A child-care worker in a Forest Lake public school district is challenging her union membership in a case that could make it harder for public-sector unions in Minnesota to collect money from employees who don't want to join a workplace union.
Laura Loescher, a child care site manager at Scandia Elementary School, is expected to file a federal lawsuit this week against Scandia Elementary School and Teamsters Local 320 over their alleged refusal to let her resign from the union and stop paying dues. Loescher said she asked to leave the union after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in Janus v. AFSCME, which barred public-sector unions from collecting reduced "fair-share" fees from nonunion members instead of dues to cover some union costs.
Loescher is being represented by attorney Doug Seaton and his newly launched nonprofit Upper Midwest Law Center, which wants to make it easier for nonunion public-sector workers to opt out of contributing to their unions.
Kim Crockett, vice president of the Center of the American Experiment, a free-market think tank that is using Loescher's case to underscore a public-awareness campaign, said Minnesota's guidance to public unions after the Janus decision did not go far enough to comply with the ruling.
Loescher's challenge seeks to force public unions to also get "clear and affirmative" consent from all employees before taking fees or dues. Any consent before the Janus decision, Crockett said, was based on a choice that the Supreme Court invalidated: become a member and pay dues or pay fees as a nonmember.
"Any 'consent' based upon that unconstitutional choice was made under duress, not freely given, and is invalid because it does not satisfy the 'clear and affirmative' consent standard that the Supreme Court established in Janus," Crockett wrote in a letter to Minnesota public employers this month.
In a statement Tuesday, AFSCME Council 5 painted the campaign as a "well-worn tactic in the far right's effort to undermine and exploit American workers."
"We know the truth," the union continued. "What opponents call 'freedom' from our union is nothing more than the chance to be exploited by powerful corporate interests."
Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755 Twitter: @smontemayor