Case shows desperate need for California Right to Work law to make union membership and dues strictly voluntary
San Jose, CA (June 18, 2014) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation-provided staff attorneys, a Santa Clara Valley Medical Center pharmacist has filed a state charge against a local union for illegally refusing to honor her right to refrain from full dues-paying union membership.
Han Kwan Wong, a pharmacist from San Jose, filed the charge with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521 for illegally forcing her into full union dues payments against her will.
In December 2013, Wong attempted to hand deliver a letter to SEIU Local 521 notifying the union hierarchy that she was exercising her right to refrain from formal union membership. An SEIU official refused to accept Wong's letter.
Wong then sent a certified letter to the union hierarchy. SEIU Local 521 union officials responded by acknowledging Wong’s resignation letter but still continue to extract full union dues from her paychecks – claiming the union membership resignation did not meet the union's criteria.
Under California state law and federal case law, workers have the unconditional right to refrain from formal union membership. However, because California does not have Right to Work protections for workers, nonmember workers can be forced to pay a part of union dues and fees.
Wong's charge seeks an acknowledgment from the union that she is no longer a union member, an independently-audited breakdown of union expenditures, a refund of illegally-seized forced union dues from her paychecks dating back to December, and the posting of notices in the workplace informing workers of their right to refrain from union membership.
"SEIU bosses are illegally forcing workers to jump through hoops to exercise their right to refrain from full dues-paying union membership," said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. "To prevent these types of forced unionism abuses in the future, California desperately needs to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary."
Twenty-four states have Right to Work protections for workers. Recent public polling shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans and union members support the Right to Work principle of voluntary unionism.