Freedom Foundation

Two More Forgery Lawsuits Filed Against SEIU 503

Public-sector unions in most of the country have largely been in denial for the past year and a half. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME ruled that mandatory membership and dues for government employees is a violation of their First Amendment rights, they’ve simply carried on as though it never happened.

But here on the West Coast, where the Freedom Foundation doesn’t give them the luxury of simply neglecting to inform workers of their newly affirmed right to opt out, the unions routinely resort to criminal behavior to continue siphoning dues from as many paychecks as possible.

And even when caught red-handed forging signatures on membership cards, the unions have apparently adopted a policy of challenging every accusation, forcing the worker to take his or her own union to court.

Fortunately, the Freedom Foundation’s team of attorneys represent the workers without charge. So far, the organization has discovered more than a dozen potential cases of forgery in Washington, Oregon and California, and on March 30th filed federal lawsuits in Oregon charging SEIU 503 — the state’s largest public employee union — with two more.

In both, the union claims the plaintiff provided an electronic signature authorizing continued dues deductions. But the data, including the claimed IP addresses, does not support the claim that the documents were   signed by the member’s computers.

“It just shows how desperate these unions are,” said Rebekah Millard, litigation counsel for the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit think tank that specializes in helping public employees in five U.S. states exercise their right to opt out of union participation.

“They claim workers are satisfied with their union and very few want to opt out,” she said. “But in fact, the unions make it their business to fight everyone who wants out. And most people decide it’s not worth the trouble to fight back. We’re simply providing a resource that makes the choice easier for them.”

The two new lawsuits are:

Cash Schiewe v. SEIU 503

Margo Cash Schiewe, a longtime employee of Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, decided not to be a member of her union, SEIU 503. Until June 2018, she was forced to pay so-called “fair-share” fees in lieu of membership dues.

Following the Janus decision, however, she contacted the union to ask about her status. She was told the court ruling actually meant she had to join SEIU 503.

She continued to decline, but without her knowledge or consent, she was signed up for union membership in August 2018. When she subsequently asked for a copy of any dues deduction authorization SEIU 503 had on file for her, the union responded by sending her copy of a document that appeared to be a printout of information entered on the Internet. It included her name, address and an IP address, as well as a timestamp of 8/25/2019 6:03:00.

The fine print in this document appears to say that “your full name, the network address you are accessing this page from, and the timestamp of submission will serve as signature…”

Schiewe is certain she never provided the information for this printout, nor did she provide electronic signature on any online form.

West v. SEIU 503

Jill West works for the Oregon Department of Health and Human Services. Last October, she tried to resign her membership in SEIU 503 by sending a letter to the union’s headquarters. She was informed the union would continue to deduct dues until August 2020 pursuant to the terms of the membership card and dues authorization on file with SEIU 503.

At her request, SEIU 503 provided West with a copy of the membership card. After reviewing it, however, she realized she’d never signed anything like it, so West sought legal advice from the Freedom Foundation.

SEIU 503 said West had signed the membership form on an iPad and provided a screenshot of the metadata allegedly from the electronic signature. But the metadata does not authenticate the signature. For example, West lives and works in Oregon, but the IP address listed on the form was registered to Tacoma, Wash. And the email address they claim she entered is not an email address she has ever used.

“Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a line of cases in which SEIU 503 has proved its willingness to fake “authorizations” to take employees’ money,” Millard said. “We’re happy to stand with Ms. West and other courageous public employees taking a stand for the truth and hold SEIU 503 accountable.”

Jill West works for the Oregon department of Health and Human Services. Last October, she tried to resign her membership in SEIU 503 by sending a letter to the union’s headquarters. She was informed that the union would continue to deduct dues unitl August 2020 pursuant to the terms of the membership card and dues authorization on file with SEIU 503.

At West’s request, SEIU 503 provided a copy of the membership card. After reviewing the card, West was more convinced than ever that she did not sign the card. She sought legal advice from the Freedom Foundation. Foundation attorneys sent a letter on Ms. West’s behalf to SEIU 503.

SEIU 503 said Ms. West had signed the membership form on an iPad and providing a screenshot of the metadata allegedly from the electronic signature. But the metadata did not authenticate the signature. For example, Ms. West lives and works in Oregon, but the form was assigned an IP address registered to Tacoma, Washington. And the email address SEIU 503 claims she entered is not an email address she has ever used.

“Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a line of cases in which SEIU 503 has proved its willingness to fake “authorizations” to take employees’ money,” comments Rebekah Millard, Litigation Counsel for Freedom Foundation. “We’re happy to stand with Ms. West and other courageous public employees taking a stand for the truth and hold SEIU 503 accountable.”