The State Worker

Sacramento County worker says union tried to trick him into paying illegal fees

A Sacramento County wastewater treatment plant employee alleges in a new labor complaint that a union is attempting to strong-arm workers into paying illegal fees.

The complaint before the California Public Employment Relations Board alleges that the International Union of Operating Engineers Stationary Engineers Local 39 told a Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant worker that “employees who do not join the union must pay ... a fee” and that such a fee was mandatory, “legal and enforceable” in California.

Until June 2018, many California public employee unions charged so-called fair share fees to workers who were covered by contracts unions negotiated even if the employees did not want to join a labor organization.

The Supreme Court that month ruled in a decision known as Janus vs. AFSCME that public employee unions cannot charge any kind of fee to workers who do not choose to join them, eliminating the practice of charging fair share fees.

Sacramento County employee Ethan Morris filed his complaint with assistance from the anti-union group the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

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A spokesman for the union declined to comment.

“Morris demands that union officials rectify the situation by stopping the illegal fee demands and posting a PERB-approved notice informing his coworkers of their right to refrain from union activities and acknowledging that compulsory fee demands violate that right,” the National Right to Work Foundation said in a statement announcing the complaint.

The National Right to Work Foundation is involved in several lawsuits targeting California’s public sector unions, aiming to eliminate the “opt out” clauses that restrict when union members can quit and stop paying dues.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.