Case shows desperate need for California Right to Work law
San Francisco, CA (January 31, 2013) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a San Francisco in-home care provider has filed a state charge against a local union for illegally refusing to honor her right to refrain from full-dues-paying union membership.
On Tuesday, Shiufan Lee filed the charge with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against Service Employees International Union-Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW).
Lee attempted to exercise her right to refrain from formal union membership via phone in early August 2012, and in a letter she sent on August 3. Lee received a call from a union official where she again asked to resign from membership and full dues payments. Each time she spoke with union officials, they refused to acknowledge her resignation.
Lee sent additional letters to union officials on September 16 and September 26 asking that the union hierarchy allow her to exercise her rights. The charge alleges that SEIU officials never sent her a response and continued to illegally extract full union dues from Lee's paychecks despite her repeated attempts to resign union membership.
Under California state law and federal constitutional law, workers have the unconditional right to refrain from union membership. Because California does not have Right to Work protections making union affiliation completely voluntary, workers who refrain from formal union membership may 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 political activities and member-only events.
Lee's charge seeks an acknowledgment from SEIU officials that she is no longer a formal member, an independently-audited breakdown of union expenditures, a refund of illegally-seized union dues from her paycheck dating back to August 2012, and the posting of notices in locations where notices to employees are customarily posted informing workers of their right to refrain from union membership.
"SEIU bosses have a long history of coercing workers into paying for the union bosses' political agenda," said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. "To prevent these types of forced-unionism abuses in the future, California 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 principle of voluntary unionism.