Gov. Walz must restore Minnesota public employees’ First Amendment rights

Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy issued an executive order Thursday afternoon to bring the state into compliance with the 2018 United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, acknowledging that the state did not have the required “clear and compelling” evidence of affirmative consent from public employees before deducting union dues from their paychecks. The executive order will give public employees in Alaska the choice to opt in to union dues authorization and will also allow them to revoke their decision at any time.

In a press release the Center sent out earlier this morning, I called on Governor Walz to follow suit and fulfill his legal obligation as governor by fully restoring public employees’ First Amendment rights in Minnesota.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME is clear: Public employees must provide explicit consent before the state can legally deduct union dues from their paychecks. Employees also deserve the flexibility to opt in or opt out of the union whenever they choose.

But the state has been silent about union members’ rights, and no move has been made to enforce the constitutional rights of members. And several lawsuits have been filed in response, including most recently Susan Halloran’s against AFSCME Council 5 for not honoring her attempt to revoke dues authorization.

In April, the Center mailed a letter to every Minnesota public employer informing them of the implications of the Court’s ruling. While the State of Minnesota did stop deducting “fair-share” fees, this does not bring the government into full compliance with the Court’s ruling.

Government employers may not deduct union dues from an employee’s paycheck unless the employee has “clearly and affirmatively” consented to the deduction. Any previous authorizations for the deduction of dues made before the Janus decision were based on a choice the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional: become a member and pay dues or pay fees to a union as a nonmember. Any “consent” based upon that unconstitutional choice was made under duress, not freely given, and is invalid because it does not satisfy the “clear and affirmative” consent standard that the Supreme Court established in Janus.

It’s time for Minnesota to fully respect public employees’ First Amendment rights and fully comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling.