The State Worker

SEIU foes sue to end opt-out dues for state workers

Two of SEIU Local 1000’s arch foes have united to sue the 95,000-employee union in federal court. At issue: Whether the state’s opt-out system of paying union dues is legal.

Ken Hamidi, with help from the National Right to Work Foundation, filed the class-action complaint in Sacramento federal court on Friday. Hamidi, who works for the Franchise Tax Board, has for years tried to organize disgruntled state employees in SEIU into a separate bargaining unit. Hamidi also ran as a Libertarian candidate for governor during the 2003 recall election.

The foundation was on the winning side of Knox v. SEIU Local 1000, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the union hadn’t given members a sufficient chance to opt out of a special assessment that funded political activities in 2005 and 2006.

The federal lawsuit builds on the Knox case by arguing that the current opt-out system of union dues collection for political purposes violates employees’ right of free association under the First Amendment. If Hamidi and Co. prevail in court, the union would have to ask nonmember fee payers’ permission before collecting full dues. The current system requires that employees opt out annually within a certain time frame.

SEIU Local 1000 didn’t return a text, an email or a phone message seeking comment, but in an email to members Tuesday evening, local President Yvonne Walker said, “(T)his issue is not about how we collect dues. It is about extremists whose chief interest is undermining the combined strength of working families.”

Hamidi v. SEIU Local 1000