(The Center Square) – Austin, Texas-based United Airlines fleet service employee Arthur Baisley has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his federal class action lawsuit against the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union. He alleges union officials forced him and his coworkers by default to pay for union political expenditures in violation of the First Amendment and the Railway Labor Act (RLA).
Last December, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case and ruled against him.
Baisley, represented by the National Right to Work Foundation, filed a petition for writ of certiorari on May 24. In it, he argues that private sector employees subject to the RLA should have the same protections that public sector employees have under the landmark 2018 Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.
At issue is Baisley’s challenge to the union’s requirement that employees who don’t want to join the union only be able to opt out during a brief annual “window period,” and outside of that window a portion of their salaries are withdrawn by the union against their will.
Even though Baisley sent a letter to IAM agents in November 2018 objecting to funding all union political activities, union officials only accepted his objection for 2019, and told Baisley he had to renew his objection to paying full dues and fees the next year or else be charged for them, according to the complaint.
The foundation argues the IAM union’s “opt-out” requirement violates the RLA, the First Amendment and the Janus standard for public employees established by the Supreme Court.
The foundation contends that after two previous Supreme Court rulings in Janus and Knox v. SEIU, no employee can be charged for union political or ideological expenditures without first giving their affirmative and knowing consent. The lawsuit asks the court to strike down the op-out requirement for all employees, which would require unions to receive affirmative consent from non-union workers to pay for unions' political or lobbying activities.
“The sordid goal of these kinds of union ‘opt-out’ requirements is clear: trap unsuspecting workers into subsidizing union bosses’ radical political agenda without their consent and in violation of their constitutional rights,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement. “The Supreme Court ruled in the Foundation-won Janus case that union officials must first seek the affirmative approval of public sector workers before charging them for union politics, and this case simply seeks to ensure that Mr. Baisley and all employees subject to the Railway Labor Act enjoy those same basic protections.”
IAM did not immediately return a request for comment.
Baisley won’t know until the fall if the U.S>.Supreme Court will hear the case. If it does grant his petition, oral arguments would likely be heard early next year.
The initial 48-page complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in July 2020.