News Release

Public Employee Union Faces Federal Lawsuit for Illegal Forced Dues Scheme

Right to Work Foundation attorneys challenge union hierarchy for violating employee’s constitutional rights

San Francisco, CA (March 6, 2012) – An Alameda County East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) employee has filed a federal lawsuit against a local union and the public agency for violating his rights.

James C. Hankins filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation.

Hankins resigned formal union membership from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 444 more than ten years ago.

However, in April 2011, AFSCME Local 444 and EBMUD officials began to deduct full union dues from Hawkins’s paycheck as if he was a full union member.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Foundation's Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson (1986) case that union officials can collect some union fees as a condition of employment, but they must first provide public workers with an independently-audited financial breakdown of all forced-dues union expenditures and the opportunity to object to and challenge the amount of forced union dues or fees before an impartial decision maker. This minimal safeguard at least ensures that workers have an opportunity to refrain from paying for union boss political activities and union member-only events.

AFSCME Local 444 union officials have refused to provide such a breakdown and have not given workers an opportunity to opt out of paying full union dues. The EBMUD is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit for its complicity in the confiscation of full forced dues from Hankins’s paycheck.

Hankins seeks refunds of the amount of forced union dues payments illegally taken from his paychecks and to enjoin future collection until AFSCME union officials comply with Hudson.

"AFSCME Local 444 union bosses are deliberately keeping rank-and-file workers in the dark to keep their forced-dues gravy train going," said Patrick Semmens, National Right to Work Foundation legal information director. "To prevent these types of forced unionism abuses, California needs a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary."

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

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