NLRB top prosecutor says SEIU officials illegally kept employees in the dark about their legal right not to pay union fees during contract hiatus
Washington, DC (November 11, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Roger White won an appeal to the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in his case against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW.
In mid-January 2020, White sent union officials a letter resigning his membership and invoking his U.S Supreme Court-won Beck right to pay reduced union fees. The union admitted that more than one of every three dollars it collects were spent on political and nonrepresentational activities, but failed to inform him and others that, due to a contract hiatus then in effect, nonmember employees actually owed no dues or fees at all because no forced union fee contract was in effect.
White filed charges in April, asserting SEIU officials violated the National Labor Relations act by not informing him he was not required to pay any union fees during a contract hiatus.
After the Seattle NLRB Regional Director brushed aside SEIU officials’ obligation to inform White that he could not legally be required to pay any union fees, Foundation attorneys filed an appeal to the Board’s General Counsel, arguing the union owed White a “duty of truth and honesty” and should have made it clear he had no obligation to pay.
In response to the appeal, the General Counsel agreed with the Foundation staff attorneys’ arguments, saying union officials violated the National Labor Relations Act by keeping White in the dark about his rights during the contract hiatus.
The General Counsel further found that the union had maintained a “confusing and ambiguous Membership Application, Voluntary Check-Off Authorization and Payroll Deduction document.” These documents, which employees are pushed to sign to allow dues deductions, did not provide enough information to make an informed decision about union membership.
Finally, the General Counsel found that the SEIU’s dues check-off authorization form “may be interpreted to preclude employees from revoking their authorization upon expiration of the contract.” Authorizing dues payments is not a permanent decision, but SEIU’s contract does not make that clear.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW has faced repeated legal challenges to its membership practices. Two other Swedish Medical Center employees, Daniel Dalison and NancyEllen Elster, filed charges against the SEIU local for failing to respect the rights guaranteed to them by Beck. Elster won a unit-wide settlement in October 2019 after NLRB Region 19 found merit to her charges that union officials had failed to give a proper Beck notice to employees, and had denied her request to pay the reduced dues amount under Beck.
Following the General Council’s ruling, the case is back with the Regional Director for further action. If a settlement is not reached between the SEIU and White, the Regional Director will issue a complaint against the SEIU for violating the law in preparation for a trial before an NLRB administrative law judge.
“Once again, Seattle SEIU bosses’ have used unfair and deceptive tactics to violate workers’ rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Despite repeated legal challenges, SEIU officials have demonstrated their determination to keep workers in the dark about their legal rights, rather than give workers all the facts before making a decision regarding union membership and financial support.”
Allegiant Air Flight Attendant Sues Transport Workers Union for Religious Discrimination, Forced Union Fee Demands
Despite objecting to union membership and dues on religious grounds, flight attendant was forced to pay union fees or lose input into work schedule
Knoxville, Tennessee (November 6, 2020) – Allegiant Air Flight attendant Annlee Post has filed a federal lawsuit against Transport Workers Union of America Local 577 (TWU) for violating her rights under the First Amendment, Railway Labor Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The complaint was filed with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
As the lawsuit explains, Post sent two letters informing TWU officials of her religious objections and offering to redirect her dues payments to a charity. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers and union officials are required to accommodate sincere religious beliefs. Courts have consistently ruled that employers and unions must allow religious objectors to redirect their compulsory union payments to charity.
In the 2015 EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch decision, the Supreme Court unanimously held that employees do not need to satisfy any requirements to merit accommodation. Thus, it did not matter in Abercrombie that the prospective employee never informed her prospective employer that she wore a headscarf for religious reasons. An employer or union’s belief that an employee might need accommodation is enough to trigger its duty to accommodate.
Post exceeded her legal requirements. She informed union officials in writing that her religious beliefs prevent her from associating with or supporting the union. Therefore, she requested accommodation. She sent two letters explaining her religious objections. TWU officials, however, refused to accommodate her.
With free legal aid from the Foundation, Post filed a charge in May 2019 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the union. The EEOC was ultimately unable to successfully resolve her charge, and in August 2020 issued a “Right to Sue” letter, at her request, allowing her to file a federal lawsuit to protect her rights.
