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Supreme Court Hears Case of Workers Fighting Union Over Dues Spent on Political Efforts

By

Published January 10, 2012

| FoxNews.com


State employees in California have two options: join the Service Employees International Union or refuse membership and still be required to pay non-member dues. Either way, union officials must provide very specific notice and accounting information if they intend to use non-members' dues money for political purposes.

One group of non-members says the SEIU failed to do that when it levied a mid-year special assessment in 2005 -- specifically used to fund political initiatives. Those state employees have been waging a legal battle that landed at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. They argue that the SEIU failed to give proper notice and that their First Amendment rights were violated when their money was used to support political speech with which they disagree.

Dianne Knox, one of the plaintiffs, says she regularly lodges complaints about how SEIU uses her dues money. "I file a letter every year with SEIU, and I object to any fees which are not germane to collective bargaining, and specifically their political action fund." Knox says she decided to sue because, "I felt they were taking money that they didn't deserve."

Her attorney, William J. Young, says employees were essentially "left in the dark" about how their money was being used. "These workers deserve the right to say no - all workers do," he said on the steps of the Supreme Court.

The SEIU argues that the plaintiffs were given proper notice and, ultimately, the chance to object - even noting that refunds had been paid out. Non-members are free to lodge objections on an annual basis when the SEIU's yearly report is issued.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor posited whether that existing framework is good enough to resolve the problem. "They do get a chance to object; the question is the timing," she noted during Tuesday's arguments.

But other justices were still bothered by the prospect that non-members' dues money would be used -- for any length of time -- to fund something they didn't want to support.


Justice Antonin Scalia suggested it amounted to an "interest-free loan to the union." That prompted Justice Samuel Alito to ask the lawyer representing the SEIU, Jeremiah Collins, whether the union would front a loan to non-members who wished to use it for political purposes opposed by the union, as long as they promised to pay it back. After a lengthy pause, Collins replied, "I don't know."

The parties also spent a great deal of time debating whether the case has become moot, now that SEIU has refunded the money in question.

A decision is expected by June.


California, what a mess. If you're NOT a member of a union or an illegal alien or a drug freak or a Hollywood schtticer, why would you want to live there?
And if all SEIU has to do when they reach the Supreme Court is to promise to give back the money, then all is lost and the unions win.
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Comment by AC on January 12, 2012 at 10:35pm

Yes, the Union stewards where I'm at are basicly payed off [in a sense], so you get no real representation.

On the other hand, the Union where one of my brothers works seem to be pretty good.

Comment by PHILIP SCHNEIDER on January 12, 2012 at 7:53pm

I've tried it both ways Clay. I was at one job and didn't join the union and like you was shunned. I was at a second job where I joined the union and was very vocal at every meeting and was eventually censored . . . .  booed and kicked out of several meetings.

Comment by AC on January 12, 2012 at 6:47pm

I am frowned upon at work because I refuse to join the Union. I dont think the Union is all bad but the Union at my workplace is sorry.

Folks get tired of their money being spent on liberal ploiticians.

Comment by Leon Ewers on January 11, 2012 at 4:32am
Why do nonmembers have to pay union dues? This is a crime that the mafia uses, its called extortion (hope I didn't mangle the spelling) more commonly known as protection money.

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