Once is a mistake, twice is a pattern. Anything more is deliberate, and Freedom Foundation recently exposed yet another of the Service Employees International Union Local 503’s deliberate efforts to steal money from Oregon’s public employees.
In this case, the theft involves taking unauthorized fees from former members of its collective bargaining unit.
In September, we shared the story of Deanna Salvo — who received a nearly $1,500 payout from SEIU 503. After earning a promotion at work, Salvo left SEIU to be exclusively represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 75. Yet nearly 12 years later, she was appalled to discover that SEIU — a completely different union — had knowingly deducted a monthly $10 fee from her pay, without authorization of any kind.
Salvo was able to end the deductions, but her request for a refund went ignored.
Looking for resolution, Salvo called on the Freedom Foundation for help. With one demand letter to SEIU, Freedom Foundation attorneys were able to secure a full refund.
And that should have been the end of it, but Salvo’s story marked the start of a pattern that continued with another hardworking Oregonian — John Cummings.
Like Salvo, Cummings works for the Oregon Youth Authority, where he was promoted in March 2012. As a result, he left his former union, SEIU 503. Also, like Salvo, Cummings became exclusively represented, for collective bargaining purposes, by AFSCME 75 (although he was an agency fee-payer, rather than a full-fledged member).
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME, in which the court affirmed that union dues or fees are an extension of political speech protected by the First Amendment, it became clear that no public employee could be required to pay money to a union.
Cummings, preferred to bypass the union’s political contributions, eagerly waited for his so-called “fair-share” fees to stop. But when his paystub arrived, he was shocked.
There were still payments to a union being taken out of his pay.
Although AFSCME fees had stopped, there was a $10 fee going to SEIU each month.
Over a period of six years, SEIU had siphoned $760 from Cummings’ paycheck with no explanation, and while providing Cummings no representation whatsoever.
After trying unsuccessfully to contact SEIU and stop the deductions, Cummings had enough. He went down to SEIU 503’s headquarters, determined to speak with union representatives in person.
Finally, in November 2018, SEIU agreed to stop taking dues … but the union wouldn’t offer Cummings a refund. Two years later, after hearing about Salvo’s case, Cummings decided to give the Freedom Foundation a call.
With a letter from our attorneys, he was finally able to get all of his money back.
To this day, neither Salvo, nor Cummings has been provided a copy of any agreement which could have authorized these SEIU deductions. But this is hardly a surprise. SEIU 503 doesn’t exactly have the best track record for authenticating union memberships or deductions.
In the past year alone, the Freedom Foundation’s Oregon office filed four separate forgery lawsuits against SEIU 503.
SEIU’s bad habits are being exposed as public employees find out about their rights.