Post initiated her lawsuit by filing a complaint last week in federal court. The complaint alleges TWU officials illegally discriminated against her by refusing to accommodate her and threatening to revoke her bidding privileges. Bidding privileges control a flight attendant’s ability to schedule trips, work, vacations, and nonworking days. Post asks the court to prevent TWU officials from discriminating against her, and other employees with religious objections, by requiring her to pay union fees that violate her sincere religious beliefs.
Post’s lawsuit also states that union officials violated the United States Constitution and the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The First and Fourteenth Amendments require unions to follow specific procedures to demand forced dues payments. The union did not follow those procedures here. Union officials did not provide notice of how the forced fee amount was calculated, an audit of the union’s financial records, nor did they provide notice of the procedure to challenge the fee amount.
The complaint also cites the Foundation’s Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME which held that unions and public employers cannot require employees to pay union dues or fees to get or keep a job. The complaint states that Ms. Post does not have to pay any fees to the union because of Janus. The Janus case is a monumental decision that protects employees’ free choice.
State Right to Work laws also protect employees and allow them to decide for themselves if they want to support a union with their money. Although Post lives and works in a Right to Work state – Tennessee – the RLA overrides state Right to Work laws and allows union officials to force union fees as a job condition.
The RLA allows employers and unions to require forced dues payments, but only “as a condition of continued employment.” The RLA does not permit forced dues payments based on any other condition – such as bidding privileges. Post’s Foundation staff attorneys argue that TWU’s monopoly bargaining agreement with Allegiant is invalid because it requires dues payments to maintain bidding privileges, whereas payment “as a condition of continued employment” is the only legal forced unionism agreement under the RLA.
“Annlee Post and others like her should not have to choose between privileges at work and their religious beliefs,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “TWU bosses knew about Ms. Post’s objections, but refused to accommodate them under longstanding EEOC law, instead threatening to take away her bidding privileges, simply because she would not fund their organization in violation of her religious faith.”
“This case is a reminder why no worker should be forced to fund a union with which they disagree, no matter whether their objection is religious or for any other reason.”
Las Vegas Union Officials Back Down, Settle Case Brought by Security Guards Challenging Illegal Dues Seizures
SPFPA union will pay thousands of dollars in refunds of dues illegally taken from guards to end federal Labor Board case against the union
Las Vegas, NV (November 5, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Las Vegas security guard Justin Stephens and his coworkers have won a settlement against the Security, Police & Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA) union, which they charged in April with seizing dues from their paychecks in violation of their legal rights. As part of the settlement, union bosses are required to refund more than $4,200 to two dozen security guards, including Stephens, whose timely resignations from union membership and attempts to cut off dues deductions were rejected by union officials who hastily extended their monopoly bargaining agreement with the guards’ employer.
According to Stephens’ charge filed at Region 28 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Phoenix, SPFPA officials extended the bargaining contract with Stephens’ employer, North American Security, on January 31, 2020. The extension occurred one day after Stephens and the vast majority of his fellow employees at the federal courthouse in Las Vegas sent letters to the union stating that they no longer wanted it as the monopoly bargaining agent in their workplace.
The charge explained that Stephens later submitted a batch of letters to SPFPA officials in which he and his fellow employees tried to exercise their rights to resign union membership and stop dues deductions from their paychecks. These letters were sent just before the previous contract between North American Security and the SPFPA was supposed to expire, on March 31, within the period when the employees could lawfully end dues deductions. Because Nevada has enacted Right to Work protections for its employees, union bosses are forbidden from requiring any employee to join or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment.
The charge asserted that the union “did not acknowledge the timely revocation the employees made on the anniversary” of the contract, ostensibly because the union officials’ hurried contract extension eliminated any opportunity the employees had to cut off union dues before the existing contract’s March 31 expiration.
SPFPA bosses kept collecting full union dues “from all non-member bargaining unit employees” in violation of their right under the National Labor Relations Act to refrain from union activities and support, according to the charge. Stephens’ charge also asserted that the unions’ sudden extension of the monopoly bargaining contract after the workers notified the union about their opposition amounted to “an apparent attempt to avoid a decertification” vote to remove the union.
The settlement requires SPFPA officials to process any timely resignations by security guards and notify North American Security to cease dues deductions from those whose resignations they have already processed. SPFPA bosses must also return all dues seized from Stephens’ and his coworkers’ paychecks in violation of their rights. In the future, the settlement stipulates, union officials must always “accept and timely process” resignations and requests to cut off dues.
