You have a right to know your rights

July 30, 2019 | By ERIN WILCOX

For six years, Mike Jackson was forced to pay approximately $600 a year to the Teamsters union. Mike—an employee at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD)—doesn’t agree with the union, doesn’t want to support it, and doesn’t think he receives enough value from his membership. But until recently, he didn’t have any other choice.

Luckily for Mike, the 2018 landmark Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 recognized that it’s unconstitutional to force public workers to pay money to a union against their will.

For decades, many public workers like Mike were forced to pay monthly union dues or fees just to keep their job. Whether the union benefited an employee or not—employees had to pay. But with the Janus victory, workers are learning they have a choice.

Unluckily for Mike, and nearly one million other public employees, he works in California.

On the exact same day Janus was decided, then-governor of California Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 866 into law. SB 866 was specifically designed to undercut Janus and made it illegal for state and local governments to talk to their employees about the employees’ right to choose whether to support a union.

After all, you can’t exercise rights you don’t know about.

Mike can tell you firsthand how much trouble SB 866 is causing him.

Thanks to SB 866, Mike didn’t hear about the Janus decision from his employer. But once he did learn of it, Mike decided to resign his union membership. He went to talk to UCSD Human Resources about stopping his automatic payroll deduction to the union.

Even though Human Resources handles every other paycheck and deduction request, SB 866 forbids them from even talking to Mike about his union questions. Instead, they sent him to the union—you can imagine the warm welcome he received. The union didn’t tell Mike about his First Amendment right to quit funding union activities, but it did tell him that he must keep paying dues until the collective bargaining agreement with UCSD expired—in 2022.

Unfortunately, Mike isn’t alone—his co-worker, Tory Smith, is having the same SB 866 troubles. Public workers across California are being kept in the dark about their constitutional rights. Then, if they do manage to learn about those rights, they’re forced to deal with a hostile union instead of their employer.

Mike and Tory have had enough. They think it’s wrong that California is trying to hide their constitutional right to choose whether to support a union. We agree. California public employees have a right to get that information from the most logical source—their employer—not a biased union.

Mike and Tory have joined forces with PLF and the Liberty Justice Center, the law firm that represented Mark Janus in his Supreme Court fight. Today, we’ve asked a federal court to strike down SB 866. Together we will fight to make sure California can’t keep Mike, Tory, or any public workers in the dark about their constitutional rights any longer.