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The right they don’t want us to know about

We just filed the first “Janus rights” case in Minnesota, which is also one of the first in the country! When you hear our client Susan Halloran’s story, you’ll understand why protecting workers’ Janus rights is so important.

Susan took a job as a senior account clerk in the business office of Inver Hills Community College last fall. In the months that followed, she was repeatedly pressured by a union representative to join the union. In April, she was pulled out of a training session at her office because a union representative asked to see her.

The representative said he was there because he had not received her signature confirming union membership. She was not told how much union dues would cost, nor was she informed she had the right not to join the union. He had a dues authorization form pulled up on his tablet computer, and told her to sign it.

Like most of us would, Susan felt rushed and pressured because she needed to return to her job training, so she signed her name on the screen and hurried back to work. The next day she found out that union dues would run $700 a year, a cost she couldn’t afford.

Susan is currently battling cancer and undergoing expensive cancer treatments. She informed the representative of her situation and immediately, and repeatedly, tried to cancel. Her requests were ignored or denied, with union representatives informing her that she was locked in for the next 12 months.

Fortunately, she didn’t give up and reached out to the Center of the American Experiment for help. The organization put Susan in touch with us, and together with our co-counsel at the Upper Midwest Law Center, we filed a lawsuit, Halloran v. AFSCME Council 5 et al.. We’re suing the union on Sue’s behalf for violating her Janus rights by pressuring her to join the union and providing incomplete information about membership.

When we talk about “Janus rights,” these are the rights we mean: The Supreme Court ruled government employees cannot be forced to join or pay dues to a union in order to keep their job. That means a) government employees need to be made aware that they have a choice when it comes to union membership, b) that their employer is free to discuss their rights and options with them, and c) that those employees cannot be discriminated against professionally for the choices they make.

Yet over a year after the Supreme Court ruling, we still see government employees being kept in the dark about their Janus rights and unions using pressuring tactics to trap them into membership.

This must, and will, stop.