“It’s good news that Mr. Stephens and his hardworking colleagues have gotten back dues that were illegally taken from them by SPFPA union bosses who have demonstrated they are more interested in stuffing their coffers with union dues than respecting the wishes of the rank-and-file workers they claim to ‘represent,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This type of legal trickery used by union bosses to stay in power even over the objections of most workers shows why the NLRB should eliminate the numerous policies that block workers from voting out or otherwise removing an unwanted union.”
“Ultimately, the root of this problem is the federal labor law which grants union bosses monopoly bargaining powers, allowing them to force their so-called ‘representation’ on individual workers who don’t want it and believe they would be better off without it,” added Mix.
Alaska Vocational Instructor Files Appeal in Federal Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Unconstitutional Union Dues Seizures
ASEA union bosses continue to block workers from exercising First Amendment right to cut off union dues payments spent on union politics and lobbying
Anchorage, AK (November 5, 2020) – Staff Attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have filed an appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on behalf of Alaska Vocational Instructor Christopher Woods in his case against the Alaska State Employees’ Association (ASEA).
Woods, who works in the Alaska State prison system, is challenging restrictions on his and his coworkers’ First Amendment right to refrain from subsidizing a union under the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME US Supreme Court decision.
The union scheme forbids employees from exercising their right to cut off union dues except during an annual 10-day “escape period.” However, in Janus, the high court ruled that no public sector employee can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, and that the First Amendment is violated when union officials deduct dues from the paychecks of public sector employees without their affirmative and knowing consent.
Woods began working as a Vocational Instructor at Goose Creek Correctional Center in 2013 and joined the union “because he was told by a union representative that he had no choice,” according to the lawsuit. His complaint reports that, on November 26, 2019, he sent an email to ASEA officials exercising his Janus right to stop union dues deductions. A union official replied to him the same day and rebuffed his request, telling Woods that “he could only ‘opt out and not be a union member with written notice to this office’” within a 10-day period each year before the date he signed his original dues deduction authorization card.
Woods persisted on December 2, 2019, submitting to both ASEA officials and the payroll office of the Corrections Department another email asking to cut off dues. Although the payroll office confirmed to both Woods and the ASEA that it had received the request, an ASEA official responded by merely telling the payroll office that she was “still communicating with [Woods] on the matter,” the complaint says. Woods reports in his lawsuit that he has “not received any further communications” from either the ASEA or the payroll office, and that full dues are still being seized from his paychecks.
Woods’ lawsuit seeks a court ruling that the ASEA union’s “escape period” enforced by the state and the deduction of union dues from his and other state employees’ paychecks without their clear, knowing consent violates his and his coworkers’ First Amendment rights. It also requests refunds of illegally seized dues for himself and his coworkers. Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka is named as a party in her official capacity only, due to the State of Alaska’s role in the unconstitutional dues deductions.
The federal lawsuit comes after an Anchorage Superior Court Judge put a hold on Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s order last year that all public sector unions in the state must obtain clear consent from workers before deducting any union dues or fees, as Janus requires. That judge opined that Janus applies only to workers who are not formal union members, despite the fact that unions use their dues deduction policies to block workers from stopping dues even after they have resigned from formal union membership.
“Alaska union bosses have continued to violate the First Amendment rights of the rank-and-file workers they claim to represent and illegally seized union dues to be spent on union boss political causes,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Ironically, Alaska has taken the lead in attempting to proactively protect its employees’ First Amendment rights, but because union bosses have successfully resisted the Governor’s Executive Order so far, this lawsuit is necessary.”
Wood’s legal team includes two Foundation staff attorneys who have successfully challenged forced union dues schemes in the U.S Supreme Court, not only in the landmark 2018 Janus case, but also in two earlier cases – Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014). Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating more than 30 cases for workers seeking to vindicate their First Amendment rights under the Janus precedent.
UNITE HERE Bosses Back Down, Offer Workers Ability to Claim Refunds in Oregon Foodservice Workers’ Case Against Union
Final settlement requires notice informing workers of legal rights and opportunity to obtain refunds of dues taken because of omissions
Portland, OR (November 4, 2020) – Two Bon Appetit foodservice workers at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, have just won a settlement in their case charging UNITE HERE Local 8 union bosses with hindering the informed exercise of their right to choose whether or not to be union members by failing to provide employees the percentage reduction in union dues they would be required to pay as nonmembers. The workers received free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Bon Appetit employees Terry Denton and Alejandro Martinez Cuevas originally filed charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against UNITE HERE Local 8 in August 2018, arguing the lack of information infringed their rights under the National Labor Relations Act and the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Because Oregon lacks a Right to Work law, private sector employees who refrain from formal union membership can be required to pay some fees to a union as a condition of employment. However, union officials must follow the requirements of the Beck decision and cannot require workers to pay dues or fees for activities unrelated to the union’s bargaining functions, such as union political activities.
