Lawsuit would force union officials to get employees’ consent before collecting dues for political activities
Sacramento, CA (February 3, 2014) – With the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, eighteen California civil servants have filed a class action lawsuit in U. S. District Court against the SEIU Local 1000 union. The lawsuit challenges the union’s policy of requiring nonunion employees to affirmatively object to paying for union politics and asks that the SEIU seek employees’ permission before deducting union dues for political activism.
The lawsuit builds on a landmark, Foundation-won Supreme Court decision from 2012. In Knox v. SEIU Local 1000, the Supreme Court held for the first time that a union should not have collected dues for a political spending campaign without nonmembers’ affirmative consent.
Although nonunion civil servants have the right to opt out of paying union dues for activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as union political activism, many unions require employees to object to those payments before they’ll cease collecting full union dues. The lawsuit seeks to shift that burden from employees, whose paychecks and rights are at stake, to union officials, who would then be required to seek nonmembers’ permission before collecting full dues.
The lawsuit notes that SEIU 1000’s current policy – which requires nonunion public employees to object to union political spending – effectively rigs the game 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 such notices. Others were only notified after a union-designated window period for objecting to the payment of full dues had already expired.
Nonunion civil servants who did receive the notice in a timely fashion found that it downplayed employees’ right to opt out. Information about refraining from paying dues for union politics was printed in small text and featured below the union’s more prominent pitch for full membership.
If any employees received the notice in a timely fashion and were able to decipher the union’s explanation of their right to refrain from paying full union dues, they then had to undergo an onerous, bureaucratic process to assert that right.
“Nonunion civil servants shouldn’t have to navigate a cumbersome opt-out procedure to assert their right to refrain from union politics,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “We hope the courts recognize the importance of protecting independent-minded employees by requiring union officials to get their consent before deducting dues for political activism.”