ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. – The Freedom Foundation, which has incurred the wrath of union leaders while earning the gratitude of union members in Washington and Oregon, today filed its first lawsuit in California.
As always, the objective is to remind unions and their allies in government that all public-sector workers deserve the opportunity to decide for themselves whether to join or support a union – and some already can.
The plaintiff in this case is Marie DaRe, an In-Home Supportive Service (IHSS) provider from Orange County who claims United Domestic Workers Local 3930 lied to her to get her signature on a membership card.
According to a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Harris v. Quinn, home-based healthcare and childcare providers being compensated by Medicaid to assist low-income, disabled clients are not full-fledged state employees. Thus, they cannot be forced to pay mandatory union dues.
"Because California is one of the minority of states that still doesn't have right-to-work protections on the books, most government workers can be forced to join or support a labor union even when they don't want to," explained Ray Nhan, the Freedom Foundation attorney representing DaRe. "But workers like Marie are an exception to that rule. Rather than recognizing her rights and working harder to earn her trust, the union simply pressured and lied to her."
DaRe, who provides 24-hour care for her brother, said she never had any desire to join or pay agency fees to a union. But when she declined to sign a membership card of her own volition, the union in late 2015 sent one of its operatives to her home.
"I was busy making dinner, and the dogs were barking at the door, and it was just chaos when she showed up," DaRe said. "When she told me I could leave the union at any time, I just signed the card. I just wanted to get rid of her and go back inside."
When the union rep said she could quit anytime she liked, DaRe signed the card, figuring she'd opt out later.
But when she tried, DaRe was told her membership was good for one year – and that dues would be deducted accordingly.
She was furious, and her anger only intensified when she discovered the union was using her dues money to fund a whole range of political candidates and causes she didn't support.
An entire year and 25 fruitless phone calls to the union later, DaRe told her story to the Freedom Foundation, a Washington-based free-market think tank, which agreed to represent her in court.
The case, filed in the Central District of California, names UDW Local 3930 and California State Controller Betty Yee as defendants.
DaRe is seeking:
- a declaratory judgment that the union and Yee are violating the First Amendment by continuing to deduct dues from her paycheck;
- acknowledgment that the union does not have a valid contract with DaRe;
- injunctive relief to prohibit the state from taking dues from Ms. DaRe's paycheck; and,
- damages from the union for the money it has illegally taken from DaRe.
"We hope to set a precedent that union membership cards obtained through lying are categorically invalid," Nhan said.