A national anti-union group is threatening to sue Metro, alleging that the transit agency is violating a recent Supreme Court decision by continuing to deduct union dues from the paychecks of employees who did not give their consent.
But Metro says that the allegation is false and outlined the protocol changes the agency has made since the court decision to ensure that all workers paying union dues have affirmed that they wish to do so. They also provided a copy of an email sent to union leaders, updating them on new procedures that were being put in place in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.
“The claim is inaccurate,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.
In a letter sent to Metro on Tuesday, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said the organization’s lawyers “have received reports that WMATA continues to deduct union dues or fees from the wages of employees who do not consent to those deductions.”
If that is true, the group said, Metro would be violating a June Supreme Court decision, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, that ruled it unconstitutional to allow unions that represent public employees to demand collective-bargaining fees from workers who choose not to join the union.
“Janus is a landmark victory for workers’ rights, ensuring that while workers can choose to join and financially support a union if they choose, they cannot be forced to fund a union against their will,” Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately,” Mix wrote, “Foundation staff attorneys have been contacted by WMATA employees about violations of their Janus rights, demonstrating that even a mile or two from the Supreme Court a long road remains ahead to ensure public employees’ rights are fully respected.”
The organization’s news release suggests that its concerns over Metro’s practices may stem from authorizations for withdrawal of dues that were signed by employees before the Supreme Court decision came down four months ago.
“Any deduction authorization signed prior to Janus does not constitute legal waiver of a workers’ constitutional right to not pay,” the news release said.
But Stessel said the most recent authorizations were provided after the court ruling.
“Each union has the obligation to verify/confirm that an employee wishes to continue to be a member and to allow for membership dues to be deducted directly.” Stessel said. “Shortly after the Court’s ruling, WMATA sent a letter to each of our unions advising them of the new procedures and requested from each union a list certifying each employee for whom dues should continue to be collected.”
Additionally, Stessel said, Metro managers also have taken steps to extricate themselves from dealings between union leaders and union members.
“Since the court ruling, WMATA also has discontinued the practice of distributing any union information at new Employee Orientations,” Stessel said. “Respective union representatives now have to convey the information themselves to new employees and allow for the option of becoming a member or not.”
David Stephen, spokesman for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, Metro’s largest labor union, said that “all our members are signing reauthorization cards and the number of members who have voluntarily done so is overwhelming.”