A Waukegan high school teacher who claims she was misled into joining the local teachers union and remaining just long enough to allow the union to begin drawing dues, can’t now use a recent landmark Supreme Court decision to demand the union be forced to pay her more than the dues she had refunded, a federal judge has ruled.
On March 28, U.S. District Judge John F. Kness sided with the Lake County Federation of Teachers Local 504 in their dispute with plaintiff Ariadna Ramon Baro.
The case dates back to 2020, when Baro first filed suit against the union and Waukegan Community Unit School District 60.
According to court documents, Baro began working for District 60 in 2019, when she took a job as an English as a Second Language teacher for high school students in the district.
At that time, Baro allegedly signed up to be a member of the Local 504 teachers union, after attending a presentation from a union representative at a District 60 employee orientation meeting.
According to court documents, Baro claimed she was misled into believing union membership was mandatory.
However, she learned “a few days later” that membership was not mandatory, and sent letters to the union and District 60 attempting to resign her union membership. The letters specifically declared her earlier decision to join the union had been made “under a framework” that the U.S. Supreme Court had declared to be unconstitutional in its 2018 landmark decision in Janus v AFSCME.
In that ruling, the Supreme Court had declared government worker unions cannot demand workers join unions, and then still extract so-called “fair share fees” from the paychecks of workers who refuse.
According to court documents, Baro says a union representative told her “you will pay union dues regardless of whether or not you are a member.” Baro then believed the “emailed statement ‘meant that her request to resign was effectively denied.’”
The union then began taking dues from her paycheck beginning in January 2020.
In February 2020, Baro contacted the union and told them again she wished to resign. The union then allegedly told her she could not do so until the “withdrawal period” specified in the union contract, in August 2020.
Baro responded by filing suit in federal court on April 3, 2020, accusing the union of violating her First Amendment rights under the Janus decision.
About 12 days later, the union sent her a letter confirming she was no longer a union member, and included a check for $829, representing all the dues she had paid to that point, plus $500.
However, Baro then amended her lawsuit, including a demand for unspecified punitive damages against the union.
After years of arguments in the case, Judge Kness said Baro’s constitutional claims against the union will go nowhere.
He said her legal claims are undermined by her admission that she freely signed the union card, without any compulsion or threat.
“Plaintiff may now regret her earlier decision to join the Union, but that does not render her knowing and voluntary choice nonconsensual,” Judge Kness wrote. “Unlike the proscribed conduct by Janus’ employer, the District’s deductions of dues from Plaintiff’s earnings were made in compliance with Plaintiff’s explicit written instructions.”
Kness dismissed the complaint with prejudice, meaning Baro cannot attempt to amend her complaint again. She can still yet appeal.
Baro has been represented in the case by attorney Jeffrey M. Schwab, of the Liberty Justice Center, of Chicago.
Local 504 has been represented by attorneys Joshua B. Shiffrin, of the firm of Bredhoff & Kaiser, of Washington, D.C., and others with that firm and the firm of Dowd, Bloch, Bennett, Cervone, Auerbach & Yokich, of Chicago.
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March 31, 2022 at 04:42PM