Maine State Employees Hit Union and Top State Officials with Federal Charges for Violating Constitutional Rights 

Portland, Maine (June 16, 2005) — A group of twenty Maine state employees have filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA) union and several senior State of Maine officials to block the seizure of compulsory union dues from the paychecks of thousands of nonunion state employees. Receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the state workers charge that MSEA union officials are acting in concert with State of Maine officials to seize compulsory union dues from nonunion state employees’ paychecks without first providing them with a legally-mandated audit. The workers’ complaint charges State Controller Edward A. Karrass, among other top state officials, for signing an agreement with the union that threatens the First Amendment rights of thousands of public employees and forces them to subsidize union organizing expenses. The employees filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine Portland Division. The workers allege that MSEA union officials will intentionally seize the forced union dues without first providing the financial disclosure and procedures required by a long-standing U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protects public employees from demands to pay for union political activity and other activities they may oppose. Like many similar agreements around the country, the Maine monopoly bargaining agreement includes an “indemnification clause” in which the union promises to pay all legal costs state officials may incur in defending any suit that results from illegal seizures of compulsory dues. These agreements remove any incentive for the employer to ensure the union is not mistreating workers. Most courts have struck such agreements down as void as against public policy. “MSEA union officials simply want nonunion state employees to shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union operatives should not be allowed essentially to bribe city officials to do their dirty work by promising to reimburse all legal costs that arise out of violating state employees’ First Amendment rights." The state employees are asking the court to enjoin MSEA officials from seizing forced dues from any nonunion employee represented by the MSEA union until it provides a satisfactory independent audit of union expenditures. The workers also seek class-action status for their case, and restitution to all state employees represented by MSEA union of all past forced dues. Under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decision Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, before collecting any forced dues, union officials must first provide an audited disclosure of the union’s expenses. Such audits are intended to ensure that forced union dues seized from nonunion public employees do not fund union activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as politics.


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