Center of the American Experiment launches Employee Freedom awareness campaign as school district employee files lawsuit to challenge union membership
Public employees are encouraged to visit EmployeeFreedomMN.com to explore their rights and make educated decisions about union membership in the aftermath of Janus v. AFSCME
Watch the press conference video here.
(St. Paul, MN) – Public employees joined Center of the American Experiment to celebrate a new awareness campaign aimed at educating their colleagues about their Constitutional right to free speech, and by extension, their right to opt-out of public union membership. The Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME reaffirmed public employees’ right to freedom of association and restored their First Amendment right to keep their jobs without funding a workplace union. Yet, Minnesota’s public unions are deliberately creating obstacles for union members who wish to resign from union membership. And public employers are complicit because they are honoring union dues-authorization cards that were invalidated by the Supreme Court.
“Many public union members want to leave the union because the union does not represent their beliefs, particularly with regard to politics. However, members are busy with their families and lives and seldom have the time or energy to jump through all the obstacles government unions put in the way. I’m here to tell my colleagues they have a Constitutional right to make this choice for themselves. You don’t have to pay dues to the union anymore and you do not have to figure this out by yourself. EmployeeFreedomMN.com has information and resources to help you,” said Kara Rueda, a Corrections Officer at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud and a member of AFSCME.
EmployeeFreedomMN.com is a project of Center of the American Experiment designed to help public employees make educated decisions about their union membership. The website answers common questions about what the Janus case means for them, how to find their union card, and what kind of representation non-union members are entitled to if they resign from the union. It also simplifies the often confusing, time consuming process of leaving government unions. The website is part of a public awareness campaign that includes traditional advertising as well as digital ads and direct mail targeted to public-sector union members.
Last week, Center of the American Experiment sent all state and local government employers in Minnesota a letter noting their obligation to “immediately cease and desist deducting union member dues or other fees from employee paychecks.” The letter explains that public employers who continue to withhold union dues or fees “may be subject to liability for the amounts withheld, along with other damages, court costs, and attorneys’ fees.”
“If you’re trying to exercise your right to resign from your workplace union but you have no idea where to start, or you feel the union is putting undue burdens on you, we can help,” added Kim Crockett, Vice President of Center of the American Experiment. “The State of Minnesota is not telling employees about their rights or requiring the written consent employers need before deducting union dues. We hope our efforts will change that in the near future.”
Laura Loescher is a school-age child care site manager at Scandia Elementary School in the Forest Lake Public School District and a member of the Teamsters Local 320. Laura joined the union believing that her only options were to become a member and pay dues, pay fair-share fees, or be fired. After the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus, Laura attempted to resign from the union by following the extensive process the Teamsters outlined. The union refused to recognize her resignation and insisted that Laura’s employer continue to deduct dues from her pay. In retaliation, the Teamsters also stripped her of her ability to participate in contract ratification and other rights, despite the fact that she remains a member of the union.
Laura will soon file a lawsuit to challenge her union membership and continued dues deductions. Her employer is named in the suit because the district has continued to deduct union dues against her stated wishes.
“All I ask is that I’m treated fairly in accordance with the law,” said Loescher. “My right to free speech guarantees my right to resign from the union, and I shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to exercise that fundamental right.”
The firm representing Laura is the Upper Midwest Law Center, a new non-profit public interest law firm. President Doug Seaton has represented child care providers, personal care attendants and others challenging government and union abuses in past years.
“It’s a good morning for Laura, Kara, and all public employees across America, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a virtual Emancipation Proclamation for public employees. These women and their colleagues can no longer be forced to fund public-sector unions whose activities they do not support,” said Seaton. “We will also stand up for other public employees who come forward wanting to exercise their rights to free speech; they deserve to have someone in their corner.”