U.S. Supreme Court will hear a class action challenge in which eight California government workers allege the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) illegally collected fees for political advancement.
The eight workers were Fair Share Fee Payers (FSFPs) and said by law they should have been given the opportunity to opt out of paying the fee.
Under California law, workers may be employed at workplaces with unions and choose to operate as FSFPs, rather than union members. This means the worker is covered by the same collective agreement as union members and must pay a portion of regular union dues, but he or she is not governed by union rules.
In 2005, SEIU Local 1000 increased its membership fees by 0.25 per cent of salary for every state employee covered by a SEIU bargaining contract. The union indicated the funds were required for "a broad range of political expenses, including television and radio advertising" and "get out the vote activities."
But a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, requires government-sector unions to provide members with an audited breakdown of the union's expenditures and an opportunity to challenge the union's calculations of any forced dues or fees.
In their case, Knox vs. SEIU, the eight workers say they were not given the opportunity to opt out and that all non-union members should be reimbursed these fees.
In 2008, a federal district court ruled against the SEIU, requiring the union to refund any monies spent on political causes (plus interest) to FSFPs who exercise their right to refrain from subsidizing the union's political fund.
The union appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeal, Ninth District Circuit, however, and the U.S. District Court decision was overturned. The Court found that the notice given to the FSFPs was sufficient and that the district court had purported to make the reporting requirements most stringent, something only the state legislature could do.
The eight class representatives appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, requesting a review of the case and lower courts' decisions.
U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case on Jan. 10.