Lawsuit builds on Knox Supreme Court decision, seeks to require unions to obtain employees’ affirmative consent before collecting any money for political activities
Sacramento, CA (May 27, 2015) – The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California has just granted class-action status to a lawsuit filed by California civil servants against SEIU Local 1000. The lawsuit challenges the union’s collection policy, which requires nonmembers to affirmatively object to paying for union politics, and asks that the SEIU be required to get employees’ permission before spending their money on political activism. The plaintiffs are receiving free legal assistance from a National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney, who has been certified as the attorney for a class estimated to consist of at least 34,000 workers.
The lawsuit builds on Knox v. SEIU Local 1000, a Right to Work Foundation-won United States Supreme Court decision from 2012. In Knox, the High Court held, for the first time, that a union should not have collected dues for a political spending campaign without nonmembers’ affirmative consent.
In California and 24 other states that lack Right to Work laws, nonunion employees can be forced to pay union dues or fees to keep a job. However, employees have the right to opt out of paying for activities unrelated to workplace bargaining, such as union political activism.
Unfortunately, many unions require employees to annually object to those payments if they wish to refrain from paying for union politics. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit seeks to shift that burden from employees, whose paychecks and rights are at stake, to union officials, who would then be required to receive nonmembers’ permission before collecting any money for politics.
The lawsuit notes that SEIU 1000’s current policy – which requires nonunion public employees to object annually to union political spending – effectively rigs the game in the union’s favor. Although nonunion employees are supposed to receive notices informing them of their rights to opt out of paying for union politics, several of the plaintiffs never received any information. Others were only notified after a union-designated window period for objecting had already expired.
The district court ruled that the certified class will consist of all nonunion state workers employed within SEIU Local 1000’s bargaining units, from June 2013 onwards.
“We are happy to report that all nonunion civil servants in SEIU Local 1000’s bargaining units will have a chance to reclaim at least some of the compulsory fees taken from their paychecks,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “We hope the courts will recognize the importance of requiring union officials to get employees’ consent before collecting money for political activism.”