MN Court Workers File Fed Lawsuit Against Forced Union Dues

One of the biggest issues left unresolved by the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was the constitutionality of compulsory union dues for public employees as a condition of employment. But a federal lawsuit, Keller v. Shorba, filed today by two Minnesota court employees joins a handful of other cases across the country that offer the high court the option of revisiting the controversial issue sooner than expected.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced the legal action today on behalf of Carrie Keller, a Court Administrative Assistant, and Elizabeth Zeien, an Accounting Technician, both employees of the State of Minnesota Court System. When they started on the job, both Keller and Zeien negotiated their own pay and benefits as non-union employees. But then the Teamsters got wind of it.

In 2015, union officials started proceedings to force a number of state employees who were not in monopoly bargaining units into union ranks, where they could be required to pay union dues and fees. Ultimately, in March 2017, Minnesota state officials complied with the Teamsters’ demands and added a number of employees, including Keller and Zeien, to a Teamsters controlled bargaining unit without the employees’ permission or desire. Keller, Zeien and the other employees were never given a vote on whether they should be part of the union bargaining unit, and they objected to the new scheme.

Keller and Zeien had to be part of the union contract, even though they’d already negotiated similar and in some ways better compensation on their own than the Teamsters representatives. So they asked the National Right to Work Foundation for help in challenging the legality of making them pay union dues as a condition of keeping jobs they already had. The Teamsters dues come to $50 per month, according to court documents.

 “These two workers were happily working and successfully representing themselves in dealing with their employer until Teamsters officials sought to bolster they forced dues ranks even though it meant a step back in their working conditions,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case is a prime example of the power of worker freedom being destroyed by union boss interference and why it is wrong to force employees to pay money to a union for representation they don’t want and never asked for.”

The newly minted Minnesota case becomes the eighth lawsuit challenging mandatory union fees filed by the National Right to Work Foundation currently in the courts.

The first line of Keller v. Shorba says it all. “This suit seeks to overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.”

The end game is to overturn the 1977 Abood Supreme Court case that cleared the way for government workers to be unionized. The high court has set the stage for reconsidering the matter in two recent cases on related issues that were won by the National Right to Work Foundation.