Honolulu, Hawaii (June 9, 2003) — In response to a federal civil rights complaint brought by attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii has ordering the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) union to stop collecting agency fees from non-union members.
The injunction comes in a federal class-action lawsuit, Swanson v. UHPA, originally filed last August on behalf of Sandra Swanson, an instructor at Maui Community College. In January, the federal lawsuit was certified as a class action, allowing 625 non-union members of the University of Hawaii to challenge the money confiscated for politics and other activities by UHPA union officials.
Judge Helen Gillmore issued the injunction, which prevents the UHPA from collecting agency fees from all non-union members of the University of Hawaii until the union officials can prove they are not spending non-members’ agency fees on activities not directly related to collective bargaining.
“For years UHPA union officials have been trying to get away with hiding how they spend teachers’ money,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This injunction is a step toward getting them to shape up and start respecting teachers’ rights.”
Since August 2000, the UHPA and its national affiliate, the National Education Association (NEA), have demanded that all non-members pay an agency fee equal to the cost of full union dues. The union hierarchy never observed employees’ due process rights, including failing to provide an independent audit of the union’s books and records to ensure that objecting employees are not subsidizing non-collective bargaining activities.
Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted in the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, union officials must provide independently audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures made from forced union dues seized from teachers who have chosen to refrain from union membership.
According to the constitutional protections construed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Foundation-won decisions of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, the union may only collect compulsory dues that are spent on collective bargaining activity. Politics, lobbying, organizing, public relations, and other non-bargaining activities are explicitly non-chargeable to objecting employees who have exercised their right to refrain from union membership.