On July 7, 2020, Swedish Medical Center employee Roger White appealed his case against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199NW to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in Washington, D.C.
White received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The Swedish Medical Center filed federal charges against the union in April. White claimed that union officials continued confiscating dues from his paycheck illegally even when he attempted to exercise his rights to withdraw union membership and his nonmember rights to pay only dues directly related to bargaining on two occasions.
In addition, he argued that his second petition to withdraw his membership and pay a small portion of dues should have completely ended dues deduction, due to the fact that there was a strike taking place at the time and no contract between Swedish Medical Center and SEIU 1199NW was in force.
The appeal originates from a decision by the NLRB Regional Director in Seattle, who argued that SEIU officials who had no obligation to inform White that he was not obligated to pay union dues during a contract hiatus.
Foundation attorneys believe that the SEIU owed White a “duty of truth and honesty,” and criticized the fact that the SEIU was able to “‘hide the ball’ and continue collecting dues” during the contract limbo. This was done all despite White’s firm “notice that he want[ed] to disassociate” from the union.
Because Washington State has no Right to Work laws on the books, White and his coworkers can be subject to paying dues to the union as a condition of employment. However, the union dues are largely restrained by the 1988 CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision which established that only the amount of union dues that is directly germane to the union’s bargaining functions. Union officials must also comply with certain Beck procedures before seizing such fees, such as giving workers an independent audit of the union’s spending activities.
Additionally, White’s appeal also mentions how the Regional Director’s decision completely ignores a memo regarding this topic from the NLRB General Counsel. The memo outlines how private sector employees who can be legally compelled to pay union fees as a condition of employment “have rights to…object to paying for activities not germane to unions’ representational duties, to revoke dues checkoff authorizations at certain times; and to receive the information necessary to make these choices.”
“It is outrageous that NLRB Region 19 is allowing SEIU union bosses to get away with playing deceptive games with the employees they claim to represent, just to keep their hard earned money rolling into the union’s coffers illegally,” declared National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The NLRB General Counsel should direct Region 19 to prosecute the SEIU for keeping Mr. White and his coworkers in the dark about their rights. These cases demonstrate the abuses that inevitably occur when union officials are granted the power to force employees to subsidize their activities or be terminated from employment.”
Without labor watchdogs like the NRTW, union bosses would be running roughshod over workers and fleecing them out of their money.