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State Employees File Class Action Over Union Dues

by Christine Stuart | Feb 12, 2014 6:30am
(12) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Courts, Labor, Legal, Pension

Christine Stuart file photo

Workers rally two years ago outside the Labor Department for the right to switch unions

A group of former state employee union members, some of whom wanted to change unions after the animosity created by the 2011 concession package, are suing the state and its union in a class-action complaint.

Late last month, about eight current and retired state employees who are members of CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 and the Engineering, Scientific and Technical P-4 bargaining group, alleged in court that the state has been withdrawing the full amount of union dues from their paychecks.

In the complaint filed on Jan. 25 in U.S. District Court in Hartford, the employees say that even though they left the union and resigned their membership, the state continued to withdraw the full amount of union dues from their paychecks. Instead, the state should have been withdrawing the lesser “agency fee.”

Individuals who are not members of the union still have to pay a fee because their salary and working conditions are largely based on contracts negotiated by the state and the union. However, they are not required to pay the full amount they would have to pay if they belonged to the union.

“At various dates from 2012 to date, plaintiffs and class members, individually and in writing, resigned union membership in CSEA and objected to the seizure of full union dues from their wages,” the complaint says. “On information and belief, CSEA received and acknowledged Plaintiffs’ and class members’ individual union membership resignations.”

A spokesman for CSEA/SEIU Local 2001 declined comment for this story. A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office, which will be representing the state in the complaint, said they will respond at the appropriate time in court.

The complaint asks that the class include individuals who “resigned union membership in CSEA and thereafter are not or were not union members and who objected to the seizure of fees equal to full union dues from their wages.” It estimates there are likely about 50 people who fall into that category.

“State defendants have seized union fees equal to full union membership dues from nonmember plaintiffs and the proposed class for the benefit of CSEA in the absence of the pre-collection notice and procedural safeguards required by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution before seizing union dues or forced ‘agency fees’,” the complaint says.

The complaint was filed by Martha Dean’s law firm on behalf of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

According to its website, the foundation’s mission is “to eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs.”

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(12) Comments

posted by: perturbed | February 12, 2014  10:01am

perturbed

Hopefully, justice will be served this time.

As a state employee who witnessed the arrogant bullying of the union bosses and their team of lawyers at the Labor Board hearings in late 2011 and early 2012, I applaud these individuals’ attempt to seek justice. All we demanded was to exercise our legally supported right to choose other unions to represent us—unions other than the ones who betrayed us by conspiring in absolute secrecy with Malloy to slash our benefits. The huge national unions, including SEIU, were too greedy to let our dues slip away.

Just as in Illinois in the Harris v. Quinn case, SEIU is suffering the consequences of its own greed and corruption.

“Actually, says Patrick Semmens of the National Right to Work Committee, the whole thing was simply a “political payback” to the powerful public-employee unions. Former governor Rod Blagojevich (D) declared that the workers, who are hired by the individuals who need the care, were state employees in order to deliver them to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has become a major force in Democratic politics.”

You all remember Rob Blagojevich, right?

Well it happened here in CT also, exactly the same type of “political payback,” with exactly the same huge international union! See here: Malloy Keeps Promise To Unions By Signing Two Executive Orders

It’s all about state employees’ union dues. If they want to join forces with Malloy against their own members, they’ll—hopefully—have to suffer the consequences.

(I sure hope that health care pooling bill was worth all this trouble…)

wink

—perturbed

posted by: DirtyJobsGUy | February 12, 2014  10:07am

Why is the state witholding any union dues from paychecks?  How about the Unions collect them from members themselves without goons?  People don’t get their club, church or other contributions withheld by employers.

posted by: Wiley Coyote | February 12, 2014  10:33am

Very timely article.  AFSCME C4 (local 391) members have been asking to pay just this fee and have been met with misinformation or lack of action from Council 4.  There is charges of theft against the treasurer and leaders of the local but no one wants to address it.  We are fed up and want out of this union, can’t wait til new union comes back. we should not have to pay for these political hacks lining their politician buddies pockets (Donovan case) and their own with our dues.  This article has already been spreading around the members in the prisons, we knew we didn’t have TO pay the full amount, but union won’t act. Hope to file charge soon with group of other employees.

posted by: justsayin | February 12, 2014  11:43am

Why don’t we just end the unions and let these folks work and negotiate like the most of the working population?

posted by: Joebigjoe | February 12, 2014  12:21pm

OMG someone catch me. I’m reading this and actually supporting state employees over something.

