News outlets reported on January 17, 2020 that Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) 1199NW union officials plan to order almost 8,000 hospital workers to strike beginning January 28 after union officials and Swedish Medical Center failed to ratify a new monopoly bargaining contract.

This situation raises serious concerns for hospital employees who believe there is much to lose from a union boss-ordered strike and who do not want to abandon their jobs and their patients.

Employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to be informed before they do so.


The Foundation wants you to learn about your legal rights from independent sources. You should not rely on what self-interested union officials tell you. For more than five decades, Foundation attorneys have worked in the courts and labor agencies to protect and expand individual employees’ rights in situations such as strikes. It is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuses.

Employees of Swedish Medical Center should know they have the following rights:

  1. A union has no disciplinary power over nonmembers and cannot discipline them for crossing a picket line and working during a strike. If you are currently not a member of the SEIU, you have the right to go to work even if the union bosses order a strike.

  2. If you are currently a union member, you have the right to resign your union membership. Union officials can (and often do) levy large fines against union members who work during a strike. If you are now a union member and want to work during a strike, you should seriously consider resigning your union membership at least one day BEFORE you return to work. That is the only way to avoid possible ruinous union fines and other discipline. To have the best legal defense possible against fines the union may try to impose, you should give the union notice of your resignation BEFORE you cross the picket line so that when you return to work you are not a union member.

    The decisions whether to resign your union membership and/or cross the picket line are wholly yours. The Foundation is simply providing this information so that your decisions are informed. If you are a member and decide to resign your union membership, please follow this link.

    NOTE: Although not legally required, the best practice is to send your resignation letters to the union and employer by certified mail, return receipt requested, and save copies of your letters and return receipts to prove delivery. If you hand deliver a letter, make sure that you have a reliable witness to the delivery. In our experience, angry and dishonest union officials often pretend they did not actually receive resignations and initiate discipline against non-striking workers anyway. If you encounter any difficulties in exercising your right to work during a strike, you can contact the Foundation to request free legal aid here.

  3. You also have the right to revoke your dues checkoff and stop allowing the union to collect money from your paycheck every week. When there is no collective bargaining agreement in effect you can send letters to the union and your employer revoking your authorization to have union dues deducted from your paycheck. This month, a Swedish Medical Center employee has already filed federal charges against SEIU 1199NW officials for infringing on this right. A sample dues checkoff revocation letter can be found here.

  4. If you are already not a union member, you have a right to pay only the portion of union dues directly germane to the union’s bargaining functions, pursuant to the 1988 CWA v. Beck US Supreme Court decision. You can send letters to union officials and Swedish Medical Center officials asking for a reduction to be made in dues deductions to your paycheck in accordance with Beck.

    A Swedish Medical Center employee has already filed federal charges against SEIU 1199NW bosses for infringing this right and received a favorable settlement from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which ordered SEIU bosses to stop enforcing illegal restrictions on this right and refund unlawfully seized dues. However, it appears that SEIU bosses have not complied with this settlement, as another Swedish employee filed similar charges just this month. A sample Beck objection letter can be found here.

  5. If you wish to eject an unwanted union hierarchy from your workplace, you have the right to petition for a secret ballot decertification election to do so. Information about decertification elections can be found here.