On March 13, 2020, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provided free legal aid to two UC San Diego Health employees who filed a federal class action lawsuit against the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union and the University of California for taking dues out of their paychecks in violation of their First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit asserts that the seizure of dues is unconstitutional under the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In accordance to Janus, the Court ruled that taking union dues from any public sector workers’ paycheck without his or her “affirmative and knowing” consent violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The class action lawsuit designated University of California President Janet Napolitano as defendant for the role the university system played in perpetuating this scheme. Additionally, it named California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as a defendant due to the state’s enforcement of the illegal union dues policy.
Two Service Desk Analysts, Pablo Labarrere and Sam Doroudi, filed the lawsuit. The lawsuit contends that UC San Diego Health officials had made all new employees “believe that it was a condition of employment to either join the union as full members or pay forced fees as nonmembers” during a mandatory orientation session. New employees were provided and instructed to sign “dues deduction authorization cards” which stated that union officials would continue to seize dues from each employee’s paycheck unless a revocation letter was sent during a 30-day window prior to the annual anniversary of the card’s signing.
The lawsuit stated that the authorization cards did not detail, per Janus requirements, that public sector employees “have a First Amendment right not to subsidize the union and its speech” and that they would lose those rights by signing the card. Labarrere and Doroudi learned about their First Amendment Janus rights on their own and sent letters to UPTE officials in December 2019 demanding that the union stop deducting dues.
UPTE agents rejected both letters and continued their dues seizures from Labarrere’s and Doroudi’s paychecks. They largely did so because they did not submit their requests during the “escape period” that the union bosses crafted.
The lawsuit asserts that UPTE bosses are infringing on Labarrere’s and Doroudi’s First Amendment Janus rights by continuing to seize dues from their paychecks without ever receiving their “affirmative authorization and knowing waiver” of those rights. It also contends that the 30-day “escape period” illegally constrains Labarrere and Doroudi in exercising their Janus rights.
The class action lawsuit is also attempting to stop UPTE bosses and the University of California system from carrying out the enforcement of this scheme against any other workers, and demand that UPTE officials return all dues and fees to any member of the workplace that were victims of First Amendment infringements under this policy.
“The Supreme Court made it absolutely clear in Janus that union officials violate public workers’ First Amendment rights when they seize union dues without their consent,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Yet over a year and a half after the decision, California union bosses – with the assistance of state officials – continue to subject the state’s public servants to schemes that violate these rights, all to fill union coffers with more illegal dues.”