Governor/Union Force Employees to Fund Ballot Initiative Campaigns
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Foundation attorneys filed a statewide class-action lawsuit after newly elected California Governor Gray Davis signed a pact with a state employee union to fire all employees who refused to fund ballot initiative campaigns.
The so-called Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU), which forces thousands of state employees to pay illegally high dues to Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) union officials, is an apparent payoff to the organized labor bosses whose backing swept Governor Davis into office.
"Making a down payment to the union bosses who bought his election, Governor Davis handed California's union brass hundreds of thousands of forced-dues dollars with a single stroke of his pen," said Reed Larson, President of the Foundation.
The lead plaintiffs - Richard Wagner, an investigator for the California Air Resources Board in the Sacramento area, and Kristin Schwall, a water quality engineer from San Diego - are carrying the flag on behalf of thousands of California state employees whose First Amendment rights have been violated by Governor Davis' administration and PECG union officials. The employees seek the issuance of a high-profile federal court injunction, full refunds, and punitive damages.
New governor is a puppet for union bosses
Since the expiration of the previous MOU in 1994, thousands of state employees continued to work without having to fork over a portion of their paychecks to the unwanted PECG union. Negotiations for a new MOU between then-Governor Pete Wilson's administration and PECG officials had resulted in a stalemate, and thus PECG officials were unable to collect a single penny from workers who were not voluntary union members.
Hastening to pay off his political debts, the newly elected Governor Gray Davis immediately granted PECG officials a new MOU that forces all workers to pay dues to a union many never have wanted.
Union bosses force workers to pay for politics
According to the constitutional protections construed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Foundation-won decisions of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, a union may not collect compulsory dues spent on activities unrelated to collective bargaining. Politics, lobbying, organizing, public relations, and other non-bargaining activities are explicitly non-chargeable to employees who have exercised their right to refrain from formal union membership.
Further, the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson requires union officials to provide independently audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures made from forced union dues seized from the employees.
The financial disclosure that PECG union officials provided to non-member state employees was grossly insufficient, with no evidence that PECG's expenditures were independently audited.
Moreover, upon examination by Foundation attorneys, the disclosure showed a hideous disregard for workers' rights by overtly charging for activities that the Supreme Court has clearly outlawed!
For example, according to PECG's own disclosure, all workers must pay for activities like "Initiatives," which are described by union officials as "campaigns regarding ballot propositions." In a direct violation of non-members' constitutional rights, PECG officials are forcing workers to pay for the more than $1 million price tag (nearly one third of the union's total budget) to defend or defeat California ballot initiatives that play a pivotal role in California politics and policy making!
Other activities the union illegally requires workers to pay for or be fired include: "Legislative/Political Action," costing nearly $550,000; "Member-Only Services," for another $150,000; and "Legislative Activity Related to Collective Bargaining," budgeted at more than $160,000.
"This union is so shameless that it didn't even try to disguise its illegal demand for forced dues spent for political activities," said Larson.
Despite the fact that nearly one third of its budget goes to pay for political activities such as initiative campaigns (not counting the hundreds of thousands budgeted for other activities for which these workers are illegally forced to pay), PECG bosses demand that agency-fee payers only pay $2.00 less a month then full members (only a 5% decrease).
Employees fight back with Foundation's help
The number of workers included in the statewide class-action suit could reach into the thousands.
The employees are asking the U.S. District Court to force retroactive refunds, with interest, on all dues illegally collected since April 1 as well as punitive damages for the blatant disregard of their constitutional rights.
Foundation attorneys also filed briefs asking the Court to enjoin the union and California State Controller Kathleen Connell from making any further dues deductions until the court rules on this case.
Case is the first of many
Since Governor Davis has taken office, hundreds of thousands of state employees across California have been forced into paying union dues. This case is a harbinger of things to come as Foundation attorneys prepare similar cases on behalf of other employees who become subject to similar MOUs signed by California's union-label Governor and his union boss friends.