A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a right-to-work lawsuit that sought to upend the way state government’s largest union collects dues from employees who do not want to fund political activities.
Judge William Shubb’s decision allows SEIU Local 1000 to continue registering employees with an “opt-out” format that requires them to explicitly withdraw from the union’s political campaigns if they oppose it.
Shubb issued his ruling just two days after attorneys argued before him at the federal court in Sacramento. He cited a 1992 decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed the union for teachers at the Los Angeles Unified School District to collect dues with an opt-out registration, as well as a deadlocked Supreme Court decision last year that allowed the California Teachers Association to continue collecting dues from educators who are not full union members.
A group of 15 state workers who are represented by SEIU Local 1000 filed the lawsuit in January 2014, contending that the union’s annual opt-out procedure left some of them funding political activities that they oppose. The workers were so-called fair-share nonmembers of SEIU who wanted to pay dues only for bargaining, according to court documents.
In some cases, the workers said they did not receive the documents they need to opt out of political campaigns until after a deadline passed to adjust their monthly dues.
The precedent of the Los Angeles school district case gave the SEIU dissidents unfavorable odds this week. Attorneys for both sides acknowledged a final decision on opt-out dues would come from a higher court.
The Los Angeles case “is still good law and the other facets of the fair share fee procedure that the plaintiffs objected to did not violate the First Amendment,” said Jeffrey Demain, SEIU’s attorney.
James Young of the National Right to Work Foundation, the attorney for the workers who filed the lawsuit, said the group likely would appeal the decision. The foundation wants to get a case challenging mandatory union dues before the Supreme Court when a new justice takes the seat of the late Antonin Scalia, which could break the stalemate in last year’s California Teachers Association case.
“My anticipation is that we will be appealing this. The clients are very cognizant of their roles as representing tens of thousands who may not want to pay any dues to SEIU 1000, but certainly don’t want to pay dues for its politics,” Young said.