On Tuesday, a Marion County public employee filed the latest in a growing number of lawsuits accusing government employee labor unions of forging signatures on membership documents in order to continue deducting dues against the worker’s wishes.
The plaintiff has worked as a care coordinator since 2017 and never wanted to join SEIU 503, the union designated to represent her. Until recently, she believed union membership was automatic, so she didn’t question the deductions from her paychecks.
In June 2018, however, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME that classified compulsory dues as fees a violation of public employees’ First Amendment rights.
The plaintiff filed a request to opt out of SEIU 503, but union officials informed her she could not because she had signed a membership card. But she couldn’t remember signing any such document. When the union sent her a copy, she confirmed she had never signed the card.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case,” said Rebekah Millard, an attorney with the Freedom Foundation, which is providing the plaintiff with legal representation. “These unions recognize that Janus is a potential game-changer because, for the first time, public-sector workers can decide for themselves whether they want to be in a union.
With potentially billions at stake nationwide, the unions will resort to anything — including felonies.
Millard said the Freedom Foundation, which is litigating 11 other similar cases in Washington, Oregon and California — including three others involving SEIU 503 — immediately sent a demand letter to the union, which responded by ceasing dues collection for the Marion County employee.
But that wasn’t enough.
“We need to see both restitution of the dues wrongfully withheld and meaningful changes in policy going forward,” Millard said.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, names SEIU 503 and Marion County as defendants and alleges violations of the First and 14th Amendments, and seeks damages as well as injunctive relief.