Freedom Foundation

Oregon Class Action Lawsuit on Its Way to the 9th Circuit

On Wednesday, nine Oregon public employees, represented by Freedom Foundation and National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, filed their appeal of an Oregon District Court decision in Anderson, et al. v. SEIU, et al.

The case alleges that three Oregon government unions are relying on membership cards that are unconstitutional to force public employees to pay money to labor unions.

These membership cards look harmless, but the fine print specifies that dues payments are irrevocable except for a short 10- to 15-day window each year.

The nine named plaintiffs, who represent hundreds — if not thousands — of similarly situated Oregon public employees, objected to union membership but have been forced to continue paying union dues despite their stated desire to opt out.

This is an obvious tactic by the unions to squeeze the maximum amount of money possible from public employees.

Lori Anderson, the lead plaintiff, was told she would have to pay even if she didn’t sign up as a union member.

When the Supreme Court held that union dues payments should not be deducted unless the employee “affirmatively consents to pay,” Ms. Anderson notified the union she wanted to exercise her First Amendment rights to end her affiliation with the union through membership or dues payments.

But the union denied her request, citing “opt-out window” language inserted into the membership card she never wanted to sign in the first place.

“Despite my clearly expressed wishes,” Anderson said, “SEIU 503 wants to keep taking money from me for another year. That’s a lot of money to pay for nothing.”

The District Court sided with the unions but punted on the substance of the issue — whether the membership applications notify employees they are waiving their First Amendment rights as required under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME — does not apply to those who are already union members.

The Supreme Court stated unambiguously in Janus that an employee must “affirmatively consent to pay” dues before they can be collected by a union. But that stipulation is meaningless if it only affects those who’ve already signed a membership card — especially if they did so without having been apprised of their rights or after being falsely assured union membership was still mandatory.

While the District Court judge may have avoided holding the unions accountable for their continual dues siphoning from unwilling subjects, the nine plaintiffs in Anderson are hoping the 9th Circuit will see through the unions’ tactics and put an end to this unconstitutional practice.