Press Release: Minnesota community college employee sues over coerced union membership, illegal dues deduction

MINNEAPOLIS (Sept. 17, 2019) – An Inver Grove Heights woman is suing AFSCME Council 5 for pressuring her to sign a union card, providing her with misleading information about union membership and violating her First Amendment rights. She has filed a federal lawsuit with the help of attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center and the Upper Midwest Law Center.

Susan Halloran became a senior account clerk in the business office of Inver Hills Community College in October 2018. In the months that followed, she was approached multiple times at her workplace by an AFSCME Council 5 representative. In April 2019, she was pulled out of a training session at her office because a union representative asked to see her. The union representative said he was there because he had not received her signature confirming union membership. He had a dues authorization form pulled up on his tablet computer, and told her to sign it. He did not tell her how much union dues would cost, and did not inform her of her right to not join the union or not pay union dues. She 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. It was not until after signing a union card on a tablet computer that she found out that the dues would cost her approximately $700 a year. She immediately reached out to AFSCME and said she did not want to be in the union or pay union dues, but was told she was now locked in for the next 12 months.

The actions by AFSCME and her employer, the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities (MnSCU) System, are in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. The Court held in Janus that government employees have a First Amendment right not to be compelled to join or pay dues to a union at their workplace.

“The pressure and misinformation Ms. Halloran faced during work hours from a political organization, AFSCME, is unconstitutional and contrary to the rules set by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Daniel Suhr, attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “By holding Ms. Halloran to a union card she signed without a knowing waiver of her rights, AFSCME and the college are violating her First Amendment rights. She did not know she had any option not to join and was not in a position to make a thoughtful choice about her rights.”

The day after the AFSCME representative’s visit, Ms. Halloran contacted him and said that she found out how much the dues would cost and that she could not afford it due to expensive cancer treatments she is undergoing. He said she was obligated to pay the dues for one year. Ms. Halloran then made multiple attempts to exercise her Janus rights. She talked to another union employee. She emailed the AFSCME field representative and the Council’s main office. She approached Human Resources at the college and her attorneys sent a letter to the school’s administration. She was repeatedly ignored, or told she could not exercise her Janus rights.

That’s when Halloran turned to the Center of the American Experiment. They connected Halloran with attorneys at the Upper Midwest Law Center and the Liberty Justice Center, which represented plaintiff Mark Janus in the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME.

Her lawsuit, Halloran v. AFSCME Council 5 et al. was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.

“I was shocked by the tactics AFSCME used to secure my membership and money,” said Susan Halloran, plaintiff in this lawsuit. “$700 a year is a lot of money. I’m currently battling cancer and facing high healthcare costs. The union did not tell me about the cost of membership before I signed a union card under pressure. I made the union very aware that I needed to resign the next day yet they continue to stand in the way of me exercising my First Amendment rights.”

A copy of the case is available here: https://libertyjusticecenter.org/cases/halloran-v-afscme-council-5