The Regional Director for NLRB Region 19 issued a formal complaint against UNITE HERE officials in August 2019. This complaint came after a memo from the NLRB General Counsel’s office which advised the Regions that the NLRB requires union officials to keep all workers apprised of Beck fee reductions.
Union bosses and the Regional Director attempted to settle this case without offering a remedy for all bargaining unit members. This initial settlement merely required union agents to post notices announcing that they would inform employees of the reduction in union fees that would result if they asserted their rights under Beck, but did not require the union to offer employees who had received the deficient notice the ability to resign their union memberships retroactively and recover the dues that had been taken unlawfully from their wages.
Denton and Martinez Cuevas objected to the terms of the settlement agreement. They had filed charges for themselves and their fellow employees, who also deserved an opportunity to exercise their rights.
Despite the two employees’ objections, the Regional Director approved the settlement. Foundation staff attorneys then filed an appeal to the NLRB General Counsel, which was sustained in November 2019. The General Counsel’s decision noted that the original settlement agreement did “not provide an appropriate remedy” and ordered Region 19 to move forward with the charges.
Faced with the threat of a renewed prosecution by the NLRB, UNITE HERE officials backed down and settled the case with a more complete remedy. Union officials now must provide notices informing all employees, current and future, of the reduction that will be made to their union dues if they choose to be nonmembers. UNITE HERE officials will also reimburse current employees who resign their union memberships retroactively for dues money that they have paid in excess of the nonmember rate.
“Although it’s good news that after over two years Ms. Denton and Mr. Martinez Cuevas have finally vindicated their and their coworkers’ right under Beck to refrain from funding union political activities as a condition of employment, no worker in America should be forced to accept or pay for one-size-fits-all union boss ‘representation’ that they do not want,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “All American workers need Right to Work protections, which put the decision to join and financially support union activities exactly where it should be – in the hands of individual workers.”
Connecticut State Employees Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case Seeking Refunds of Union Dues Seized in Violation of First Amendment
CSEA officials forced nonmember employees to pay fees in violation of the Constitution as recognized in Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision
Washington, DC (November 2, 2020) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys just filed a petition for writ of certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court for two Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection employees, in their class action lawsuit to require Connecticut State Employees Association (CSEA SEIU Local 2001) union officials to return forced dues money seized from them and their coworkers in violation of their First Amendment rights.
The employees, Kiernan Wholean and James Grillo, maintain that CSEA union bosses and State of Connecticut officials infringed on the First Amendment rights recognized in the landmark Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In Janus, which was decided in June 2018, the Court held that no public sector employee can be required to pay dues as a condition of employment, and further ruled that dues deductions from any public employee’s paycheck can only be made with the employee’s affirmative and knowing waiver of the right not to pay.
Wholean and Grillo, who are not members of CSEA, originally filed their case in 2018 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut shortly before the High Court decided Janus. The State ceased deducting dues from their paychecks at CSEA’s behest following a letter to the State Comptroller from a National Right to Work Foundation attorney which threatened legal action for any dues deductions from non-members that continued after Janus. However, CSEA union officials continue to refuse to refund dues that they took from Wholean, Grillo, and other nonmembers in violation of the Janus First Amendment standard before the decision, even though they knew the employees never consented to pay.
The District Court, and later the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, both accepted CSEA lawyers’ so-called “good faith” argument for letting union bosses keep the dues collected in violation of the nonmembers’ constitutional rights. Wholean and Grillo’s Foundation staff attorneys argue in their petition to the Supreme Court that such a defense has never existed under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, the statute under which the lawsuit is brought. Section 1983 specifically imposes liability on those who violate the constitutional rights of others while acting “under color of” existing law.
The Supreme Court has never addressed whether there is a “good faith” defense under Section 1983. In a similar Foundation-backed case, two federal judges at the Third Circuit recently opined that such a defense does not exist, disagreeing with the decisions of other Circuits. Wholean and Grillo’s petition cites this confusion as a vital reason why the High Court should hear their case. If successful, their lawsuit could result in CSEA repaying potentially millions in forced union fees seized from June 13, 2015, until Connecticut stopped the deductions, in accordance with Connecticut’s statute of limitations.
