OLYMPIA, Wash. — Just in time for Independence Day, the Freedom Foundation last week filed a lawsuit on behalf of two dozen Thurston County employees whose union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSME) Local 618, refused to process their resignation and dues refund.
The case (Case 3:14-cv-05528 Conatore et al v. AFSCME Local 618 et al Complaint) was filed July 1 in Federal District Court on behalf of four named plaintiffs and as many as 25 unnamed plaintiffs.
In January, two dozen employees of the Thurston County Assessor’s office “resigned” and requested to pay only their fair share for workplace representation. Resignation entitles them to keep funds that would normally be used by the union for politics, lobbying and other causes unrelated to union duties.
AFSCME Council 2 Deputy Director Pat Thompson, however, told those seeking reduced fees that the union would not process their requests. Consequently, the plaintiffs still pay the entire dues amount, but were recently denied the ability to vote on their own union contract.
“The union can’t ignore the Constitution and keep on overcharging these employees,” noted Max Nelsen, Labor Policy Analyst for the Freedom Foundation. “As recently as this past legislative session, union lobbyists assured lawmakers we have no need for reforms that would have prevented these kinds of capricious violations of rights.”
The lead plaintiff in the case, Renee Conatore an administrative assistant for the Thurston County Assessor’s Office, said, “I would rather give the optional portion of union charges to a local charity. Regardless, how to spend overcharges should be my choice, not the union’s.”
The litigation is not related to the recent Harris v. Quinn U.S. Supreme Court decision, but the rights of workers to opt out of overcharges for workplace services was affirmed again in the Harris decision.
If the plaintiff’s prevail in the suit, the union will be forced to refund with interest any dues confiscated from the workers in excess of the agency representation fee.
Founded in 1991, the Freedom Foundation is an Olympia-based think and action tank that promotes free markets, smaller government and greater transparency.
You can view the full complaint here.