William H. Neely III has got to be frustrated.
He’s worked as a psychiatric aide at Wernersville State Hospital in Berks County for 15 years, and belongs to AFSCME, the public-sector union whose “agency fees” for nonmembers were declared unconstitutional in the Supreme Court’s Janus decision.
Like many union members, Mr. Neely never really thought twice about his union membership. In Pennsylvania, signing up for a government union tends to be fairly automatic when just starting a taxpayer-funded job. This is even true in fields like healthcare that are not part of the Pennsylvania government itself.
But the frustration of Mr. Neely’s situation arose when, after 15 years of union membership, he decided that his union no longer represented his interests or closely-held beliefs. Like many Pennsylvanians, he was troubled to discover that his union dues were not being spent on causes he agreed with.
So he figured he’d resign. He and his union would part on good terms, and go their separate ways.
Good luck with that.
Like a domineering parent with a strong-willed teen, AFSCME Council 13 simply wouldn’t let go. They rejected Mr. Neely’s resignation several times, telling him that he can resign only during a contractual 15-day window in June 2019. In other words, he’s trapped—and his constitutional right to associate freely is being violated.
Worst of all, his dues are still being taken right out of his paycheck, month after month.
Mr. Neely took up the issue with AFSCME leadership, trying to address the issue over the phone with state president David Fillman many times. But try as he might, his overtures to Fillman were never reciprocated. It’s almost as though AFSCME was purposefully giving him the run-around.
Thankfully, even though AFSCME refused Mr. Neely fair representation of his interests, public-interest law firm The Fairness Center has offered him legal representation. They argue his case in Neely v. AFSCME, Council 13 to establish that his constitutional rights are not limited to any “maintenance of membership” period. The request for a preliminary injunction that they filed in October, if granted, would prevent AFSCME from further violations of Mr. Neely’s right to resign until the case is fully decided.
Legal recourse like that facilitated by The Fairness Center is vital for preserving personal liberty in union-dominated workplaces. Mr. Neely loves working as a healthcare provider, but he doesn’t like being forced to pay for services he doesn’t want—or causes he doesn’t agree with. If his rights are vindicated by the court, government unions won’t be able to trap workers in similar situations in the future.