Government employee union leaders never tire of professing their heartfelt concern for the welfare of their members and insisting the meager dues they’re being charged are a drop in the bucket compared to the benefits they receive in return.
The phony façade of altruism is exposed, however, when the unions decide it’s in the workers’ best interest to commit forgery.
The Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based labor watchdog organization on Thursday filed two lawsuits in Washington and a third in Oregon alleging public employee unions in both states not only denied workers their constitutionally protected right to opt out of union membership and dues but also forged their names on documents authorizing paycheck deductions in the first place.
Freedom Foundation already has two ongoing forgery cases, one in California and the other in Washington State. The Washington State forgery case settled in part for $28,000 this past year.
In the Oregon case, the plaintiff worked for the Oregon Health Authority for 10 years — all the while paying dues to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 503. Last September he inquired about leaving the union.
He was told the earliest date he could leave was July 2020, based on the language of a membership card he had signed. This was highly suspicious because he had made a point of never signing any union membership documents.
He demanded to see a copy of the card and, when it arrived, his suspicions were confirmed. The card was riddled with factual errors and omissions, and its signature was clearly forged.
When pressed on the matter, the union produced a copy of a second membership card that had also been forged.
Prosser, Wash., resident Sigifredo Araujo had a similar experience. He had pointedly never joined his designated union, SEIU 775, in the seven years he has spent providing Medicaid-subsidized in-home health services to his disabled mother. However, in mid-2018 he noticed for the first time that union dues were being withdrawn from his salary.
When he asked how this could be, Araujo was told he had signed a union membership card. He asked to see the document but never received it.
Over a year later he called again. This time the card was provided. However, when he inspected it, Araujo was shocked to discover his signature, too, had been forged. What’s more, he also found out he had been making contributions to SEIU’s political committee, the so-called Committee on Political Education.
The last plaintiff, Sharrie Yates, has been employed as a medical assistant by Washington’s Healthcare Authority (HCA) since 2004 and previously paid dues to Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE).
In October 2018 — four months after the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME affirmed the right of all public employees to decline union membership and dues — Yates requested to opt out of WFSE.
Her request was denied when the union asserted she had signed an electronic renewal form on June 21, 2018 — literally just a few days prior to the Janus ruling being issued.
Yates can prove she never submitted an electronic signature, yet despite her numerous attempts to contact the union, it continued to deduct dues from her paychecks. The Foundation is now assisting Yates in getting back her money and asserting her First Amendment rights.
“And the union leaders wonder why workers don’t want anything to do with them,” said Freedom Foundation Chief Litigation Counsel Eric Stahlfeld. “It’s absurd enough to argue you know better than the individual worker what’s in his or her best interests. But these cases clearly demonstrate they don’t care about their members at all as long as they can continue to confiscate a portion of their paychecks every month.”
In each lawsuit, the Freedom Foundation is seeking a refund with interest of all dues payments illegally taken from the workers, plus damages and court costs.