The unions' silence speaks volumes

Sometimes what someone doesn’t say is more telling than what they do say.

That was my first thought after I saw Steve Catanese’s email. He’s president of Service Employees International Union Local 668, which last week was sued for illegally taking union fees from more than 2,000 state social service employees in Pennsylvania.

“The Liberty Justice Center, along with other anti-union organizations such as the Fairness Center, is being funded by millions of dollars in dark money donations from billionaires and corporations. The sole purpose of these organizations and investments in them is to file frivolous litigation against labor unions and undermine the ability of workers to have a voice at the workplace,” Catanese said in a statement to Pennsylvania statehouse reporters.

The union leader lobs attacks, but stays silent on the issue.

Last time I checked, I wasn’t a billionaire. Neither were the state workers suing to get back $450-or-so a year in union fees they really needed at home and never had a choice but to pay in order to keep their jobs. That is, until now.

What Catanese didn’t say was for decades public employee unions in Pennsylvania and 21 other states forced workers to pay union fees just to keep their jobs. Since the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with me in Janus v. AFSCME and declared those fee collections illegal, public employees are asking for their money back.

I’m doing that in Illinois, again suing American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31; we’re next in federal court on September 20. Liberty Justice Center is also representing other Illinois state workers, municipal employees in New York and now Pennsylvania social service workers. Unions illegally took our money, and we want it back.

Catherine Kioussis is a Pennsylvania Department of Human Services income maintenance supervisor. With free representation from the Liberty Justice Center, she filed the federal class-action lawsuit against Catanese’s SEIU to get back one year of union fees, which is as much as Pennsylvania law allows. Kioussis paid $450 a year, so it could add up to over $1 million that somewhere between 2,000 and 3,500 of her coworkers regain from the union.

Of course, Catanese can’t argue the merits, because our nation’s highest court already spoke. Of course, he can’t defend having forced people to pay his union just to keep their jobs, because it’s indefensible.

Best to attack those of us who stand up for ourselves. Best to hope no one notices the silence, because it speaks volumes.