Freedom Foundation

Freedom Foundation Takes Stand Against SEIU 503’s Political Assessment

At the Freedom Foundation, we tell public employees when their union dues or fees support political causes. And most of the time, we get to tell workers they have a choice.

Public employees don’t have to pay union dues or fees and they certainly don’t have to support political causes they disagree with — at least not according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME.

But the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 regularly skirts this rule by deducting $2.75 per month from employee paychecks. This money flows into the SEIU Issues fund, a pool of cash used to support ballot measures and other political campaigns.

SEIU 503 assesses this money from members and former members who are held to “opt-out windows,” as well as “fair-share” fee-payers (those who paid separate, “non-political” fees to the union prior to Janus).

While it may seem like a small fee, $2.75 compounds into quite a lot when multiplied by the tens of thousands of Oregon workers represented by SEIU 503.

In SEIU’s Administrative Policies & Procedures Manual, the union admits that deduction of SEIU Issues fees will only stop when the fund amounts to a whopping $1.5 million. Once the money is parsed out for political purposes and the fund shrinks to half a million, the SEIU Issues deductions pick up where they left off.

This money is taken without notice, without a valid waiver of the worker’s First Amendment right, and with little to no explanation.

From union members and nonmembers alike.

The Freedom Foundation believes this constitutes a gross violation of workers’ rights, and our attorneys have decided to fight.

On April 2, on behalf of 10 public employees, Freedom Foundation attorneys filed a class-action lawsuit designated Cram v. SEIU 503 that aims to require prior notice and a valid waiver of workers’ First Amendment right not to pay fees to a union, before SEIU Issues fee deductions can continue.

Additionally, the lawsuit seeks compensation for the plaintiffs and any class members similarly impacted.

Early last week, Freedom Foundation litigation counsel Rebekah Millard presented oral arguments for this case.

Freedom Foundation attorneys argue this is not only a clear violation of the First Amendment, but that this violation goes back decades, to the formerly controlling precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.

In Abood, the Supreme Court recognized that a public employer may not compel public employees “to contribute to the support of an ideological cause he may oppose,” but held that public workers could be required to pay fair share fees – that is money used for bargaining, not  for politics.

But “SEIU Issues” fees were never deducted in a manner consistent with the First Amendment.

And, thanks to our generous donors across the country, the Freedom Foundation is proud to stand by those whose rights have been violated.