A lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of two Connecticut workers could be a test of a 2018 landmark Supreme Court ruling on unions.
In that year the court ruled, in a case known as Janus vs. AFSCME, that public employees can get benefits negotiated by unions without having to pay for union membership.
Phuong Kim Nguyen and Van Nguyen are fiscal administrative officers for the state of Connecticut who opted out of their local union following the Supreme Court’s Janus decision. But, they were told by the union that despite opting out, they’d still have to pay dues until their cards expired in January of 2019.
Now they’re suing the Rocky Hill-based chapter of the Administrative and Residual Employees Union in federal court.
Nathan McGrath is representing the plaintiffs. The attorney said that his clients’ first amendment rights were violated and that the union’s continued collection of dues after they chose to leave goes against the supreme court’s Janus ruling.
“In this situation, our clients have not made that affirmative decision to pay, so when they became non-members, at that point the union should have stopped deducting dues from their wages,” McGrath said. “If they wanted to continue to deduct, they would’ve had to go and to get this type of consent that the Supreme Court was talking about.”
The president of the local 4200 chapter of the Administrative and Residual Employees Union declined an interview regarding the lawsuit.
“Unfortunately they chose to take this matter to court, so at this point I don’t want to litigate this in the media,” said A&R 4200 president John DiSette in an email to Connecticut Public Radio.
The relationship between the parties further deteriorated over a spat involving a work function. In emails obtained by Marc E. Fitch of The Yankee Institute, Phuong Nguyen complained to DiSette about not being allowed to attend the union’s Christmas party, despite continuing to pay dues.
“We will refund your payment for the holiday party as you are not a member,” DiSette said in the email obtained by Fitch.
McGrath said that his clients understood that the Christmas party was for members.
“But, they were continuing to be made to pay as if they were union members and they even had the union president say ‘I won’t speak to you, unless you become a member again’,” McGrath said.
“They’re frustrated that they’ve even had to go through this,” McGrath said. “They just wish that their choice would’ve been honored in the beginning and that the union dues would have stopped since they were no longer union members.”
The lawsuit was filed on September 2. The plaintiffs are currently awaiting a response from the defendants.