Last week, in a Pennsylvania capitol press conference with Mark Janus, the national nonprofit law firm the Liberty Justice Center (LJC) unveiled a class-action lawsuit aimed at reclaiming fair share fees that state employees in AFSCME Council 13 recently paid. The lead plaintiff is a former employee of the commonwealth’s Department of Labor and Industry, David Schaszberger.
Since the June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, it’s been illegal for government unions to charge non-member workers fees as a condition of employment. The interesting twist with this latest lawsuit is that Schaszberger and six fellow plaintiffs want the fair share fees they paid in 2017 and 2018—even before the Janus ruling—to be returned. According to LJC, a win would mean that about 10,000 Pennsylvania state employees covered by AFSCME would reclaim $3 million in lost fees.
Schaszberger said over the course of his 11 years of commonwealth service, he estimates about $4,000 was taken out of his paycheck by the union without his permission. He said he was glad the union stopped deducting the fees from his paycheck once the Supreme Court decision was rendered.
“But they also should pay us back what was taken wrongfully,” he said. “That’s why I’m part of this lawsuit.”
Schaszberger v. AFSCME Council 13 is now the second case in Pennsylvania trying to win back fair share fees taken before Janus. In our August Free to Serve newsletter, we reported that LJC filed a similar case on behalf of state employees involving SEIU Local 668. Wenzig v. SEIU Local 668 is asking that fair share fees from August 2017 through June 2018 be refunded to the union’s non-member state workers. If Wenzig v. SEIU succeeds, some 2,000 employees could receive $1 million back in fees.
Of course, before the Janus ruling, fair share fees were completely legal (if wrong in principle). Already this month, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Mark Janus a refund of the fees he paid during his time as a state child support specialist in Illinois. (This was a separate case to his namesake June 27, 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision). As such, these latest Pennsylvania cases are ambitious, and it will be interesting to watch what the courts decide.