MN public employees sue two government unions over collection of union fees

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision, Center of the American Experiment has been helping Minnesotans fight for their right to say no to financially supporting government unions through our workplace freedom projects, Employee Freedom MN and Educated Teachers MN, and by also connecting public employees with legal resources through the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC).

These efforts have most recently resulted in six Minnesota state employees sending notice to their public sector unions that they are suing them for an estimated recovery of $19 million in union fees paid by state and local employees.

The plaintiffs, represented by UMLC, the Liberty Justice Center, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, filed two separate class action lawsuits against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 5 and the Minnesota Professional Employees (MAPE). Both Center of the American Experiment and the Liberty Justice Center sent out press releases announcing the lawsuits, citing the unions collected fees for years from public employees who did not want to join a union.

If successful, the lawsuit against AFSCME (Brown et al., v. AFSCME Council 5) could net $13 million in recovered fees for 8,000 state and local workers who paid fees to the union prior to the 2018 Janus ruling. The lawsuit against MAPE (Fellows et al., v. MAPE) could recover as much as $5.8 million for state employees.

The Center Square picked up the story:

“From 1993 to 2018 I was forced to pay AFSCME union dues for a union I never wanted to join in order to work for the state of Minnesota,” Eric Brown, lead plaintiff of the class action case against AFSCME, said in a LJC press release. “It is time for AFSCME to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling, return the money that was taken out of my paycheck without my permission, and return money to other Minnesota state employees who were victim to this as well.”

Mark Fellows is a licensed social worker for the Department of Human Services. Fellows paid fees from July 2007 through June 27, 2018.

“I joined this lawsuit because MAPE took money I didn’t want to pay and shouldn’t have been forced to pay. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, I should be entitled to get my money back,” Fellows said in the same LJC release.

The Janus decision broke down barriers that trapped public employees who wanted to be free from financially supporting a union, but more dismantling is clearly required to eliminate other barriers that remain. The Center will continue using its workplace freedom projects to stand up to big labor bent on undermining the First Amendment rights of American workers.