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Amicus Brief: Kurk v. Los Rios Classified Employees Association

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Amicus Brief: Kurk v. Los Rios Classified Employees Association

December 28, 2022
Legal ReformOther

Introduction

This “post-Janus” case about workers’ rights in the public sector centers on Kristine Kurk, an employee benefits technician at the Los Rios Community College District in California. Ms. Kurk attempted to resign her union membership in September 2018. Both her employer and the union refused to honor her resignation, the employer based on a state statute, and the union based on a collective bargaining agreement. The then-applicable three-year collective bargaining agreement expired in June 2020.

As a result, the public employer and union forced Ms. Kurk to remain a union member (in violation of her freedom of association) subject to union discipline, as well as to continue paying dues (in violation of her right against compelled speech) for 21 months. She sued and, this past August, the Ninth Circuit ruled against her, holding that she had a “private membership agreement” with the union, outside constitutional scrutiny. But the only “agreement” Ms. Kurk signed, 21 years earlier, was a “dues check-off form” authorizing her government employer to deduct union dues from her paycheck. That dues check-off contained no limitation on when or how she may resign the union.

Ms. Kurk has now filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the question of whether a public sector employee has a right to resign from her union at will. The Manhattan Institute has joined the Protect the First Foundation on an amicus brief arguing that (1) even though Ms. Kurk was eventually allowed to resign her union membership, the injury to her First Amendment rights still requires redress; (2) the law at issue here is particularly problematic because it not only indefinitely compels speech related to collective bargaining, but also core political speech and association; and (3) enough lower courts have read Janus in an unreasonably cramped fashion as to require the high court’s intervention.

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Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow and director of Constitutional Studies at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.

Photo by DNY59/iStock

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