CA Public Employee Unions Under Fire

In June 2912 the SEIU had its head handed to it by SCOTUS for wrongfully financing its political agenda with member's money. Knox v. SEIU leaves no doubt that unions operating in a union shop may not appropriate dues for political purposes without permission, and that permission must be granted on an opt-in rather than an opt-out basis. No letters demanding "Reply within 10 days -- or else":

An opt-out system creates a risk that the fees paid by nonmembers will be used to further political and ideological ends with which they do not agree.

And no penalty to the employee who refuses to opt in:

A union should not be permitted to exact a service fee from nonmembers without first establishing a procedure which will avoid the risk that their funds will be used, even temporarily, to finance ideological activities unrelated to collective bargaining.

Public employee unions obviously didn't like the Knox decision. So even though it was a 7-2 rout, not the meager 5-4 skin-of-the-teeth cliffhanger typical in politically charged cases, some unions -- including the SEIU -- went right on using opt-out. Now they're being sued, and Fox News has brought us up-to-date on the progress of the suits:

Fed up with increasing union dues and a decreasing say in how the money is spent, three California groups are challenging their big labor bosses in unions.

The first suit is against the California Teachers Association:

In one, a group of 10 public school teachers is trying to change a state law that forces them to pay union dues as well as pay for an opt-out procedure for members' political contributions to unions.

They argue in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association that being required to pay dues violates their constitutional rights because part of the money goes to promote a political agenda they don't necessarily support.

The second is against the SEIU:

In Sacramento, a group of state workers is fighting a similar opt-out procedure for political dues.

In Hamidi v. SEIU, workers say they don't want to be forced to "opt out" of paying dues that fund the Service Employees International Union's political agenda. Instead, they want the court to allow an "opt in" system for those who want to contribute.

Ken Hamidi, with help from the National Right to Work Foundation, filed the federal class-action complaint in which he argues that the union didn't give members a fair chance in 2005 and 2006 to opt out of a special assessment that funded political activities.

If Hamidi wins, the union would have to ask nonmember fee payers' permission before collecting full dues.

And in the third, students are suing the teachers union over seniority rules:

In Vergara v. California, nine Los Angeles public school students are challenging the state law that grants teachers tenure after being on the job for only 18 months. The students argue that California's code on seniority, tenure and dismissal of teachers violates their rights to an adequate education.

It will be interesting to see how these turn out in light of Knox.