Judge Upholds Opt-Out of Funding Union’s Politics | Courthouse News Service
Sunday, December 3, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Upholds Opt-Out of Funding Union’s Politics

California’s largest public employees union will continue collecting annual fees from nonmembers who disagree with the union’s political leanings, after a federal judge upheld its longstanding “opt-out” clause.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California’s largest public employees union will continue collecting annual fees from nonmembers who disagree with the union’s political leanings, after a federal judge upheld its longstanding “opt-out” clause.

U.S. District Judge William Shubb denied a right-to-work class action brought by 15 state employees that have split from the Service Employees International Union Local 1000 and formed their own bargaining unit. Shubb upheld SEIU Local 1000’s current opt-out procedure which requires all employees that the union bargains for, including nonmembers, to fill out a detailed form before being refunded for fees relating to the union’s political and lobbying activities.

Lead plaintiff Ken Hamidi, who helped start the opposing California Professional Public Employees Association, called the SEIU Local 1000’s opt-out policy unconstitutional and argued that thousands of nonmembers have been swindled out of full dues. He said attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation will quickly appeal Shubb’s Feb. 8 decision to the Ninth Circuit.

“Every year thousands of nonmembers get victimized by SEIU’s intentional trickery and cheating and end up paying the full [dues], and about 50 percent of it is used for SEIU’s political campaigns, which is directly against the will of the fee payer,” Hamidi said in a statement.

Hamidi filed the lawsuit in 2014, and claimed state workers often do not receive the paperwork needed to opt out of the union’s non-germane expenditures, or activities unrelated to collective bargaining, until filing deadlines had already passed. Shubb certified the plaintiff class in May 2015.

The California workers also take issue with the opt-out procedure itself, claiming that it requires protected personal information such as home addresses and social security numbers. They claim some employees shy from sending in the form over identity-theft concerns.

California is one of 23 states, including the District of Columbia, that has a law requiring public employees to pay union agency fees even if they chose not to join the unions.

Shubb denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and not only validated the union’s dues collection system but he also upheld its requirement that nonmembers include their social security numbers on the form and send it in via mail.

“Plaintiffs have offered no evidence indicating that Local 1000’s social security number requirement results in identify theft, or that employees are deterred from objecting because of that requirement,” Shubb wrote in the 19-page ruling, adding that the union’s requirement was “reasonably necessary to guard against misattribution of objections.”

In addition, Shubb also granted California State Controller Betty Yee’s cross-motion for judgment and denied plaintiffs’ attempt to recover monetary damages.

Shubb cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court case regarding the California Teachers Association and its mandatory requirement of union dues. The high court split 4-4 in a de facto union victory, leaving intact a 1992 Ninth Circuit ruling which upheld the required collection of union fees.

President Donald Trump’s recent nomination of an originalist, 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch, to fill the vacant ninth seat on the Supreme Court has raised concern for labor unions nationwide. Last week, a group of California public school teachers reignited their legal efforts against mandatory payment of union dues.

The SEIU Local 1000 declined to comment on Shubb’s ruling.

Follow @@NickCahill_5
Categories / Courts, Employment

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.