Advocates for Labor and Progressive Institutions

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Third and Seventh Circuits uphold pre-Janus membership agreements

January 15, 2021

The United States Courts of Appeals for the Third and Seventh Circuits, respectively, upheld the constitutionality of union membership and dues-deduction authorization agreements signed before the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018).

In both cases, the plaintiffs argued that they had a First Amendment right to terminate their membership dues deductions immediately, even though that they had signed agreements committing them to have dues deducted for a discrete period of time irrespective of their membership status in the union. The Third and Seventh Circuits disagreed. As the Third Circuit put it, “[c]hanges in decisional law, even constitutional law, do not relieve parties from their pre-existing contractual obligations.” Fischer v. Gov. of N.J., 842 F. App’x 741, 752 (3d Cir. 2021). See also Bennett v. AFSCME Council 31, 991 F.3d 724, 731 (7th Cir. 2021) (same).

Bredhoff & Kaiser represented the defendant unions in both cases, both in the district courts and on appeal.