SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (April 17, 2001) — More than 1,500 state health and social service employees won court approval of a large settlement yesterday against a local affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union for illegally seizing forced union dues.
Under the terms of the settlement, won by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, officials of AFSCME Local 2620 must refund 75 percent of dues and fees illegally collected from the workers between July 1998 and September 1999, plus 100 percent of the dues and fees illegally collected during the first 12 days of March 2000, along with interest and attorneys’ fees. Based on the amount the union seized from the plaintiff class over a 15-month period, total refunds should exceed $350,000, which breaks down to an average of at least $233 for each employee.
“This is an important victory for workers against Big Labor’s California forced union dues empire,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “This shakedown of employees for political contributions is deplorable.”
The settlement comes as a result of a 1999 class-action lawsuit, Murray v. AFSCME Local 2620, filed by Foundation attorneys on behalf of Robert Murray, a 16-year veteran of the California State Department of Rehabilitation, and all other employees in State Bargaining Unit 19 who had declined to join the union since union officials began their unlawful dues-collection practices in July 1998.
The politically active AFSCME union was ranked by the Center for Responsive Politics as the second largest overall soft-money contributor in the 2000 election cycle. But under Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court precedents, unions may not seize any forced dues from nonmembers for politics or other non-bargaining activities.
Union officials violated the rights of employees guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by failing to provide them with notice of their right to object to paying forced fees for the union’s political activities and by failing to reveal how those fees were being spent. Under the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, union officials must provide independently audited disclosure of their books and justify the lawfulness of their expenditures before seizing any forced union dues from employees.
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.