Kathy Uradnik, a political science professor at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.
According to a news release, Thompson does not want to be represented by the union because it bargained for multiple policies with which she disagrees. This includes certain academic cuts, the exclusion of merit factors in lay-off policies, and policies that exclude non-union-members from being on committees.
Uradnik had similar concerns, which include policies that exclude non-union-members from engaging in any “faculty search, service, or governance committee, and even bars them from joining the Faculty Senate,” according to the release.
“This lawsuit is part of a nationally coordinated strategy by powerful forces aiming to destroy collective bargaining,” Inter Faculty Organization President Brent Jeffers said in a statement. “It is a direct attack on our shared values and collective voice. United, we are powerful advocates – and our solidarity threatens the national anti-labor organizations behind these attacks.”
Marietta Education Association President Kim Depue could not be reached for comment.