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Two Right-To-Work Cases to Watch

Updated: Apr 13

Two right-to-work cases in federal court deserve your attention. In Arkansas, bus drivers employed by the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) recently filed a federal suit against the school district and a local union for violating their rights. The bus drivers are receiving free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

The school bus drivers have officially notified the Pulaski Association of Support Staff (PASS) union about their right to opt out of union membership — which would let them stop paying union dues and fees. PASS union officials denied the bus drivers’ requests to resign from the union, claiming that the drivers can only resign their union membership during a 15-day “window period” in July.

The Pulaski County Special School District continues to deduct (and the union hierarchy continues to collect) union dues from the bus drivers’ paychecks, according to the National Right to Work Foundation. The bus drivers filed the suit in federal court, seeking to stop union dues deductions from their paychecks and a refund of all illegally-seized union dues. According to the National Right to Work Foundation, workers have the unconditional right under the federal Constitution to refrain from union membership at any time. Under Arkansas’s right-to-work law, non-member workers can refrain from paying union dues and fees. Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation, said:

No worker should be forced to jump through hoops to exercise their rights to refrain from union membership and dues payments.This case underscores just how even in a long-time Right to Work state like Arkansas, we must be vigilant to ensure that union officials don’t create illegal barriers to workers exercising their right to work without being forced to pay union dues or be fired.

Twenty-four states have right-to-work protections for employees, according to the National Right to Work Foundation. Another case that may weaken the power of public sector unions is Harris v. Quinn, which is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. An opinion on the case is expected within the month. According to SCOTUS blog, the Supreme Court must decide whether a state can compel personal care providers into unions like AFSCME and SEIU. Jennifer Parrish, the head of the Coalition of Union Free Providers, said of the case:

Any ruling would impact every state in the country. There’s a few ways the court could rule in favor of the plaintiffs. They could issue a narrow ruling saying this scheme of collectivizing groups of citizens who accept government dollars, and reclassifying them as state employees in name only with the sole purpose of making them subject to collective bargains, is unconstitutional. This alone would be a significant blow to organized labor, because this scheme has become quite lucrative for them. In this lawsuit, the plaintiffs have also asked the court to throw out their ruling from the late 1970’s: Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. This is the case that established the public sector unions’ right to collect “fair share” fees from non-members. If the court does overturn this ruling, it will essentially make every state in the country a right to work state in the public sector. Unions have become a political force unlike any other. Most organizations … if they mismanage funds or pursue policies their funders don’t support, they dry up and dissolve. Unions have the unique benefit of compelling unwilling employees to support their extreme political activities and lobbying through compulsory “fair share fees.” If the court upholds the Constitution and takes away their ability to collect a steady stream of dues from unwilling individuals, they will be forced to fund through voluntary contributions. Faux “movements” like Occupy Wall Street and the $15 minimum wage push were stacked with union-paid protesters and union-funded groups. Not only would a favorable ruling … restore First Amendment rights to employees who don’t want union representation, but it would also level the playing field politically by no longer allowing one side to compel people to financially support an agenda they disagree with.

Parrish owns a small childcare business in Minnesota; she opposes forced unionization. If you don’t like the idea of having to pay dues to a union you don’t want to join, you’ll know who to root for in these cases.

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