A quick trip to SEIU 503’s office for Don Carpenter (not his real name) turned into an experience that will be hard to forget. Don decided it was time to exercise his newly affirmed rights under the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME to opt out of union membership — and with it the obligation to pay either dues or fees for something he didn’t want.
Don first printed the opt-out letter he found on the Freedom Foundation’s OptOutToday.com website, then headed to the Oregon SEIU 503 headquarters to drop it off.
He handed the letter to SEIU’s receptionist, but before he could leave she insisted he meet with an SEIU rep about “the process of withdrawing.” Don agreed only because he thought it was standard procedure.
The receptionist led Don to a closed room and instructed him to wait for a rep. Don recalls, “It was weird. Felt like I was awaiting interrogation or something.”
The receptionist was unable to find an available rep, so Don sat alone in the room and spoke on the phone with a rep named Sergey — who had no interest in discussing the opt-out process.
The union operative informed Don that the fine print on the membership application he’d signed in 2015 bound him to union membership until June 2019.
Don recalled signing a membership application with SEIU, but when he joined SEIU he thought paying full dues was his only option. Don was also not aware he would be unable to cancel his membership except for during a 15-day annual window.
Sergey continued badgering, and Don ended the call when he realized Sergey was not going to help him opt out. Don entered the hallway and met another SEIU employee who berated him for wanting to resign his membership.
She threw out insults toward political groups although Don never mentioned politics. Don left the SEIU office puzzled at his experience and unsure whether SEIU even recorded his desire to opt out.
Outlandish as Don’s story may seem, it’s not uncommon. Dozens — if not hundreds — of SEIU-represented employees across the state of Oregon are encountering similar issues.
The Freedom Foundation is hard at work to fight for the rights of these and others who are paying union dues against their will.