posted by: Slippery Slop | February 12, 2014  1:37pm

No doubt that vote should have been allowed, but to bring the National Right to Work organization into the fray is like asking the Catholic Church to donate to Planned Parenthood - not a good idea.  And how can one say that Ms. Dean’s law firm is offering its service pro bono and in the next sentence note that the National Right to Work group will be covering legal fees.  Guess everyone will be happy when we can join the ranks of states like North Carolina and Texas where the gains made by unions in support of the working class are essentially nullified by law.  Welcome to the world of less than a living wage.

posted by: perturbed | February 12, 2014  3:30pm

perturbed

@Slippery Slop—You are missing why we find ourselves here: union greed. This is SEIU’s own doing; they clearly had the option to honor their members’ rights, abide by the law, and advise the state to withhold the legally established reduced fees from these employees’ paychecks. Instead they chose, very deliberately, to keep bankrolling their own agenda at state employees’ expense.

A huge percentage of the dues this union rakes in every two weeks goes directly to the parent union, SEIU. (There is supposed to be some indirect benefit to state employees in CT for these huge donations to the national union, but I’d be hard-pressed to find any.) The vast majority of what’s left goes to “organizing” (i.e. finding more new non-state employee members to add to the ranks of dues payers).

So this lawsuit is about the SEIU fighting against their members’ rights to opt out of union membership and pay a reduced fee as a consequence.

The earlier challenge SEIU brought to the Labor Board was about SEIU fighting against their members’ rights to choose the union(s) they wanted to represent them.

So in this world SEIU created, they spend more time, money and effort fighting the rights of Connecticut state employees than they spend defending them!

If you ask me, SEIU’s mission to block the rights of their members is more like the Catholic church defending pedophiles: it goes against the very core of their reason for existence. Welcome to the world of huge national unions in Connecticut!

—perturbed

posted by: rsoxrule | February 13, 2014  1:14pm

this small vocal minority are tools for right wing union haters like Dean…all the comments from people who take joy in bashing State workers have little clue what is like working in this out-of-control, poorly managed bureaucracy where it is so easy to put all the problems on the unions! SOLIDARITY is needed now more than ever as unions are under attack for all angles!

posted by: perturbed | February 13, 2014  2:33pm

perturbed

Sorry rsoxrule, you’re very mistaken on multiple points. Let’s take the errors in order.

small vocal minority:
The majority of my co-workers in a large state agency are fed up with our current union(s) and would have joined other unions in August of 2011 if the state, SEBAC, and multiple unions didn’t pool their resources, supply a bank of lawyers, and object to the Labor Board’s granting a vote—which it would have certainly done absent the unjustified objections of the state/SEBAC/union bosses. The petitions submitted for a vote on new union membership easily cleared the 30% of bargaining unit threshold.

right wing union haters:
The anger directed towards the unions that betrayed us has nothing whatsoever to do with hating unions. If the union bosses didn’t conspire with Malloy against our best interests, we wouldn’t mistrust them so much, we wouldn’t be seeking other unions, and there wouldn’t be a mass-exodus out of union membership into the ranks of the fee-payers. This anger and mistrust of the corrupt union bosses in our existing unions spans the political spectrum.

SOLIDARITY:
Solidarity? Solidarity was needed in February through May, 2011. Unfortunately, during that time period, the union bosses were busy conspiring with Malloy and excluding union members from all contract negotiations. That’s the time period when the unions freely devised unprecedented give-back of state employee benefits to obtain Malloy’s support for a bill that was working its way through the legislature at the very same time—a bill that was more important to the union bosses and SEBAC than state employee benefits. Solidarity? The union bosses gave up all claims to solidarity when they threw us under the bus. We’re all just biding our time until August 2015, when we have a guaranteed vote to get out of our existing unions.

Remember: In August 2015 the Labor Board will accept petitions from all bargaining unit members—whether they are active union members or fee payers, it doesn’t matter—and a vote on new union representation will be held. Better union representation does exist, and we owe it to ourselves to choose it.

The union bosses should have considered our support during the February—May 2011 contract negotiations. It’s a little late to expect it now.

—perturbed

posted by: soured | February 13, 2014  10:07pm

Hey Wiley Coyote,
Who hasn’t heard about the lack of accountability with AFSCME. Lot of ‘funny’things are accepted practices. Seems like a common theme with their treasurers i.e. local 487 and your 391.

They all make a pretty penny to dummy up when the questions are being asked.

How not to pay full dues amount—ANYONE can file a labor charge.  It is in General Statutes section 5 state employees.

posted by: dano860 | February 14, 2014  9:10am

Can you say “,W.I.S.C.O.N.S.I.N.?”
We share the Robin as the State bird, we should share a few of their ideas.

posted by: justsayin | February 15, 2014  8:35am

Thank you VW employees, the south gets it. Time for the pro-business and accountability ideas to push north.