Money talks — especially money that flows freely from the pockets of guilty union officials.
This was the case for Deanna Salvo, the woman who received a $1,470 refund from Service Employees International Union, Local 503, without even going to court.
The story goes back to 2008, when Salvo, who works for the Oregon Youth Authority, was represented by SEIU 503. By March of that year, Salvo earned a promotion. She was ecstatic and had no reason to suspect anything but maybe a raise.
She didn’t know the truth — that her promotion would ignite a flame and burn a hole in her wallet for the next 12 years.
Along with the change in job description, Salvo’s promotion meant that she would also change collective bargaining units and leave SEIU 503 for another union. From then on, she would be exclusively represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 75.
In 2018, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that mandatory union membership and dues in the public sector were a violation of the workers’ rights, clearing the way for government employees all over the country to opt out of union participation and still keep their job.
After learning about the decision, Salvo sent a letter to AFSCME 75 withdrawing authorization for membership in April 2019. But when months passed without any response, Salvo took a closer look at the money coming out of her paycheck and realized something was wrong.
In fact, two monthly union deductions were coming out of her check — one for AFSCME 75 in the amount of $70, and the other a $10 fee for an acronym she didn’t recognize, “OPEU.”
She asked around and learned that OPEU was an alternative acronym for SEIU 503.
Both unions were still taking her money.
Immediately, Salvo contacted SEIU and demanded the dues deductions stop and that she be refunded for 12 years’ worth of unauthorized payments to the union. SEIU 503 agreed to eventually stop taking her money — but on the subject of a refund, they were silent.
With SEIU hesitant to pay her back and AFSCME not even acknowledging her opt-out request, Salvo knew she needed help. That’s when she called Freedom Foundation.
The organization’s attorneys advised Salvo to send a second opt-out request to AFSCME 75 through certified mail and offered to send a demand letter on her behalf to SEIU 503. In the letter, attorneys asked SEIU 503 to explain why Salvo was forced to pay dues for an associate membership, to provide copies of any membership agreements they might have on file and to refund any money taken from Salvo without her consent.
Rather than explain its actions, SEIU 503 sent a check to Salvo for the full amount. As of this month, AFSCME 75 has also stopped deducting dues from Salvo’s paycheck.
At the Freedom Foundation, we help people exercise their right to opt-out of union membership ever day. In the process, we hear countless stories of unions rigging the game and playing by their own set of rules, but they seldom own up to their misconduct.
But a check like this? It may as well be a confession.