California Professors File Union Dues Suit

Three Cal. State Univ. professors sued the Cal. Faculty Ass’n and the state Feb. 24 in the second federal class
action aimed at striking down a new state law requiring collection of agency fees from nonmembers represented by the union. The suit against the CFA, State Controller Kathleen Connell, and Cal. Public Employee Relations Bd Chairman David M. Caffrey alleges that a bill signed into law Oct. 10, 1999 is unconstitutional on several grounds. The law allows collection of union agency fees from nonmember, union-represented employees of CSU and the Univ. of Cal. system for the first time. The Nat’l Right to Work Fdn. is representing the plaintiffs.

According to the complaint, the law illegally allows CFA to spend agency fees on nonrepresentational activities such as lobbying and political activities. Use of agency fees for lobbying is a violation of the First Amendment, as established in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Ass’n. In addition, the law requires CSU employees to pay agency fees without first giving them the opportunity to negotiate the fees with the union, and requires agency-fee payers to pay the costs of a statewide election if they want to attempt to rescind the fee collection.  These provisions violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, because no other state employees are subject to them, the complaint alleges.  The three named plaintiffs, all CSU professors, are seeking class certification on behalf of 14,000 professors who are represented by CFA but are not members of the union. [BNA 2/28/00]