A United Airlines Inc. worker asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his legal challenge to a federal labor-relations law requiring railway and airline workers who are represented by unions, but aren’t members, to opt out of paying full union dues.
Arthur Baisley, represented by the the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, filed a petition May 21 saying the high court should strike down the opt-out system in the Railway Labor Act in light of the high court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which forbid public sector unions from requiring nonmembers to pay union fees to cover nonpolitical expenses.
Workers who aren’t union members shouldn’t have to affirmatively decline to financially support unions’ political and ideological activities that are funded by full union dues, according to Baisley’s brief to the high court.
The petition marks another legal challenge premised on Janus that has wended its way to the Supreme Court. Different United Airlines workers, represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, have asked the high court to extend that ruling’s ban on mandatory nonmember fees to private sector workers covered by the RLA.
The justices previously rejected Janus-based petitions to consider whether unions should refund mandatory nonmember fees collected before they were prohibited, and whether the system of exclusive representation in the public sector is unconstitutional.
Baisley wants the high court to review a December decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that threw out his lawsuit challenging the RLA’s opt-out format for nonmember workers. He’s part of a bargaining unit that’s represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
The Fifth Circuit panel, composed of two Trump appointees and a George W. Bush appointee, noted that Janus and two other union financing rulings that Baisley relies on—Knox v. SEIU and Harris v. Quinn—apply in the public sector only. Using those decision to forbid the opt-out system in the private sector RLA context would be an extension “into a new realm”—which those three rulings cautioned against, the circuit said.
Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement that opt-out systems are meant to “trap unsuspecting workers” into paying for unions’ political agendas.
The Machinists’ lawyer, Elizabeth Roma of Guerrieri Bartos & Roma PC, didn’t respond to phone and email requests for comment.
The case is Baisley v. IAM, U.S., Docket number not available, Petition 5/21/21.