Case shows desperate need for California Right to Work law
San Jose, CA (September 6, 2012) – Last week, the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) filed a complaint against a local union for illegally refusing to honor a worker's right to refrain from full-dues-paying union membership.
With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center pharmacist Jeffrey Lum of Cupertino filed a state charge in June against Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521 for illegally forcing him into full union dues payments.
Lum, a county employee, exercised his right to refrain from formal union membership in November 2011 and sent a letter to the SEIU notifying the union hierarchy of his decision. Because California does not have Right to Work protections making union affiliation completely voluntary, workers who refrain from formal union membership can still be forced to pay part of union dues to keep their jobs. However, nonmember workers cannot be required to pay union dues spent for union activities like political activism, lobbying, and member-only events.
SEIU Local 521 officials acknowledged Lum's resignation letter but still continue to extract full union dues from his paychecks – claiming Lum's resignation from formal union membership 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.
Lum's charge sought an acknowledgment from union officials that he is no longer a formal member, an independently-audited breakdown of union expenditures, a refund of illegally-seized forced union dues from his paychecks dating back to January, and the posting of notices in the workplace informing workers of their right to refrain from union membership.
The PERB investigated and found merit to Lum's charge. The PERB Office of the General Council filed the complaint against the SEIU and the union has 20 days to respond.
"SEIU bosses are ignoring Supreme Court precedent and creating purposefully complicated rules to illegally coerce workers into full-dues-paying union ranks against their will," said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work. "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-three states have Right to Work protections for workers. Recent public polling shows that 80 percent of Americans and union members support the Right to Work principle of voluntary unionism.