Anti-Worker AFSCME needs to Issue Refunds

Fox 45 reported on a lawsuit that sees AFSCME Local 3 being sued for back dues by employees who didn’t want to be members of the union in the first place:

A Federal lawsuit is seeking a refund of nearly $7 million on behalf of State workers in Maryland who claim they were forced to pay Union fees as a condition of employment.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday morning in Federal Court, represents 19 Maryland State Employees including Correctional Dietary Officer, Gary Mattos. “I found out I was paying over $400 a year just to have a state job,” Mattos says, “And I think that’s wrong.”

Filed against AFSCME Council 3, one of the largest unions in the state of Maryland, the class action lawsuit is seeking a refund of roughly $7 million dollars. Senior Attorney for Liberty Justice Center, Brian Kelsey says, “We estimate that half of state workers, 10,000 people did not want to join the Union, and yet AFSCME took these union fees from them.”

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For years the Union was collecting fees from all employees, in addition to dues from the Union’s members. Last year the Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal to require public employees to pay union fees now those workers want that money back. Kelsey says, “The Unions might say the fees were legal at the time they were taken, but unions like AFSCME knew that what they were doing was wrong and they knew that the court would rule against them.”

At the time of publishing AFSCME has not replied to our request for comment.

You may remember that in Janus v. AFSCME that the Supreme Court ruled that it was a violation of the First Amendment to force employees to pay fees to a union they have no interest in being a member of.  AFSCME, of course, was empowered by the Maryland Democratic Party, who passed the Fair Share Act to allow unions to collect dues from public sector employees in certain fields even if they didn’t want to be members of the union to start with.

AFSCME of course knew way back in 2011 that this law would be a financial windfall for the union:

Maryland’s largest state employee union is set to begin collecting fees from nonmembers this month — a move that sets up the Maryland chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for what could be a $4.7 million gain over the fiscal year.

AFSCME sees the additional money as a matter of fairness, since the union negotiates contracts with the state on behalf of all its bargaining members, though fewer than half pay dues. Union officials say the extra money will allow them to improve services.

But some of the 12,500 state workers who will find as much as a $389 bite out of their annual pay criticize the new fees.

“People like me, I don’t have a lot of faith in unions,” said Michael White, who works for the Motor Vehicle Administration in Glen Burnie.

The fees — which will also be collected by smaller unions such as the American Federation of Teachers — are allowed under The Fair Share Act, which the state legislature passed in 2009 largely on a party-line vote. Gov. Martin O’Malley, a pro-labor Democrat who benefited from strong union support in his re-election bid last year, had pushed the measure.

AFSCME Maryland represents 21,000 workers in collective bargaining with the state, but only 8,000 are dues-paying members. Another 4,000 workers not represented by AFSCME in contract negotiations pay dues to the union anyway, to tap benefits such as grievance representation.

“It’s very exciting,” said Sue Esty, AFSCME Maryland’s assistant director. She has been with the organization for two decades. “We’ve always had a problem providing adequate service to our members because we have been so underfunded. This empowers employees.”

It was adorable even at the time that AFSCME tried to sell the line that employees would be empowered by having hundreds of dollars confiscated from non-union members against their will.

Realistically, AFSCME should do the correct and moral thing and return the money confiscated from these employees with interest. But they have no interest in doing that because of two reasons: money and power.

On Sunday’s episode of The Air Raid, I talked about unions and how unions focus more of their time on political power then they do in representing their employees. One of the unions I was most critical of was the Maryland State Education Association, who also happened to be one of the largest beneficiaries of the Fair Share Act. Both AFSCME and the MSEA are major players in the Maryland Democratic Party, and they were able to parlay their political power in Annapolis into a financial windfall for their unions. The Fair Share Act was Martin O’Malley style crony capitalism at its finest.

Whether or not you support unions, we can all agree that no organization should be confiscating money from people against their will. If AFSCME truly supports the rights of workers, they should refund the money from those who never wanted to be part of their union immediately.

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