Union Station: Public-sector labor policy litigation four years post-Janus

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Public-sector labor policy litigation four years post-Janus

June 27 marks the fourth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision. The court held that public-sector unions may not require non-member employees to pay agency fees covering the costs of non-political union activities, overturning precedent established in 1977.

Since late 2019, Ballotpedia has tracked close to 200 federal lawsuits related to public-sector labor policy. Today, we’ll take a look at the state of public-sector labor policy litigation four years after Janus, as well as highlight some recent cases we’ve been watching. 

Overview

Most of the lawsuits we’ve tracked since Janus have asked one or more of the following questions: 

  • Whether public-sector unions can be held liable for refunding agency fees paid before Janus
  • Whether public-sector unions may continue to collect union dues from an employee who leaves the union if there is a pre-existing agreement that membership or dues authorization may only be revoked during a certain window; 
  • Whether exclusive bargaining representation laws violate non-union members’ First Amendment rights; 
  • Whether mandatory bar association dues should be reconsidered in light of Janus.

We’re also tracking lawsuits in which public-sector unions challenge state or federal laws and policies. 

The map below shows the cases we’re tracking by the U.S. district court in which they originated. The three districts with the highest number of cases are the Middle District of Pennsylvania (18 cases), the Central District of California (17 cases), and the District of Oregon (13 cases).

Here’s the breakdown by circuit:

And by case status (pending cases are divided by court level, and cases that have been dismissed, settled, or otherwise resolved are counted together):   

Finally, this chart shows the cases we’ve tracked since 2019 by the year the case was originally filed:

Case highlights: Lawsuits filed by workers

Here’s a look at three recent worker-filed lawsuits we’ve been watching:

  • Adams v. Teamsters Local Union 429 (21-1372)
    • Four Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, public employees sued Teamsters Local 429, the county, the state attorney general, and the state labor board in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Feb. 27, 2019. The workers sought a refund of union dues collected before and after Janus, challenged the constitutionality of the state’s exclusive representation law, and the constitutionality of limiting union resignation to a 15-day window. 
    • On March 31, 2020, Judge Sylvia Rambo dismissed the case.
    • On Jan. 20, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. 
    • The plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court on April 20, 2022. 
    • The Supreme Court requested a response from the defendants by Aug. 24, 2022 
  • Hoekman v. Education Minnesota (21-01366):
    • On June 18, 2018, two public school teachers filed a class-action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota challenging the constitutionality of agency fees before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus. In an amended complaint filed in October 2018, the plaintiffs sought a refund of fees the union had collected and challenged the union’s limiting resignation to a seven-day window. 
    • On Feb. 12, 2021, Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled in favor of the defendants. 
    • The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on Feb. 16, 2021. Oral argument was held on Feb. 16, 2022.
  • O’Callaghan v. Napolitano (19-56271):
    • Two University of California employees filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on March 27, 2019, challenging the constitutionality of limiting dues authorization revocation to a 15-day window and the constitutionality of exclusive representation.
    • Judge James Selna ruled in favor of the defendants on Sept. 30, 2019.
    • The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Nov. 1, 2019. A three-judge panel affirmed the district court’s decision on April 28, 2022. 
    • The court denied the plaintiffs’ petitions for a panel rehearing or rehearing en banc on June 6, 2022. 

Case highlights: Lawsuits filed by unions

We’ve also been tracking cases unions have filed challenging state or federal laws and policies. Here’s a quick look at three of those cases: 

  • AFSCME Council 4 v. Garland (3:21-cv-01524): 
    • Four unions representing workers in Connecticut filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on Nov. 15, 2021, asking the court to declare that a federal law prohibiting members of the armed forces from unionizing did not apply to members of the National Guard on state active duty.
    • U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the U.S. Department of Justice agreed with the unions about the law and the parties settled on May 17, 2022.
  • Anderson Federation of Teachers v. Rokita (1:21-cv-01767)
    • Three Indiana teachers unions filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on June 15, 2021, challenging the constitutionality of a state law requiring teachers to sign an annual authorization form for dues deductions.
    • Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker partially blocked the law from going into effect on June 30, 2021. 
    • Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed a new bill amending the law in question on April 22, 2021. 
    • The teachers unions filed an amended complaint on June 15, 2022. 
  • Fraternal Order of Police v. D.C. (21-7059)
    • The D.C. Police Union filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Aug. 5, 2020, challenging a D.C. law blocking disciplinary procedures as a subject of collective bargaining.
    • Judge James Boasberg dismissed the case on Nov. 4, 2020.
    • The union appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on June 7, 2021. Oral argument was held on Feb. 2, 2022. 

To see the complete list of cases we’re tracking, click here

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 144 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s) 

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue.

  • California AB1577: This bill would allow state legislative employees to organize and bargain collectively.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship.
    • Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee hearing held June 22. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for June 28.
  • California AB1714: This bill would allow unions representing excluded state employees to request arbitration with the Department of Human Resources in certain circumstances.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing held June 21. Committee recommends “do pass.” Sent back to Senate Appropriations Committee June 22 with recommendation to place on the consent calendar.
  • California AB2556: This bill would change the time frame for a local public agency employer to implement a final offer after a factfinders’ recommendation has been submitted in the case of a dispute between the employer and employee organization.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Read second time, amended, and sent back to Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee June 22. Hearing scheduled for June 29.
  • California SB931: This bill would allow a union to bring a claim before the Public Employment Relations Board against a public employer allegedly in violation of California Government Code Section 3550 and sets civil penalties for violations. Section 3550 prohibits public employers from discouraging union membership. 
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Assembly Public Employment And Retirement Committee hearing held June 22. Committee recommends “do pass.” Sent back to Assembly Appropriations Committee June 22.
  • California SB1313: This bill would prohibit Los Angeles County from discriminating against union members by limiting employee health benefits.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Assembly Public Employment And Retirement Committee hearing held June 22. Committee recommends “do pass.” Sent back to Assembly Appropriations Committee June 22.
  • California SB1406: This bill would allow unions representing excluded state employees to request arbitration with the Department of Human Resources in certain circumstances.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Assembly Public Employment And Retirement Committee hearing held June 22. Committee recommends “do pass.” Sent back to Assembly Judiciary Committee June 22 with recommendation to place on the consent calendar.

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