State workers sue AFSCME, want union to pay back millions in fee - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

State workers sue AFSCME, want union to pay back millions in fees

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WSIL -- A Benton woman is one of nine current and former state workers suing the AFSCME union over agency fees paid between May 2017 and June 2018.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled those fees were illegal in the Janus V. AFSCME case last June.

The Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation backed Janus in that case and are now behind the latest fight against the union as well.

"We think it was illegal. The Supreme Court said it was illegal and we just want our money back," Mark Janus said.

Patrick Hughes with the Liberty Justice League says he's trying to return more than $2 million to about 2,700 state workers.

A similar lawsuit filed in Illinois back in March was denied by Judge Robert W. Gentleman.

Hughes says he plans to take this fight all the way back to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

They also plan similar lawsuits in other states.

AFSCME Public Affairs Director Anders Lindall released the following statement to News 3:

"The anti-worker, corporate-funded front groups behind this litigation recently brought the same case in the name of Mark Janus and lost. The federal district court in Chicago found that Council 31 acted in good faith when it collected fees from Janus—consistent with a US Supreme Court ruling of 40 years' standing—to help pay the costs of representing all workers. That ruling echoes what more than a dozen other federal and state courts have decided in similar cases.

"Non-members received wage increases, health insurance coverage, vacation time and other benefits that the union negotiated. They accepted these improvements and never objected to paying the related fees. The anti-worker, corporate-funded front groups prolonging this failed litigation want to use the courts to further their political attack on working people and our union. Their repeated lawsuits are nothing but a greedy grab for more."

You can read the lawsuit filed Wednesday below:


The Full Press Release from the Liberty Justice Center is below"

CHICAGO (May 1, 2019) – The U.S. Supreme Court says it is illegal to require government workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Now, a group of Illinois workers forced to pay these fees prior to the Court’s decision is demanding a refund.

Today, nine workers in Illinois government filed a federal class action lawsuit against AFSCME, demanding the union return money taken from their paychecks for union “agency” or “fair share” fees before the Court’s June 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. If successful, these workers and more than 2,700 other state employees in Illinois could recoup more than $2 million that the union took from them.

The workers are represented by attorneys from the same nonprofit law firms that brought the Janus case, the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.  

“We’re fighting for these workers because they were put in an unconstitutional situation: Pay the union or lose your job. This was a gross violation of these workers’ rights to free speech and freedom of association, and we’re glad the Supreme Court agreed,” said Patrick Hughes, president of the Liberty Justice Center. “Now it’s time for AFSCME to rectify the situation by returning to workers the money they should never have taken in the first place.”

The Illinois workers are seeking a refund of union fees paid from May 1, 2017, through June 28, 2018, because this is what is permitted under the Illinois statute of limitations. However, each of these workers and many others have paid much more in illegal union fees over the course of their public service careers.

“Refusing to return unlawfully seized union fees to these workers and in a growing number of cases across the country represents a blatant disregard for the law,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “AFSCME union officials in this case stand in utter defiance of the Supreme Court’s Janus decision. This case proves, once again, that union officials will do whatever it takes to keep the coffers brimming with forced dues and fees at the expense of the workers they claim to ‘represent.’ Keeping hundreds of millions of dollars taken from workers in violation of their First Amendment rights is outrageous.”

The lawsuit was announced at a press conference in Chicago. The attorneys and workers were joined by Mark Janus, a former child support specialist for state government and plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME. Mark is also seeking a refund of approximately $3,000 in union fees that he paid from the time he filed his case until the Supreme Court’s decision. 

“The Supreme Court said these fees are illegal. We should never have been forced to pay this money to AFSCME just so we can work in state government. We want our money back,” Mark Janus said.

For decades, government workers in Illinois and other states without right-to-work laws were required to pay union fees as a condition of employment. It didn’t matter if workers weren’t union members or did not support the unions’ positions on policies and politics; politicians in Illinois and elsewhere had granted government unions the power to exclusively represent public sector workers, and to collect mandatory union fees from their paychecks. But in 2015, a child support specialist for Illinois government named Mark Janus filed a federal lawsuit challenging the practice of mandatory union fees. The case, Janus v. AFSCME, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of Mark Janus on June 27, 2018, restoring the rights of free speech and freedom of association to more than 5 million government employees across the country.

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