Three Oregon public school teachers, including one Portland man, filed a federal lawsuit today, alleging that when they sought to stop paying union dues, affiliates of the Oregon Education Association told them they could not do so for several months, until the "annual window to drop membership."
The teachers, two in Jackson County and a fourth grade teacher in Portland Public Schools named Michael Garcie, say the effect of that denial was that they had to continue paying about $80 a month in union dues long after they should have been allowed to stop.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Medford, follows on a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME that ruled public employees who belong to a class represented by unions—such as public school teachers—cannot be required to pay union dues against their will. In a 5 to 4 decision, a majority of the Court determined that forcing employees to pay dues violated their First Amendment rights.
The Freedom Foundation, an Olympia, Wash., group that has been battling with Oregon public employee unions for years, is behind the new lawsuit.
The organization says OEA and its affiliates are enforcing an arbitrary calendar that is unfair to teachers by only allowing them to quit the union during September.
"Labor unions cannot unilaterally wipe out public employees' Constitutional rights during 11 months of the year," said Rebekah Millard, a Freedom Foundation attorney representing the teachers.
OEA President John Larson questioned the motives and timing of the lawsuit.
"Today is just the latest event in a long line of frivolous lawsuits the corporate-backed, national anti-worker Freedom Foundation has filed," Larson said in a statement.
"This fringe group consistently opposes values Oregonians hold and has never lifted a finger to support students, educators, or improve conditions in Oregon classrooms," Larson added. "It's no surprise they are choosing to insert themselves in the democratic union process of Oregon's educators just weeks after a historic statewide walkout that resulted in the legislature's passage of a $2 billion education investment package."