Quit cable and the cable company doesn’t force you to keep paying for months on end. Quit a job and your employer can’t force you to keep working. Quit college and the school can’t force you to pay for classes you won’t attend.
But just try to quit a public employee union in Oregon, and the union can keep making the employee pay for membership — sometimes for months on end.
Fair treatment for workers should be more than a slogan for Oregon’s public employee unions. When workers want to quit two of the state’s largest public employee unions — AFSCME Local 75 and the Service Employees International Union 503 — the unions shouldn’t have schemes to compel them to pay, anyway.
The Freedom Foundation and the National Right to Work Foundation have filed suit against the two unions in federal court.
The suit comes after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which ruled on what are called “fair-share” payments. Fair-share payments allowed unions of public employees to collect fees from people whom the union represented in labor negotiations — even if they weren’t members of the union and didn’t want to be represented by the union. The justification for fair-share payments is that people who benefit from union representation must pay for it even if they want nothing to do with the union.
The Supreme Court ruled in Janus that the practice is a violation of free speech rights. Why should anyone be compelled to support the activities of a group they don’t want to?
A previous lawsuit has called on Oregon unions to pay back employees for fair-share fees paid before Janus. The new lawsuits are an effort to stop the practice of not allowing members of a union to cancel their membership immediately.
For instance, when an employee at Western Oregon University notified SEIU that she was quitting on Nov. 1, SEIU wrote her back saying she had signed an agreement as part of her membership that she could not quit except during a special membership period. In her case, she would have to wait until Aug. 19. Her union dues would continue to be deducted from her paycheck until that time.
The plaintiffs argue that practice is illegal. Because of the Janus decision, they argue workers must give their consent before fees are deducted. These workers are trying to stop paying and the union won’t let them.
The unions should immediately stop seizing the money from the workers’ paychecks and pay back what they have already taken. That’s the only fair way to treat the workers.