Worker Petitions Supreme Court to Strike Down Mandatory Union Dues
By Charlie McCarthy | Wednesday, 26 May 2021 10:34 AM
A United Airlines worker has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear his challenge to a federal labor-relations law requiring non-union railway and airline workers to opt out of paying full union dues.
In a petition filed Tuesday, Arthur Baisley said workers who aren't union members should not need to affirmatively decline to financially support unions' political and ideological activities that are funded by union dues, Bloomberg Law reported.
Baisley, represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, asked the Court to draw on its 2018 Janus decision, which barred public-sector employers from collecting mandatory union dues on First Amendment grounds, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
The petition argues the 5-4 Janus ruling did not go far enough in limiting union attempts to subvert right-to-work laws through mandatory dues deductions.
"This case is an ideal vehicle to resolve the exceptionally important question whether the First Amendment or the [Railway Labor Act] protects hundreds of thousands of railway and airline employees from having to opt out of subsidizing expressive associations’ political and ideological activities," the petition states.
The petition wants the Court to rule that "window periods" — brief periods of time when workers can opt out of the union — are unconstitutional. Workers who do not opt during the required "window period" then have dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.
Although the Court has signaled support for the First Amendment rights of union workers, the Biden administration is very pro-union. Also, a federal labor arbiter has become politicized, critics say, after President Joe Biden's firing of Republican appointees.
Biden supports the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would eliminate right-to-work laws enacted by 27 states. The bill was passed by the House but is stalled in the Senate.
Right-to-work laws are based on the principle that mandatory laws requiring employees to join a union are a violation of an individual's constitutional right.
The Supreme Court should clarify the application of those rights to free speech and association within the workplace, the petition said.
"The Court’s recent precedents recognize: (1) opt-out procedures violate the First Amendment; and (2) this Court never sanctioned opt-out procedures as constitutional or authorized by the [Railway Labor Act]," the petition argued.
"This leaves hundreds of thousands of railroad and airline employees in the dark about what constitutional and statutory protections they have against compelled expressive associations — expressive associations they are required to associate with by federal law."
Chief Justice John Roberts is 1 of 4 justices remaining on the court who ruled in the majority in the Janus case. The addition of Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett could make for a 6-3 majority in favor of workers' speech rights.
Baisley wants the Court to review a December decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that threw out his lawsuit challenging the RLA's opt-out format for nonmember union workers.
The Fifth Circuit panel, composed of two justices appointed by former President Donald Trump and one appointed by former President George W. Bush, noted that Janus and 2 other union financing rulings on which Baisley relies apply in the public sector only.