On Nov. 16, Freedom Foundation attorneys filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint against the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) on behalf of state employee Ramona Christensen-Russell with the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC).
Russell has never wanted to be a member of the union, but even though she worked for the state for 22 years without affirmatively joining, she was required by law and her union’s collective bargaining agreement with the state to pay an “agency fee” to the union as a condition of keeping her job.
In April 2018, however, Russell raised the issue to her union that no one in her job category had received a salary increase despite other categories of the job having received increases in 2016. Thinking she would finally have an opportunity to get her concern heard by the right people, Russell agreed to a face-to-face meeting with her union representative.
It was during this meeting she was told that, if she signed a piece of paper supporting the union, WFSE would view her request more favorably. Little did she realize that what she was signing was a union membership form authorizing the state to deduct full union dues from her wages and limiting her ability to cancel the deductions for at least a year.
Anticipating (correctly) that the U.S. Supreme Court would soon strike down mandatory agency fees for public employees as unconstitutional, WFSE had been pressuring employees to sign updated membership forms containing “irrevocability” provisions designed to allow the union to keep seizing dues from employees’ wages even after the court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME.
A month after the court’s ruling in June, Russell noticed full union dues were being withheld from her wages, notwithstanding her not being a member for the previous 22 years. She then submitted a written request to the union for the deductions to cease.
WFSE refused to process her request, however, pointing to the document she had signed in April.
She was forced to take time off from work to review the document at WFSE’s office, because the union refused to send her a copy.
Talking with the union led her to realize that what she signed actually indicated she would join the union, and that the union further insisted on taking full dues for at least a year.
She turned to the Freedom Foundation for help.
Freedom Foundation attorneys filed the ULP against WFSE for its failure to treat Russell fairly, and for interfering and coercing her in the exercise of her right to refrain from supporting a labor union.
The union tricked Russell into signing a “contract” it now maintains is irrevocable.
This kind of behavior by unions is unacceptable, and the Freedom Foundation is not afraid to help people like Russell get the justice she deserves.