Wholean and Grillo’s petition is now the sixth under consideration by the Supreme Court in which public employees seek refunds for dues taken in contravention of the First Amendment before the Janus ruling. Four of these petitions have been filed by Foundation staff attorneys.
Among those petitions is the continuation of the original Janus plaintiff Mark Janus’ case, who suffered from unconstitutional deductions while employed as a child support specialist for the State of Illinois. If the Supreme Court decides in the petitioners’ favor in any of these cases, it could set a precedent triggering the return of hundreds of millions in illegal dues dollars in cases across the country.
“The lower courts have allowed CSEA union bosses to profit from their past unconstitutional deductions, trampling the Janus rights of Mr. Wholean, Mr. Grillo and their coworkers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “With six petitions on this issue now pending with the High Court and more to be filed soon, it is time the Supreme Court hears this issue and ends the denial of justice for tens of thousands of nonmember government employees whose First Amendment rights were violated.”
“Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, the federal statute under which all these cases were filed, was specifically intended to allow individuals to remedy the deprivation of their rights when it occurs under color of law,” added Mix. “Given Section 1983’s intent, it is outrageous that union bosses have thus far been allowed to keep money seized in violation of the First Amendment because it was authorized by then-existing but unconstitutional law. That result is especially specious because, as the Supreme Court recognized in Janus, union bosses have been ‘on notice’ from the Court since 2012 that forcing government employees to pay union fees was likely unconstitutional.”
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for Tenet Healthcare Employees Impacted by Planned SEIU Boss Strike
Healthcare providers have right to rebuff Union officials’ demands that workers abandon their patients amidst pandemic
California (November 2, 2020) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have issued a special legal notice to the over 4,000 Tenet Healthcare employees across California who will be affected by a strike planned by officials of Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU)-United Healthcare Workers West.
The legal notice informs rank-and-file Tenet Healthcare workers of the rights SEIU bosses won’t tell them about, including that they have the right to refuse to abandon their patients and to keep working to support their families despite the union-ordered strike. The notice discusses why workers across the country frequently turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in such situations.
“This strike raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the notice reads. “Employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to be fully informed before they do so.”
The full notice is available at www.nrtw.org/tenet-notice.
The notice outlines the process that Tenet nurses and other employees should follow if they want to exercise their right to return to work during the strike and avoid punishment by union bosses, complete with sample union membership resignation letters.
Further, the notice reminds employees of their rights to cut off all union dues payments in the absence of a monopoly bargaining contract with the hospital. The notice encourages employees to seek free legal aid from the Foundation if they experience union resistance as they attempt to exercise any of these rights.
The Foundation has defended hospital workers in a number of recent cases. It provided free legal aid to Daniel Dalison, who filed charges against SEIU 1199NW for illegally deducting union dues from his paycheck even though he was not a union member. Foundation staff attorneys also assisted Michigan nurse Madrina Wells in her lawsuit against officials of Teamsters Local 332 for collecting dues from her despite repeated requests to stop, and despite Michigan’s Right to Work law.
“Tenet Healthcare employees who wish to continue serving their communities amidst this pandemic may question whether the upcoming union-ordered strike is really best for themselves, their families, and their patients,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Tenet employees should know they unequivocally have the right to reject union strike orders and continue to care for those in need.”
“We encourage rank-and-file Tenet Healthcare workers to immediately contact the Foundation for free legal aid should SEIU bosses violate their legal rights,” added Mix.
SEIU union bosses seized dues from providers without their consent, then forbade them from stopping deductions outside of short “escape period”
San Francisco, CA (October 23, 2020) – Seven California home healthcare providers are appealing their class-action lawsuit against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015 to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal in Polk v. Yee was filed with free legal assistance from staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and West Coast-based Freedom Foundation who jointly represent the seven plaintiffs.
The home healthcare providers’ lawsuit states that union officials skimmed dues money from their and other providers’ Medicaid payments in violation of their First Amendment rights and federal law regarding Medicaid payments. State of California controller Betty Yee is also named as a defendant in the suit for the state’s role in abetting the illegal deductions.
