District Court’s Order Sets the Stage for Multi-million Dollar Refund from SEIU to Nonunion California State Employees
Supreme Court victory entitles civil servants to refunds with interest for union assessment for “political fight back fund” used against 2005 ballot initiatives
Bakersfield, CA (June 18, 2013) – A California District Court Judge has issued an order setting interest rates for the refund of an illegally-seized forced dues assessment by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 from thousands of California civil servants in 2005. The order results from last year’s Knox v. SEIU Supreme Court ruling, which held that the SEIU’s collection of union dues for political activism violated the rights of nonunion employees, who were never given notice of the assessment or an opportunity to opt out.
Diane Knox and her seven co-plaintiffs were represented by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, who provided them with free legal assistance throughout their long legal battle.
SEIU lawyers had argued that nonmembers’ refunds should be calculated using the near-historically low interest rates applying at the end of the legal battle. The court disagreed, using rates that prevailed at the time the monies were seized in 2005 and 2006, 21-29 times higher than the rate the union sought.
According to preliminary estimates, the total judgment for refunds could cost the SEIU up to eight million dollars.
The final judgment concludes a prolonged legal challenge affecting some 42,000 California government employees. In 2005, union officials imposed a “special assessment” to raise money from all state employees subject to SEIU monopoly bargaining, regardless of their membership status. The fund was used to defeat a series of ballot proposals, including one that would have revoked public employee unions’ special privilege of using forced fees for politics without affirmative employee consent. Civil servants who refrained from union membership were given no chance to opt out of paying for the SEIU's political assessment, which union officials labeled a “political fight back fund.”
On June 21, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a 7-2 decision that struck down the SEIU’s forced-dues fundraising scheme. A 5-4 majority went further and ruled that any future special assessments cannot be seized from nonmembers unless they affirmatively consent – or “opt in.”
“Eight years after the forced assessments began, tens of thousands of nonunion California civil servants are finally about to get their money back from SEIU bosses,” said Patrick Semmens, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Although it’s taken far too long for these workers to receive justice, it’s fitting that in the process of winning this case at the Supreme Court, we’ve also expanded the protections nonunion workers enjoy to refrain from paying for union politics.”