NRTW.org Brief to Court of Appeals: Lower Court’s Decision Conflicts with SCOTUS’ Janus Ruling
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed an amicus brief in Littler v. OAPSE with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
Cincinnati, Ohio (April 6, 2023) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed an amicus brief with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on April 5. The brief was filed in Littler v. OAPSE, brought by plaintiff Christina Littler. She attempted exercise her right to withdraw union membership and financial support, as recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision, only to be denied by union officials.
In the Foundation-won and argued Janus case, the Supreme Court recognized that the First Amendment protects government employees, like Littler, from being forced to fund union activities, and further that dues may only be deducted with the affirmative consent of an employee.
Littler is a school bus driver who, shortly after the Supreme Court issued its seminal decision in Janus, notified the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) that she resigned her union membership and revoked her dues deduction authorization. Rather than honor Littler’s timely request to stop paying union dues, union officials had her government employer continue to seize full dues from her paycheck. This prompted Littler to file a lawsuit to recover the dues OAPSE seized from her in violation of her First Amendment rights.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, however, ruled the union was not liable for violating Littler’s constitutional rights. According to the court, the First Amendment did not apply to the union because the union supposedly did not engage in a state action when it caused a government employer to seize union dues from Littler’s wages.
The Foundation’s brief specifically counters this holding. The brief states “the lower court’s decision that a union does not violate the First Amendment when it has a government employer seize payments for union speech from a nonmember without her consent, because that union supposedly is not a state actor, conflicts with Janus and imperils employees’ right to not subsidize union speech that they oppose.”
The brief goes on to say that the “lower court has effectively given unions a free pass to infringe on employees’ speech rights under Janus without fear of liability” and that “it is important that the [Sixth Circuit] reverse the lower court’s erroneous state-action holding because it frees unions from constitutional constraints when they collaborate with government employers take union payments from employees.”
The case is one of many where union officials have sought to justify seizing dues from employees against their will. For example, in the Foundation-backed Savas case currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, Jonathan Savas and other California lifeguards are suing the California Statewide Law Enforcement Agency union for enforcing a “maintenance of membership” requirement that compel dissenting lifeguards to remain union members and to pay union dues for the four-year duration of the contract.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently scheduled the Savas petition for certiorari to be conferenced on April 21.
“While the Foundation is proud to assist workers in enforcing their constitutionally protected Janus rights, the increasing number of cases similar to Savas and Littler just highlight the lengths union bosses will go to in order to extract dues payments from workers against their will,” commented Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “These cases show why it has become unfortunately necessary for the Supreme Court to again weigh in on this issue to disabuse union officials and lower courts of the notion that public employees’ First Amendment rights can be so callously ignored and restricted.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.