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Operating Engineers Union Sues Over Duty to Represent Non-Dues-Paying Employees



Local 150 of the Operating Engineers Union has fired the first blast to deal with the expected result of the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case.


In Janus, the Supreme Court will decide whether to overturn the fair share or agency fee requirements that exist in public sector unions.  Under those arrangements, employees are required to pay dues equivalent to their “fair share” of the union’s cost of representation.  Labor unions active in the public sector are already scrambling to deal with the expected result of the case.


But Local 150 is the first to file suit.  The law suit seeks a declaratory judgment striking down portions of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act that require unions to provide services to nonmembers.  The suit which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois contends the First Amendment permits unions to waive advocacy for workers refusing to contribute fair share fees.


Local 150 President James M. Sweeney said it is “absurd” for state law to compel unions to provide representation to “free riders.”  According to Sweeney, “the free speech rights being invoked by the union-busters behind Janus work both ways, however, and will relieve us of any obligation to represent workers who refuse to pay for representation.”


Read additional news coverage on the new litigation here.


Gerald Lutkus

Gerald F. (“Jerry”) Lutkus is a partner in the South Bend office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP where he is a member of the firm’s Labor and Employment Law and Litigation Departments. He practices in the areas of labor and employment law counseling and litigation, arbitration, collective bargaining, media law, including counseling of and litigation for media companies.

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