Sacramento, California (November 1, 2005) – A group of California government employees filed a statewide class-action lawsuit in federal court today against the California State Employees Association (CSEA) union seeking a ruling that would require union officials to give over 100,000 employees financial disclosure and an opportunity to reclaim a significant forced dues increase which is earmarked to influence this year’s special election.
Filed with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, the civil rights suit seeks a preliminary injunction to halt the use and further collection of a 25-36 percent (or more) mandatory dues increase imposed by CSEA (Local 1000, Service Employees International Union) union officials on members and nonmembers of the union, and an order that every member and nonmember be issued a notice and allowed to obtain a refund, plus interest.
A similar suit, filed by Foundation-assisted teachers in September, forced California Teacher Association (CTA) union officials to allow forced dues paying nonmembers to reclaim the $60 dues increase. Similar claims on behalf of members of the teacher union are still pending before the court. CTA union officials, like the CSEA union, implemented their dues increase to fund electioneering to defeat several of Governor Schwarzenegger’s propositions on the November 8 ballot.
Since September 30, CSEA union officials have imposed an “Emergency Temporary Assessment to Build a Political Fight-Back Fund” for a broad range of political and other non-collective bargaining activities. Union officials openly admit the “Fund will not be used for regular costs of the union,” but for political advertising, direct mail, and get-out-the-vote activities. According to the California Secretary of State, the CSEA union and affiliates have forwarded more than $22 million to various ballot proposition committees.
Like many public servants, the nine named plaintiffs (union members and nonmembers) object to paying for union political activities with which they disagree. They seek an order certifying their suit as a class action for all CSEA members and nonmembers.
“Public employees should not have to take legal action for union officials to stop the use of their forced dues for politics,” stated National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason. “However, as long as public employees labor under a system of forced unionism, such abuses will inevitably continue.”
In the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, the high court ruled that public employees have due process rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to be notified, as potential objectors, of how their forced union dues are spent, and how to prevent the spending of their dues for union political activities. However, CSEA union officials have failed to give public employees any opportunity to object to the dues increase.
To prevent further violation of their fundamental rights, the public employees ask that the forced dues be placed into escrow, because, as Foundation attorneys note in the employees’ complaint, they “have a First Amendment right to prevent the increase in their union dues…which conflict[s] with their own personal preferences.”
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, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.