The Arizona-based Goldwater Institute (GI) demanded Thursday that the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) reshape unlawful policies making it difficult for employees to leave a union.
“We think it is critically important for government employers to respect public employees’ constitutional rights. Under the U.S. and Arizona constitutions, no one can be forced to remain a member of — or make payments to — any private organization, particularly if it engages in speech or political activity the person disagrees with. Unions are no exception and should not be making deals with government entities to trap public employees into being union members or paying union dues,” said GI Staff Attorney Parker Jackson in a statement emailed to The Arizona Sun Times.
Jackson sent a letter to the TUSD explaining the potential issues in this situation. He stated that the district has agreements with four labor unions: the American Federation of State, county, and Municipal Employees, Local 449, AFL-CIO (AFSCME), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Education Leaders, Inc. (ELI), and the Tucson Education Association (TEA). TUSD employees can join any of these unions at any time; however, the problem is when and how they can leave the unions.
For AFSCME, Jackson explained that employees could only cancel their memberships and due deductions during a two-week period, May 1-15, each year. Though not as restrictive, the CWA only allows cancellations during the month of July. As for TEA and ELI, both require members to leave before the beginning of August each year.
Furthermore, Jackson stated that the district also requires that employees receive authorization from some of the unions before it stops the deduction of union dues. By doing this and restricting when an employee is allowed to leave a union, the TUSD is keeping employees trapped in a union and would continue deducting dues from their paycheck until the next opt-out period arrives.
While the GI does not know precisely how many people this issue could be affecting, Jackson told The Sun Times that this is an issue that could hurt any employee.
“We do not know how exactly many employees are currently affected by the issue, but this has the potential to affect any union member eventually if not corrected. We invite any TUSD employee who would like to leave one of the unions to reach out to us by using the ‘Submit a Case‘ function,” said Jackson via email.
Moreover, not only does Jackson’s letter read that these policies are unfair to employees, but they also violate state laws, Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) §§ 23-1301–07. As discussed in AFSCME Local 2384 v. City of Phoenix, government entities are forbidden from imposing “the requirement that any person participate in any form or design of union membership.”
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has also weighed in on this issue. In Janus v. AFSCME, SCOTUS held that compelling employee participation in a union violates the first amendment and that union payments can only be deducted from a paycheck if the employee consents.
Jackson ultimately asked the TUSD to revise its policies, so they align with state law and the precedence set by SCOTUS. Additionally, he said he hopes these changes can be made without the need for legal action.
“We are hopeful that the district will bring its collective bargaining agreements into compliance with federal and state law without the need for legal action,” Jackson told The Sun Times.
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