The providers maintain that the union and state are infringing on their rights recognized by the Supreme Court in Right to Work Foundation-won cases Harris v. Quinn (2014), and Janus v. AFSCME (2018). In Harris, the Court ruled that unions contravene the First Amendment when they force home healthcare providers who receive some subsidies from the state to pay union dues. Similarly, in Janus v. AFSCME, the High Court held that no public sector employee could be forced to subsidize union activities as a condition of employment, and that government agencies can only deduct union payments from a public worker’s wages with an affirmative waiver of his or her First Amendment right not to pay.
The plaintiffs, Delores Polk, Heather Herrick, Lien Loi, Peter Loi, Susan McKay, Jolene Montoya, and Scott Ungar all participate in the In-Home Support Services (IHSS) program, which allots Medicaid funds to those who provide home-based aid to people with disabilities. Their lawsuit explains that “even though they are not public employees,” the State of California considers home healthcare providers as such for unionization purposes and takes union dues from them at the behest of SEIU officials.
Polk and the other plaintiffs recount in the lawsuit that SEIU union bosses began taking cuts of their Medicaid subsidies after confusing phone calls or mandatory orientation sessions, in each case never explaining that the providers have a First Amendment right under both Harris and Janus to reject union membership and dues payments.
On top of that, after each of the plaintiffs contacted the SEIU attempting to exercise their right to stop the flow of dues, SEIU operatives informed them that they could only opt out of union dues during short union-created “escape periods” of 10-30 days once per year. The lawsuit also argues that federal law governing IHSS forbids diverting any part of Medicaid payments to “any other party” besides the providers.
The lawsuit seeks a ruling that both the taking of union dues without knowing consent and the policy restricting the providers from ending the dues deductions are unconstitutional. The providers also seek refunds of all money that they and any other IHSS program participants had taken from their payments through the illegal scheme.
“It is unconscionable that SEIU union bosses are siphoning money out of these providers’ pockets merely because those they aid inside their own homes happen to receive state subsidies for their care,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This dues skim scam is a blatant violation of federal law and the Supreme Court’s rulings in Harris and Janus. It must be stopped immediately.”
“Unfortunately, the hard-working caregivers in this case are not the only ones being victimized by unions like SEIU,” said Eric Stahlfeld, the Freedom Foundation’s chief litigation counsel. “Our research shows that states like California illegally divert $150 million each year to unions from 350,000 caregivers’ Medicaid payments. While Freedom Foundation and National Right to Work Foundation advocacy has prompted the Department of Health and Human Services to formally oppose the exploitative practice, it’s up to federal courts to end it.”
Ifeoma Nkemdi teaches second grade at Newberry Math and Science Academy in Chicago. She exercised her right to opt out of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and continue teaching her students during a CTU strike in 2019.
Union agitators berated Nkemdi for returning to her classroom and confronted her as she entered the school. In the video below, Nkemdi says “They specifically waited for me. They were supposed to be in front of the school. They all went to the back to wait for me to enter the school, began using their cell phones to record me and berate me and call me names.”
Nkemdi wasn’t alone. She describes how another teacher who had opted out of the union was “beat up by her coworkers.” She says union officials refused to condemn the violence, arguing “they didn’t send a letter out to the teachers saying ‘this is inappropriate behavior…this is not what we do.’ And because I didn’t see that I knew I made the right decision [to opt out].”
Nkemdi did not back down in the face of union bullies. She and fellow Chicago educator Joanne Troesch filed a class action lawsuit against the CTU and the Chicago Board of Education. The suit challenges the “escape period” created by the union, which only allows teachers to stop dues deductions in the month of August.
When Troesch and Nkemdi sent letters to the union resigning their memberships in October 2019, union officials informed them that dues deductions would continue “until September 1, 2020.” Her lawsuit says this is a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s holding in the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME case that dues cannot be taken from public employees without their clear and affirmative consent.
CTU officials did not inform Troesch or Nkemdi that they had the right to stop their dues payments. Troesch and Nkemdi learned about their Janus rights only after doing their own research.
At every turn, the CTU made it difficult for these school employees to exercise their rights. They were never informed of their rights, were forced to wait almost a year for their request to end dues deductions to be met, and were subject to harassment and ridicule by union militants.
Nkemdi finds the behavior of the CTU disheartening. “I just felt it was such a dishonor to the profession of education,” she explained. “This extreme bullying because I didn’t agree…and they did it in front of students.”
You can listen to Ifeoma Nkemdi tell her story below: