Minnesota unions prevail in ‘fair share’ suits

AFSCME 5 and Education Minnesota prevailed in federal court last week after a judge ruled that they do not have to retroactively return so-called “fair share” dues under the Janus decision.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson dismissed the three cases. Similar cases were filed all over the country after the Supreme Court handed down its devastating Janus v. AFSCME decision, which that found that public sector unions were limited in their ability to collect fair share dues.
No plaintiffs have prevailed in trying to claw back dues “retroactively.”
AFSCME Council 5 was facing two lawsuits. In Brown v. AFSCME Council 5, anti-worker forces contended that AFSCME Council 5 ought to repay all fair share fees that were collected prior the Janus Supreme Court decision. AFSCME Council 5 filed and argued a motion to dismiss the case for the plaintiff’s failure to make a legal claim on this case. The judge upheld AFSCME Council 5’s legal arguments, agreed to the motion and ordered the case be dismissed.
Piekarski v. AFSCME Council 5 sought to rule that contract language contained on membership cards was unlawful. AFSCME Council 5 filed and argued a motion for summary judgement and the judge granted the motion against the plaintiffs, holding that unions are not liable to repay fair share fees collected prior to the Janus decision.
Before Janus v. AFSCME, fair share fees were collected to ensure that if members of our bargaining units refused to fully pay for services provided in contract negotiations, grievance representation, and more, that they would pay a smaller fee to pay for services provided by the union.
“Labor unions and the rights of the working class are constantly under assault by those who wish to decimate our right to collectively bargain to improve our wages, hours, working conditions and terms of employment,” said Council 5 Executive Director Julie Bleyhl said. “While these two court rulings are a significant victory for working people, we are prepared for more to come. With our union united, working collaboratively together, and steadfast in our pursuit of racial, social and economic justice for all, we will continue to secure victories in our workplaces, the halls of power, and court rooms.”

Plaintiffs in the Education Minnesota case had originally petitioned to make it a class-action suit, but were rebuffed by Nelson last year. The case, Hoekman v. Education Minnesota, made similar claims to the AFSCME cases, leaning heavily on the implication that actions taken by Education Minnesota were made in bad faith.

Nelson’s ruling said there is no evidence indicated that the dues were collected with malice or in bad faith.

Plaintiffs in the Education Minnesota case say they plan to appeal.

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