After the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus
v. AFSMCE, public workers were finally able to choose whether they wanted to pay money to a union. This freed hundreds of thousands of workers across the country. But in many states — though not Michigan — private sector workers are still forced by law to pay. In others, they face pressure from other sources.
In 2008 Jim Shake began a job as an actuary at the United Automobile Workers headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. After a few years on the job, Shake was approached and told he needed to pay dues to a local union called “Local X.” Shake noticed, however, that Local X’s method of deducting dues didn’t quite line up with the usual method used by the rest of the UAW.
Soon after Shake pointed this out, he was called into his superior’s office and reminded that he was an at-will employee, which he took as threat to fire him. Feeling trapped, he signed the dues-authorization form, and began paying dues.
From the time he signed the form in 2014 to his retirement in 2018, Shake never heard from Local X. His only connection with it was that dues were consistently deducted from his paycheck. He was never approached by a representative of Local X, or any other union claiming to represent him.
After his retirement, Shake contacted the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which began to look for proof of Local X’s existence. It could not find any.
The Foundation filed suit in December, seeking to reclaim over $7,000 in dues and a court judgement stating that Local X does not, and never did, exist.
“I paid the dues, but then found out there was no actual union — nobody was representing me. I believe this was a fake union set up to withhold dues as part of a kickback scam,” said Shake in the press release issued after the suit was filed.
In January, the UAW filed a motion to have the case dismissed, claiming that the complaint by the Mackinac Center “badly, and knowingly, mischaracterizes the facts.” The motion then said that Shake knew that there was no local union, and he has no basis to claim that his experience with Local X was fraudulent.
“Michigan cannot prosper if powerful institutions like the UAW drag the economy down with corruption,” said Derk Wilcox, senior attorney with the Foundation. “The UAW has admitted that there was no such local union, called Local X or any other name. The UAW was taking its employees money and using it to live the high life.”
A hearing was scheduled for February, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it was rescheduled for April. It’s possible that the case could be decided at this hearing without going to trial. After all, the UAW admitted, in its motion to dismiss the case, that Local X never existed. All that can be done for now is wait.
Workers have the right to choose if they want to pay money to a union, but when a union takes employees’ money under false pretenses, that’s a different story. When unions no longer protect the workers that they were created to protect, and choose to steal from them instead, they outlive their usefulness. The Mackinac Center is proud to represent workers who have been wronged by their unions and to fight for a freer state and country.