City of Hamilton (OH) employee Timothy Crane has successfully defended his First Amendment right to refrain from funding the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 20 hierarchy in his workplace.

Crane, who is not a union member, filed a lawsuit in December 2020 with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation that challenged so-called “agreement administration fees” that IUOE officials forced him to pay as a condition of keeping his job. IUOE bosses have now backed down by eliminating the forced-fees scheme and have refunded to Crane all fees that they seized from him under that arrangement.

Crane’s lawsuit maintained that the “agreement administration fee” requirement violated his rights under the Foundation-argued 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In Janus, the High Court ruled that no public worker can be coerced into paying union dues or fees as a condition of getting or keeping a job, and that union dues and fees can only be deducted from public servants’ paychecks with their affirmative and knowing consent.

The Court reasoned that, because all public sector union boss activities are directed at the government, forcing a public sector employee to pay anything to union officials counts as forced political speech and for that reason violates the First Amendment.

IUOE Officials Seized Deceptive Fee after Worker Exercised Janus Rights

“This case was about protecting my right to not pay for a political agenda that I oppose,” Crane told the Hamilton Journal-News this May. “I’m in favor of fair wages and a safe working environment. What I’m not in favor of is a union using my hard earned money to support a political party that I disagree with and that is dividing the country.”

According to Crane’s lawsuit, he sent letters to IUOE union officials in both August and September of last year attempting to exercise his First Amendment Janus right to end dues deductions from his paycheck. After sending these two letters, he discovered that instead of dues an “agreement administration fee” was being taken from his pay by municipal officials at the behest of IUOE union bosses.

His suit contended that this fee was indistinguishable from a so-called “agency fee” — a forced union payment charged to employees who refrain from formal union membership that was definitively outlawed by the Janus decision — and therefore unconstitutional despite masquerading under a different name.

Five Similar Illegal Dues Schemes Now Bucked by Buckeye State Employees

With this victory, Crane’s suit is now the fifth resolved favorably by Foundation staff attorneys for Buckeye State employees whose First Amendment Janus rights were being restricted by Ohio government union bosses.

This includes the July 2020 victory in the Allen v. AFSCME case, in which nearly 30,000 Ohio public employees were freed from an “escape period” scheme imposed by Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) union chiefs. That scheme limited to just a handful of days every few years the time when a public employee could exercise Janus rights.

“Once again, a Foundation-backed Ohio public employee has prevailed over a duplicitous attempt by union officials to keep worker money flowing illegally into union coffers while trampling workers’ First Amendment rights,” observed National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse. “The fact that Ohio union bosses have backed off enforcing these schemes several times now shows that they know the arrangements cannot stand up to serious legal scrutiny. With that in mind, Ohio public servants should not hesitate to reach out to the Foundation to defend their Janus rights.”

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