CaseThompson v. AFSCME, Council 89

Case Status

The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Case Details

"They refused to honor my request... but I believe things are going to get better in the future."

The Fairness Center represents Curtis W. Thompson, who seeks to have his union honor his resignation of union membership and to stop having union dues deducted from his wages against his will. Mr. Thompson is an education assistant at Eagle View Middle School in the Cumberland Valley School District (“CVSD”). He was a union member but resigned his membership because he believes that the union no longer represented his interests or beliefs. 

But the union refuses to honor his resignation, relying on Pennsylvania law and its collective bargaining agreement with CVSD to say that Mr. Thompson cannot resign until he follows its stringent resignation procedures during a 15-day window period immediately preceding the CBA’s expiration date. Mr. Thompson contends in his lawsuit that the union’s failure to honor his resignation violates his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and association.

Pennsylvania law currently allows unions to force their members to stay in the union until a 15-day resignation period that occurs only when a collective bargaining agreement expires. In this case, that 15-day window will not occur until the end of the four-year term of the current agreement, in June 2020. And until that time, the union refuses to recognize Mr. Thompson’s resignation, instead forcing him to remain on its membership rolls and to have union dues deducted from his wages—even though Mr. Thompson followed the union’s procedures for resignation, except for waiting to exercise his constitutional rights until the 15-day window comes around.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that public employees have First Amendment rights that unions cannot violate. The Court recently extended those rights by holding in Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018), that non-union members cannot be forced to pay agency fees for union representation. The Court stated that “[f]orcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable is always demeaning … [and c]ompelling a person to subsidize the speech of other private speakers raises similar First Amendment concerns.” Id. at 2464.

But before Mr. Thompson can exercise that right, the union has to honor his resignation.

Unions should not be able to force public employees to be union members against their will, remaining associated with a group with which they disagree and having to support that group financially. Mr. Thompson seeks to establish that his constitutional rights cannot be limited to one 15-day resignation window every four or more years.

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Backgrounder
March 25, 2019
Complaint
March 27, 2019
Press Release
March 27, 2019

Case Status

The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.