Ohio Unions Sued Over Dues Following Supreme Court Ruling

A demonstrator in New York City holds a sign reading, "Janus is class warfare".
People protesting against the Supreme Court's decision limiting the power of public employee unions in Lower Manhattan [Christopher Penler / Shutterstock]

Gabe Rosenberg, WOSU

A national "right to work" group is suing Ohio labor unions, saying they can't require public employees to pay dues if they're not members.

The federal lawsuits follow a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, which said government workers cannot be required to contribute to labor unions that represent them.

The National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, which helped argue the case, said they want to enforce the rights of public employees. In June, they sent a letter to Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel demanding a halt to the practice.

The lawsuits were filed as potential class-action cases against two affiliates of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, including the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association. One lawsuit seeks repayment of fees collected from non-union workers, while the other challenges a union policy limiting when employees can opt out of "shop fees."

OCSEA's president defended the practice, saying most members are sticking together, and called the lawsuits an attempt to weaken unions. The OCSEA previously estimated that only 3 percent of the union's members will no longer see "fair share payments" deducted from their checks.

Ohio has been a major target for "right to work" and other conservative groups, which began a campaign telling workers how to quit their unions. Around 12.5 percent of Ohio employees are unionized, slightly higher than the national average.

In September, Gov. John Kasich declared that Ohio would not be a "right to work" state, at least while he's still governor. Voters in 2011 repealed a law that strictly curtailed collective bargaining.

Ohio Senate president Larry Obhof said the Supreme Court decided the "right to work" question, and the legislature would not take up a bill on the topic.

But if they did, both gubernatorial candidates Mike DeWine and Richard Cordray said they would veto it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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