Federal judge rules for Education Minnesota in fair-share fees lawsuit


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ST. PAUL, Minnesota. Feb. 12, 2021 – A federal judge on Friday rejected claims by three teachers that Education Minnesota must pay refunds and damages for collecting “fair-share” fees for the 40 years before June 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the practice was unconstitutional. 

“This lawsuit is part of a coordinated, but failing, strategy to punish unions for doing good work for their members,” said Denise Specht, the president of Education Minnesota. “Court after court is ruling that unions should not be penalized when they obeyed the law and provided a service to people who benefitted from it.”

“We anticipate this case, and similar cases around the country, will be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court with the goal of getting a ruling that would financially cripple the union movement in the United States,” Specht said. “Our union is ready to stand with other unions of working people to make our case in any courtroom. We will protect the freedom of future generations of Americans to come together in union for the common good.”

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 40 years of precedent in the Janus case to rule the collection of fair-share fees was unconstitutional. These fees had been collected from public employees to pay for the cost of bargaining and enforcing employment contracts, not electoral politics, as directed by law at the time. 

Shortly after the Janus ruling, several public employees, including teachers Linda Hoekman and Paul Hanson, filed a lawsuit seeking refunds and damages for fair-share fees that employees paid in the past. They were represented, in part, by a Texas law firmed connected to similar lawsuits around the country. Several of the original plaintiffs dropped out of the lawsuit.

Education Minnesota argued in the Minnesota case that it acted in good faith and that its collection of fair-share fees complied with previous rules of the U.S. Supreme Court and state law. 

“Like every court to consider the issue, the Court finds that the good faith defense bars Hoekman and Hanson’s … claims for a refund of fair-share fees paid prior to Janus,” Nelson wrote in her order dated Feb. 12.

About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.