Friday, January 27, 2023
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Judges Won’t Punish Public Unions for Illegally Forging Signatures & Deducting Dues

'Neither the state nor the union can be held responsible for violating First Amendment rights...'

Union members up and down the west coast have accused government unions of forging signatures to keep them paying dues, the Freedom Foundation reported.

The Freedom Foundation filed five lawsuits in California, Oregon, and Washington this year, Center of the American Experiment reported.

Judges ruled against the Freedom Foundation and two clients in Oregon and another client in Washington, according to a press release.

The Freedom Foundation last week appealed these lawsuits based on the belief that the judges ruled against the workers “despite clear evidence they had forged the signatures of workers on membership documents in order to thwart their desire to opt out.”

“We’ve seen them be very aggressive — employing coercive tactics, employing deceptive tactics, and now even forging signatures on forms to try to continue that dues collection,” said Maxford Nelsen, the Director of Labor Policy at the Freedom Foundation.

The plaintiffs only seek a refund of their dues payments.

The active lawsuits do not reflect the entirety of the problem, however.

Rebekah Millard, an attorney with the Freedom Foundation, said she knows of “dozens of cases where a government employee never signed anything, but the union still confiscates dues from their paycheck based on a bogus dues-authorization form.”

“In what alternate universe,” she asked, “can an American citizen be forced to continue financially supporting an organization whose values and tactics they loathe based on a document they never signed? It boggles the mind.”

A woman that has worked in Seattle since 2014 as a full-time caregiver to her mother claims to have been repeatedly harassed to join the Service Employees International Union.

Even after she declined membership several times, the union took a total of $3,000 out of her paycheck over the course of several years as dues.

When she confronted SEIU, the union claimed she had signed an electronic document agreeing to be a member.

The woman denies this and asserts that the document’s electronic metadata does not match her location at the time.

This woman and other victims of the unions are merely seeking full refunds for what they lost.

“She’s been very specific about her interactions with the union. … All the evidence that we’ve been able to accumulate shows that she never signed anything,” Nelsen said.

“These home caregivers are doing incredible work … and having to worry about whether the union that’s supposed to be representing them is taking advantage of them is really just an unnecessary additional burden,” Nelsen said.

A public employee of the Oregon Health Authority had a similar experience.

She has been paying union dues since October 2017, even though she said she did not remember signing an authorization document. The union, SEIU 503, said she signed the document on an iPad.

SEIU 503 could not show any evidence in the lawsuit that the woman signed the authorization, but they continue to collect dues.

“In none of these cases does the lower court judge deny that forgery took place,” Millard said. “But in every case, they managed to find a reason why it didn’t matter.”

The judges said that the states did not know that the signatures were forged when it collected money from the union members, so they cannot be held accountable.

And the unions are not considered “state actors,” so they cannot be punished.

“According to judges, neither the state nor the union can be held responsible for violating these employees’ First Amendment rights,” Millard said. “And yet these workers have had thousands of dollars stolen from them. At what point is someone going to be held accountable?”

In the third lawsuit, Sharrie Yates appealed her case against the Washington Federation of State Employees.

She has worked at Washington state’s Healthcare Authority since 2004.

She tried to leave the WFSE in October 2018, but the union said she could not leave because of an online renewal form that she allegedly submitted that June.

Yates said she can prove that she did not sign an electronic document.

Despite reaching out to WFSE on many ocassions, the union still takes her money.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME affirmed that forced unionization is unconstitutional. It gave public employees freedom from mandatory membership and dues payments, arguing that forced unionization amounted to a violation of the First Amendment.

Unions avoid this ruling by providing only a few days during the year in which employees can choose to leave the union.

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