25 September 2023

UNITED STATES: Union fees judged legal

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A US Federal Judge in Washington State has dismissed a lawsuit ordering the Washington Federation of State Employees to reimburse so-called “fair share” fees to a group of non-union workers.

The case is likely to go to appeal.

The verdict follows a five to four decision by the US Supreme Court in June which banned public sector unions from collecting any kind of fee from workers who chose not to join a union.

Since then, the lawyers behind the Washington case have filed lawsuits all over the country, demanding that unions give money back to workers who did not want to participate in labour organisations or who joined them only because they felt they had no other option.

Former Texas Solicitor-General, Jonathan Mitchell (pictured) filed the Washington State case with help from the libertarian advocacy group the Freedom Foundation.

It named two State workers from Pierce County and one from Yakima County.

The Washington Federation of State Employees represents about 35,000 State workers.

Mr Mitchell filed the Washington State case in March, a few months before the Supreme Court decision.

He argued that other recent Supreme Court decisions had demonstrated that the fees violated the First Amendment rights of public sector employees and should be returned to the workers who paid them.

The judge who heard the case in the US District Court in Tacoma, Robert Bryan dismissed the lawsuit and held that unions collected the fees in good faith and in accordance with State and Federal laws.

Judge Bryan noted that the Washington State Government stopped deducting fair share fees after the Supreme Court handed down its decision.

“The union defendant followed the law and could not reasonably anticipate that a Supreme Court action would create a constitutional challenge to its actions,” Judge Bryan said.

“The union defendant’s actions were authorised by the law and the State of Washington, and the actions of the State were apparently lawful.”

Olympia, 2 December 2018

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