Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Local 1000 Ordered to Repay Improperly Collected Fees

SEIU Local 1000 has been ordered to repay fees it collected from non-members without proper notice. From the Sacramento Bee:

Judge Morrison England, in a decision Thursday, ordered Service Employees International Union Local 1000 to send notices to the workers who opted out of union membership. The union must issue refunds, with interest, to those non-union members who object to the special assessment. The rebate would amount to $135 plus interest for a worker who made $4,500 a month in 2005.

The special fee raised $12 million to fight Schwarzenegger's agenda, about a quarter of which was paid by state workers who chose not to join the union.

The fee was imposed in 2005 to raise money for political activity, and had not been included in the annual Hudson notice* to non-members:

Federal case law has established that workers who opt out of union membership have a constitutional right to block the union from spending their dues to contribute to candidates or express political views.

In 2005, the union issued an annual notice describing how union dues would be spent in the coming year and giving non-union employees the chance to challenge being charged for activities not related to the union's costs of representing them in collective bargaining.

The notice did not mention the special assessment. But in July, the union proposed a fee of 0.25 percent, on top of the normal 1 percent of salary, to pay for television and radio advertising, direct mail and other actions to defeat the Schwarzenegger-backed initiatives. The fee was called "an Emergency Temporary Assessment to Build a Political Fight-Back Fund."

A Local 1000 spokesman was quoted as saying the ruling hurts free speech. Non-members in the affected bargaining units will now receive belated notice of the fee:

The union now has two months to send out a proper notification of the 2005 assessment. Workers who are not members of the union will then have 45 days to object to the fee and get refunds.

*Hudson notices are named after a 1986 case, Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, and are also called "agency fee notices." Notices are sent to non-members who are required to pay fees to the union. The notices explain the fees, break down chargeable and non-chargeable expenses, and describe how non-members can object to having their fees used for activities not related to collective bargaining. Objectors pay only the portion of the agency fee which is used for collective bargaining or related activities (germane expenses). Like Local 1000, CSUEU sends Hudson notices to non-members each year. If you're curious to see what one looks like, we link to the CFA Hudson notice below as an example. (CSUEU's and Local 1000's Hudson notices do not seem to be available online.)

SEIU Local 1000 represents about 90,000 state civil service workers in several different bargaining units. Local 1000, like CSUEU, is part of the California State Employees Association (CSEA).



Anonymous said...

The case is being appealed to the Ninth circuit.

Editor said...

Editor's note: So far we haven't seen confirmation of such an appeal either in press reports or on Local 1000's web site.