School Cook Forces Union to Change Contract, Freeing Employees from Forced Membership

Curtis v. UNITE HERE

CASE SUMMARY

In 2022, the union UNITE HERE still required school employees to pay the union to keep their jobs—four years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision made that practice illegal.

But a school cook made the union back down and recognize her and her colleagues’ constitutional rights.

Union ignores Supreme Court decision


In 2019, union officials told Tina Curtis, head cook for a New Haven, Connecticut public school, that she needed to sign a new union membership form. The form stated, “All employees…as a condition of continued employment, [must] become and remain a member of the Union in good standing or pay to the Union an agency fee in recognition of services performed by the Union.” Tina signed the form in March of 2019 under the impression that she would be out of a job if she didn’t.

Later, Tina learned that the Janus decision recognized mandatory union fees as unconstitutional in the public sector. UNITE HERE was aware of the Janus ruling, having released a statement as it was announced in 2018. But union officials willfully ignored it and continued to tell Tina and her colleagues that they were required to make union payments.

School cook attempts to resign from and stop paying her union


Tina contacted UNITE HERE officials to resign her union membership, but union officials refused. They also warned her that she could owe back dues if the law changed.

Tina’s attempts to resign were ignored or thwarted at every turn. Then she found the Fairness Center.

Litigation frees employees from unconstitutional contract provision


We filed a lawsuit against UNITE HERE to defend Tina’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights in February of 2022. Tina’s lawsuit demanded that UNITE HERE:

  1. Accept her union membership resignation
  2. Refund the dues she paid since she first attempted to resign in 2019
  3. Remove the language requiring union membership or payments from union membership cards and the collective bargaining agreement.

Just months later, UNITE HERE caved and agreed to all three of Tina’s terms—a victory that also protected her colleagues’ constitutional rights.

“Tina’s case is the latest in a disturbing trend of union officials who seem to think the Supreme Court rulings don’t apply to them. UNITE HERE officials were aware of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2018. But they chose to mislead our client rather than follow the law.” – Nathan McGrath, President & General Counsel

Curtis v. UNITE HERE is closed.


Documents

CASE SUMMARY

In 2022, the union UNITE HERE still required school employees to pay the union to keep their jobs—four years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision made that practice illegal.

But a school cook made the union back down and recognize her and her colleagues’ constitutional rights.

Union ignores Supreme Court decision


In 2019, union officials told Tina Curtis, head cook for a New Haven, Connecticut public school, that she needed to sign a new union membership form. The form stated, “All employees…as a condition of continued employment, [must] become and remain a member of the Union in good standing or pay to the Union an agency fee in recognition of services performed by the Union.” Tina signed the form in March of 2019 under the impression that she would be out of a job if she didn’t.

Later, Tina learned that the Janus decision recognized mandatory union fees as unconstitutional in the public sector. UNITE HERE was aware of the Janus ruling, having released a statement as it was announced in 2018. But union officials willfully ignored it and continued to tell Tina and her colleagues that they were required to make union payments.

School cook attempts to resign from and stop paying her union


Tina contacted UNITE HERE officials to resign her union membership, but union officials refused. They also warned her that she could owe back dues if the law changed.

Tina’s attempts to resign were ignored or thwarted at every turn. Then she found the Fairness Center.

Litigation frees employees from unconstitutional contract provision


We filed a lawsuit against UNITE HERE to defend Tina’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights in February of 2022. Tina’s lawsuit demanded that UNITE HERE:

  1. Accept her union membership resignation
  2. Refund the dues she paid since she first attempted to resign in 2019
  3. Remove the language requiring union membership or payments from union membership cards and the collective bargaining agreement.

Just months later, UNITE HERE caved and agreed to all three of Tina’s terms—a victory that also protected her colleagues’ constitutional rights.

“Tina’s case is the latest in a disturbing trend of union officials who seem to think the Supreme Court rulings don’t apply to them. UNITE HERE officials were aware of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2018. But they chose to mislead our client rather than follow the law.” – Nathan McGrath, President & General Counsel

Curtis v. UNITE HERE is closed.


Documents

MEDIA

Lawsuit Alleges New Haven Union Violated School Cook’s Right to Stop Paying Dues

Connecticut Inside Investigator

Persistent Cook Serves Up a Winning Recipe for the First Amendment

National Review

June 3, 2022: “A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that UNITE HERE officials in New Haven did not allow a New Haven Board of Education employee to resign her union membership in accordance with the 2018 Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.

July 18, 2022: “Tina Curtis…may not have figured herself to be a First Amendment warrior. But by prevailing over her government-union bosses in what may be an important Janus-rights case, she has shown herself to be exactly that.”

Lawsuit Alleges New Haven Union Violated School Cook’s Right to Stop Paying Dues

Connecticut Inside Investigator

June 3, 2022: “A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that UNITE HERE officials in New Haven did not allow a New Haven Board of Education employee to resign her union membership in accordance with the 2018 Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME.

Persistent Cook Serves Up a Winning Recipe for the First Amendment

National Review

July 18, 2022: “Tina Curtis…may not have figured herself to be a First Amendment warrior. But by prevailing over her government-union bosses in what may be an important Janus-rights case, she has shown herself to be exactly that.”

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