Members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union listen to AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer speak during a forum in this 2012 file photo.

(The Center Square) – The Fairness Center filed its eighth federal lawsuit against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 13 this week over yet another former member fighting the union’s automatic paycheck deductions that have yet to cease. 

This time, Department of Revenue employee LuAnn Zeigler filed suit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas seeking a refund, with interest, of dues she says were improperly deducted from her paychecks and damages from the union’s breach of contract.

“The Supreme Court in Janus made clear that a union cannot take money from a nonmember public employee’s paycheck against their will and without their informed consent,” said Nathan McGrath, the center’s president and general counsel. “On top of breaking their promises and their own rules about Ms. Zeigler’s rights, AFSCME officials clearly failed to collect Ms. Zeigler’s affirmative consent for paycheck deductions once she became a nonmember.”

According to the federal complaint filed Wednesday, Zeigler resigned her membership in January after she was prevented from voting on the union’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, despite promises from officials otherwise. 

The union acknowledged her resignation, but continued deducting the full fee from her paycheck, citing a membership card she signed in July 2018 that committed her to financially supporting the union until the end of the current CBA in 2023.

Zeigler alleges she was not made aware of this clause when signing the card, according to the complaint. 

“By continuing to take her money after her resignation and without her consent, union officials are violating her constitutional rights,” McGrath said. 

The Fairness Center has filed half a dozen other legal challenges against AFSCME in recent months over the union’s complex membership resignation policies. McGrath also settled litigation in May with United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 after a former liquor store clerk sued the organization for collecting $1,7000 in dues despite his resignation more than a year earlier. The union agreed to refund the money, but did not comment further on the case.

Ziegler’s case comes after a 2018 Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME deemed fair share dues and other fees collected from nonmember employees to be unlawful.

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.