Freedom Foundation

Harborview nurses take complaint against SEIU 1199NW to Federal Court

It has long been settled that employees can choose to opt out of the union and pay only for collective bargaining related expenses as “fair-share fee payers.” It is equally settled law that:

• unions can only force fair-share fee payers to pay a fee that excludes political or non-bargaining expenses;
• unions must accurately calculate what percentage of their work is related to bargaining and give the payer an opportunity to review the calculation; and,
• unions must give them a meaningful opportunity to object to its reduced fee calculation.

Failing to abide by these rules, the Supreme Court has said, violates the First Amendment.

Unfortunately, SEIU 1199NW has been doing just that.

SEIU 1199NW has been charging the nurses, assistant nurses, technicians and other hospital employees who it ‘represents’ as fair-share payers for expenses not directly related to collective bargaining. Specifically, SEIU 1199NW has been charging them for organizing other employee groups in completely different industries, defensive activities meant to maintain the union’s existence, and ideologically charged litigation—all of which have been declared unconstitutional.

Not only this, SEIU 1199NW has failed in its duty to give notice to nonmembers of the reduced fee, as well as a meaningful opportunity to object to it. (For the related case of SEIU 1199NW violation, see here).

Seven Harborview Medical Center assistant nurse managers noticed the union’s illegal behavior in 2017 and contacted the Freedom Foundation. The Foundation helped the nurses arrange for binding arbitration between the employees and SEIU 1199NW. Before the arbitration, the union caved and refunded all the nurses’ forced dues money for 2017. This was a win for the nurses, until one month later, SEIU 199NW resumed withdrawing fees at the same illegal rate that it had before. In other words, nothing had changed.

With the help of Freedom Foundation attorneys, these nurses are now taking their challenge to the Federal District Court. Foundation attorneys are pleased to represent them in this fight and are optimistic that SEIU 1199NW will learn that it cannot cut corners when it comes to constitutional rights.