Critical Right to Work Case Could Head to Supreme Court

National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed the initial brief with the United States Supreme Court, which is reviewing a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that forced nonunion California state employees to fund union officials’ political activism.

Foundation attorneys, who are litigating the case, filed the brief Monday for the eight California civil servants who initiated a class-action lawsuit against the California State Employee Association (CSEA) union, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

In 2005, CSEA union officials imposed a “special assessment” to raise money from all represented state employees for a union political fund, regardless of their membership status. The political fund was used to defeat several ballot proposals, including one that revoked public employee unions’ special privilege of using forced fees for political contributions unless an employee consents. Employees who refrained from union membership were given no chance to opt out of the CSEA union’s political fund.

Under the Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court decision Teachers Local 1 v. Hudson, public employees forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment must be notified of which part of their dues are spent on union activities unrelated to collective bargaining and be given an opportunity to opt out of paying for members-only events and union boss political activism.

In 2007, a federal district court ruled that the CSEA was required to provide a notice to nonunion employees about the assessment, allow them to opt-out of paying into the union political fund, provide a refund of monies spent on union-boss politics, and pay interest from the dates of the deductions to nonmembers who chose to opt out.

After CSEA union lawyers appealed the case, a Ninth Circuit panel reversed that decision in December 2010. On June 27, 2011, the United States Supreme Court announced it would review the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.

“Allowing the Ninth Circuit’s ruling to stand would further undermine state employees’ First Amendment rights and encourage union bosses to extract more forced dues from nonunion workers as a condition of employment,” stated Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It is unconscionable for a court to force employees who want nothing to do with the union or its so-called ‘representation’ to subsidize union political activities.”