Nonunion Nurses Win Settlement with Washington State Nurses Association for Repeated Rights Violations
Scofflaw union officials blocked nurses’ resignations, threatened firings, and prevented nurses from cutting off dues payments
Seattle, WA (June 8, 2012) – With the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, four Virginia Mason Medical Center nurses have reached a class-wide settlement with the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) union over their rights to leave the union and opt out of paying union dues.
Therese Mollerus-Gale, Maureen Lenahan, Amber Finn, and Patricia Breen were all automatically enrolled in the WSNA union without their consent after becoming employed at Virginia Mason. The dispute arose last summer when Mollerus-Gale and Lenahan first attempted to leave the WSNA. All employees have a constitutional right to resign from a union at any time, but WSNA officials repeatedly denied the nurses’ attempts to leave the union on the grounds that their resignation letters weren’t “timely” or weren’t sent by certified mail. Finn and Breen met with similar obstructions when they later attempted to leave the union.
Under the WSNA’s contract with Virginia Mason, nurses can opt out of paying all union dues during a certain window period, but they were never notified of that right by union officials. Supreme Court precedent also gives nonunion employees the right to opt out of paying for union activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as political lobbying, at any time. Once again, WSNA officials refused to acknowledge these rights or permit nurses to stop paying dues for union politics. In Lenahan’s case, union operatives actually threatened to have her fired for refusing to pay full dues.
The WSNA’s settlement with the nurses requires union officials to post public notices on their website and in the hospital acknowledging all nurses’ rights to refrain from union membership and the payment of full union dues. The notices explain that nurses may resign from the union at any time and can opt out of paying all union dues when the current contract expires. WSNA officials have also agreed to refund Amber Finn an amount equivalent to the union dues they illegally forced her to pay.
“We’re happy to report that four nurses have won a major settlement with the Washington State Nurses Association union,” said Patrick Semmens, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “However, independent-minded employees shouldn’t have to resort to lengthy litigation to protect their workplace rights. Instead, Washington State should adopt a Right to Work law, which would ensure that no employee is forced to join or pay dues to a union just to get or keep a job.”