Philadelphia Local Loses Dues Case

U.S. Dist. Judge Stewart Dalzell in Philadelphia approved Jun. 9 an $80,000 settlement of firefighters’ claims that the City and Int’l Ass’n of Fire Fighters Local 22 illegally deducted nonmember agency fees without providing notice or the opportunity to challenge the amount. Class representatives John Hunter and David Casper contended that the city and the union violated nonmembers’ rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments by failing to comply with the procedural safeguards mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Chicago Teachers Union Local 1 v. Hudson. Hudson held that employees who are not union members can be required to contribute to a union’s expenses for acting as the exclusive bargaining representative but not expenses related to political and ideological activities.

Under the settlement, the union will refund $55,000 to the 93 class members, to be distributed in proportion to the amount of agency fees deducted from their paychecks from Aug. 26, 1996, to April 9, 1999. Attorneys representing the class will receive $25,000 in fees. Philadelphia will bear the cost of notifying class members and distributing the proceeds. The city agreed to stop deducting agency fees as of April 9 and promised not to resume such deductions until Local 22 adopts procedures that comply with Hudson. The city and the union made no admission of liability. Dalzell said the $55,000 payment to class members constituted 83.1% of the maximum loss — the total agency fees deducted from their pay. He also approved the attorneys’ fees portion, finding that 31.25% of an $80,000 base was “indisputably reasonable.”

Local 22 set the agency fees for nonmembers at 95 percent of the regular union dues for members. According to the complaint, the union failed to provide an adequate explanation of the basis for the fee or major categories of expenses, to have an independent auditor verify its calculations, or to establish procedures for nonmembers to challenge the amount of the fee before an impartial decisionmaker and hold the challenged amount in escrow, as required by Hudson. [BNA 6/16/99]