Seattle Nurse Wins Settlement Against SEIU for Illegal Misinformation and Other Violations of Worker Rights

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys won a settlement for a nurse in Seattle, after Service Employee International Union (SEIU) 1199NW officials were hit with charges for violating federal labor law.

Union officials misinformed Nancy Ellen Elster of her rights and later enforced illegal restrictions on her right to stop paying for union political activities and other lawfully “non-chargeable” expenses. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 19 in Seattle approved the settlement, which facilitated the validation of her unfair labor practice charge against the union.

Nancy Ellen Elster is employed at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, which falls under the SEIU’s monopoly bargaining power. Due to the fact that Washington is not a Right to Work state, Elster is forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. However, the CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision limits these payments to part of union dues directly relevant to bargaining.

According to her complaint, Elster argued that SEIU officials never properly informed her or other workers about this right or even provided the independent audit of the non-chargeable expenses that Beck requires. Further, NLRB prosecutors also discovered that union officials also failed to disclose legally required information about the percentage of union fees employees could pay by withdrawing from formal union membership.

Elster recalled in her charge that she wrote SEIU bosses a letter back in April 2019 resigning her membership and demanding that only the reduced amount of union fees allowed under Beck be deducted from her wages. Then union officials replied that she missed a “window period” for objections to Beck that union leadership invented. Additionally, they asserted that she would have to turn in more arbitrary paperwork to have her rights upheld. She was never informed of this alleged “window period” during any time in the past, but SEIU bosses still seized full dues from her paycheck in clear violation of Elster’s Beck rights.

Foundation staff attorneys provided free legal aid during the settlement process. In the end, the settlement ordered SEIU officials to post notices that the union will discontinue applying “[its] window period to become Beck objectors in order to foreclose employees resigning their union membership” or “fail … to reduce the monthly fee payment of objecting nonmembers” to the amount directly dealing with bargaining purposes. SEIU bosses are also required to refund Elster fees that they took from her paycheck in violation of Beck and inform employees who are not formally involved in a union of “the percentage of the fees reduction” they would receive by asserting their Beck rights.

“Whether it’s a nurse in the private sector like NancyEllen Elster, or just private citizens who provide healthcare at home to relatives, SEIU officials are more concerned with stuffing their bank accounts with illegal forced union dues than respecting the legal rights of those they claim to represent,” declared National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Beck provides at least a check on this coercive power for private sector workers, but Foundation staff attorneys will keep fighting until no workers in America are forced to sacrifice part of their paychecks to union bosses they oppose.”