California State Employees File Class-Action Suit

Nat. Right to Work Foundation (NRTW) filed a federal class-action suit Jul. 15 on behalf of all Cal. state employees whose First Amendment rights have been violated by the Gov. Gray Davis (D) Administration and Professional Engineers in Cal. Gov’t (PECG) union officials. In addition to compensatory and punitive damages, the employees seek a court order enjoining the State of Cal. from collecting union dues until the employees’ rights are respected.

The charges were filed on behalf of all non-member government workers under the PECG’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) – also known as a collective bargaining agreement – who have been illegally forced to pay for union political activities. The class in this case would include employees of state agencies such as CALTRANS, the Cal. Water Quality Control Board, and the Cal. Resources Board, to name a few. The number of workers included in the class-action suit could reach into the thousands statewide.

On Apr. 1, 1999, newly elected Davis signed the MOU which forced all workers under the agreement to pay illegally high dues to PECG union officials. “With a single stroke of his pen, Governor Davis handed California’s union brass hundreds of thousands of dollars in compulsory dues which will be used on politics and other activities to which state employees object,” said NRTW spokesman Stefan Gleason. NRTW is providing free legal aid to the Cal. employees.

According to the constitutional protections construed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the NRTW-won decisions of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Ass’n, the union may not collect compulsory dues spent on activities unrelated to collective bargaining. Politics, lobbying, organizing, public relations, and other non-bargaining activities are explicitly non-chargeable to employees who have exercised their right to refrain from union membership. Further, the NRTW-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, requires union bosses to provide independently audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures made from forced union dues seized from the employees.

The suit claims that PECG bosses provided the state employees insufficient disclosure with no evidence that PECG’s expenditures were independently audited. The disclosure provided by union officials showed a hideous disregard for workers’ rights by overtly charging for activities listed as “Initiatives,” “Legislative/Political Action,” “Member-Only Services,” “Legislative Activity Related to Collective Bargaining,” and other activities which the Supreme Court has already found to be violations of workers’ First Amendment rights. “This union is so shameless that it didn’t even try to disguise its illegal demand for forced dues spent for political activities,” added Gleason. []