28,000 Employees Win Right to Reclaim $3 Million in Illegally Seized “Special Assessment” Spent to Oppose Ballot Initiatives
Federal court rules union’s “special assessment” violated First Amendment
Download the decision here.
Sacramento, California (March 31, 2008) – A federal judge has ordered California State Employees Association (CSEA) union officials to offer rebates to up to 28,000 state employees who are not union members. Imposing a “special assessment” in addition to mandatory dues, union officials seized an additional 25% of forced union dues to wage their campaign against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s modest reform measures on the 2005 ballot.
The ruling stems from a class-action civil rights complaint, filed by nine state government employees (union members and nonmembers) with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The complaint sought a ruling that would require union officials to give employees due process, including proper financial disclosure, a formal notice that they may reclaim the special assessment spent for electioneering, and rebates, plus interest, to all who request them.
CSEA union officials had imposed on government employees a so-called “Emergency Temporary Assessment to Build a Political Fight-Back Fund” for a broad range of political activities. Union officials openly admitted that the “Fund will not be used for regular costs of the union,” but for political advertising, direct mail, and get-out-the-vote activities.
By levying this mid-year “special assessment,” CSEA officials illegally jacked up and spent employees’ mandatory payments by between 25-36% without even allowing those employees who were not union members to opt out of paying for such activities. Union officials raised over $12 million through the special assessment and spent many millions more using regular dues. Approximately $3 million of this was taken from nonmembers.
Morrison C. England Jr., a U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of California, noted that “a contrary decision from the one reached today would allow unions to run roughshod over dissenting nonmembers...”
CSEA union officials must now provide the nonunion state employees with a financial disclosure, notice that they may object to the use of these forced union dues for political activities, and refunds to all who object in response to the new disclosure.
“Although this is an encouraging victory for these employees, this ruling underscores the gross injustice of forced unionism that exists in California,” stated National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason. “Only a Right to Work law banning forced union dues altogether will give Golden State employees meaningful protection from similar abuses of their constitutional rights.”
In the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, the High Court ruled that public employees have due process rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to be notified of how their forced union dues are spent, and how to prevent the spending of their dues for union political activities. However, CSEA union officials did not give public employees any opportunity to object to the special assessment.