Oregon state worker Debora Nearman, who works for Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and was forced to pay union dues to its Service Employees International Union, will get back $3,000 in back fees following a settlement with the labor group.
The case, which is based on the recent Supreme Court decision stating that unions cannot demand that non-members pay fees for representation that they don’t necessarily want in the first place, is sure to be just the first as others who have been forced to pay union fees over the years file suit to claim back funds that rightfully belong to them.
Unions throughout the country have traditionally provided vocal and monetary support to Democratic candidates in spite of the fact that many people who have been forced to pay dues to them don’t support leftist values. Even so, in Mrs. Nearman’s situation, it is abundantly clear that the union was violating her First Amendment rights by forcing her to pay dues even though she wasn’t a member. Mrs. Nearman’s husband Mike recently ran as a Republican candidate for Oregon’s state legislature, and the Service Employees International Union led a campaign against him, spending over $53,000 on flyers and campaign ads presenting him in a negative light.
While Mrs. Nearman cannot claim back a large portion of the funds that she paid to the union as a result of statute of limitation laws in her state, she is still thrilled by her win, stating that it is a victory for anyone who is forced to choose between paying for political speech they disagree with and losing a profitable job.
Mrs. Nearman is the first person to claim victory in a case of this nature; however, it is unlikely that she will be the last. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which successfully represented Debora Newman, is already handling two hundred other cases involving union repayment fees throughout the nation, and many of these cases involve far more than just a few thousand dollars.
One case, a class action lawsuit in California filed on behalf of 30,000 state employees, could force the repayment of up to $100 million in back fees. Naturally, cases involving tens of thousands of plaintiffs and hundreds of millions of dollars could take years to decide, and may even make their way back to the Supreme Court as unions fight the cases tooth and nail. Even so, The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is clearly prepared for the fight, having successfully argued the Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees case before the Supreme Court earlier this year. What is more, the Supreme Court has already made it clear that mandatory union fees for people who don’t want to be part of a union is an infringement of free speech, which means the plaintiffs stand a good chance of reclaiming at least some of their past fees.
As Mrs. Nearman accurately noted when asked about her win, the right to say no to union membership is just as important as the right to accept such membership. While unions do have their benefits and many benefit workers in a number of ways, a person should still have the right to refuse membership without having to worry about losing his or her job. What is more, the fact that unions have become extremely active in the political realm have made it literally impossible for a person to remain a union member without feeling that he or she is providing tacit support to the union’s political viewpoints.
The recent Supreme Court decision is sure to impact tens of millions of people who are now free from paying union dues. It will also impact the political landscape as unions that were previously active in promoting candidates will likely have less funding to work with.
~ Patriotic Freedom Fighter