Puerto Rico water utility worker sues to leave union
SAN JUAN – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has taken up the legal representation of a Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) plant operator who has sued in federal court challenging the constitutionality of public sector union officials’ forced-dues powers.
Reynaldo Cruz claims he has been forced to pay union fees despite attempting to leave the Authentic Independent Union (UIA by its Spanish initials) last year. He is arguing that a local labor law requiring a worker to join and pay union dues as a condition of government employment violates his First Amendment rights, said the foundation, which opposes workplace unions.
According to the foundation, Cruz sent letters to the UIA and Prasa, resigning from his union membership and objecting to the payment of dues he said are used for UIA’s political and ideological activities. Cruz cited his First Amendment rights under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, including the right to pay reduced dues.
“UIA officials rejected his request, informing Cruz that if he wished to cease his union membership and stop paying dues, then he must end his employment with Prasa or seek a position outside their monopoly bargaining unit. Union officials and Prasa bosses continued deducting money from Cruz’s paycheck for full forced union dues as a condition of employment,” the foundation said.
It then sent the union and Prasa a notice requesting back pay for the fees and asking the utility to stop deducting them from his paycheck. The request was denied.
Cruz’s case is one of six other foundation-backed cases challenging mandatory union payments for government employees as a violation of the First Amendment. The governor is also a defendant in Cruz’s case.
A similar case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Janus v. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) case deals with an Illinois government employee who does not want to pay dues to AFSCME union officials. The case is slated to be heard in January.