Class of 5,000 workers seeks refund of millions of dollars in fees seized by SEIU officials in violation of Supreme Court’s Janus precedent
San Jose, CA (August 16, 2018) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have filed a federal class action lawsuit for a California state employee to reclaim union fees SEIU officials unconstitutionally seized from him and thousands of similarly situated employees. The class action complaint potentially includes approximately 5,000 affected individuals and seeks to enforce the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision, which held that the First Amendment prohibits mandatory union fees for public sector employees.
William Hough, a worker at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), filed the complaint against the VTA, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521, and the Attorney General and Governor of California. The complaint, filed at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claims that by forcing Hough and other state employees to pay union fees without their affirmative consent, the defendants violated their First Amendment rights as protected by the new Janus precedent.
Hough has worked at the VTA since 2005. He exercised his right to refrain from joining SEIU Local 521 because he did not wish to support it in any way. However, he and other non-union member employees were forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment under state law.
In the Foundation-won Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision, the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to require government workers to pay any union dues and fees as a condition of employment. Additionally, the Court clarified that no union dues or fees can be taken from workers without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right not to financially support a labor union.
However, California’s law authorizes SEIU Local 521 and its affiliates to extract union fees from non-union members as a condition of employment. In the lawsuit, Hough claims that the applicable statute, and any other statute that authorizes Local 521 to collect forced union fees from public employees without their affirmative consent, violates the First Amendment. He asks the court to declare those laws unconstitutional.
The complaint requests that the court certify a class that includes all individuals who at any time within the applicable limitations period were forced to pay union fees to SEIU Local 521 and its affiliates without their affirmative consent and knowing waiver of their First Amendment rights.
“Independent-minded workers are choosing to stand up for their rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “In the Foundation-won Janus decision, the Supreme Court finally upheld public sector workers’ First Amendment right to choose whether or not to support a union without the threat of being fired. Further, the High Court made is clear that fees cannot be collected without a clear waiver of First Amendment rights, something the SEIU never gave Mr. Hough and his colleagues, which is why the complaint seeks refunds of millions of dollars of fees seized in recent years.”
The Foundation has created a special website, MyJanusRights.org, to assist public employees in exercising their rights under Janus, which was successfully argued by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger.
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.