Freedom Foundation

Complaint Alleges State HR Office Declined Information Requests to Shield Unions

A complaint filed on May 12 against California’s Department of Human Resources seeks to establish whether the agency works for the state residents and taxpayers or for the powerful labor unions that control most of its public employees.

The action, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, alleges officials at Human Resources wrongly refused to comply with two sets of information requests filed by the Freedom Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy organization specializing in exposing abuses by government employee unions.

“Both requests were submitted correctly, and the information sought is undeniably disclosable under the California Public Records Act (CPRA),” said Bob Wickers, the Freedom Foundation’s California director. “If any other organization had asked for these documents, the state would have handed them over without a second thought. But the unions are terrified of the Freedom Foundation and the HR Department believes it’s their job to protect the unions — even if that means breaking the law.”

On Jan. 23, the Freedom Foundation submitted a request for the total number of state employees paid by the State of California in each month of 2018 and 2019 and, for each of the 21 state of California bargaining units, the following information:

  • name of bargaining unit representative (labor organization);
  • agencies/departments represented;
  • the total number of employees in the bargaining unit who were paid by the state of California in each month of 2018 and 2019;
  • the total number of employees in the bargaining unit who were paid by the state of California and who had union dues or fees withheld from their pay in each month of 2018 and 2019; and,
  • the total amount of union dues/fees withheld by the state of California from the pay of employees in the bargaining unit in each month of 2018 and 2019.

After several delays, HR Department officials on Feb. 24 denied the request, claiming that, under the CPRA, they could not release records that are “part of the collective bargaining process.”

On March 12, the Freedom Foundation submitted a second information request, this time seeking for every public employee in the state:

  • full name;
  • month and year of birth (excluding day);
  • job classification title and code;
  • employee identification number;
  • hire date;
  • current pay rate/salary;
  • FTE status/percentage;
  • work email address;
  • worksite/duty station address; and, bargaining unit number.

Once again, the request was denied, citing the same reasons as in the first request and adding that they did not own the records in question and therefore could not release them.

“Their excuses don’t pass the laugh test,” Wickers said. “It doesn’t matter whether HR owns the records in dispute. They have to disclose anything ‘prepared, owned, used or retained by it.’ And none of the documents requested are related to state ‘deliberative processes or to the training of employees who do not have full collective bargaining and representation.’ The Freedom Foundation is entitled to these records.”

The Freedom Foundation makes no secret of why it wants the information.

“We want to contact public employees to notify them about a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that did away with mandatory union membership and dues in the public sector,” Wickers said. “The unions desperately want to keep that information from the workers because everyone who opts out represents $800 to $1,000 a year in dues money.

“We understand why the unions want to keep the members in the dark about their rights,” he said. “What we don’t understand is why a taxpayer-funded state agency feels it needs to be a partner in the conspiracy.”

Wickers said the complaint filed on May 4 asks that HR either provide the requested information or show cause why the court “should not issue such a writ and thereafter issue a peremptory writ compelling defendant to perform its public duty as set forth above.”