(The Center Square) – Three state employees sued their former union in federal court last week over paycheck deducted dues the workers say they no longer owe.
The Department of Human Services employees – Brad Barlow, Fran Biddiscombe, and Melanie Rorabaugh – resigned their membership from the Service Employees International Union Local 668 last year, but said the organization refused to stop collecting dues from their paychecks over a membership application they purportedly signed in 2018.
That clause defines a narrow window for resignation that must fall between 10 and 30 days “before the end of any yearly period.” The SEIU’s current 4-year collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30, 2023.
The three employees submitted their resignations during the second week of July, but were informed of the union’s intention to continue collecting dues despite recognizing their exit from the organization.
Nathan McGrath, president of The Fairness Center – the nonprofit law firm representing the workers – argues the clause violates their constitutional right to refuse to financially support SEIU as established in Janus v. AFSCME. The Janus decision overturned decades of precedent that required nonmembers to pay unions an “agency fee” or “fair share fee” for the costs of collective bargaining.
“Our clients believe it’s unconstitutional for the Commonwealth and union to compel them to financially support Local 668 after they’ve resigned, and they’ve put the union and Commonwealth on notice that they no longer want to pay union dues,” McGrath said.
In November, The Fairness Center filed a class-action lawsuit against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 13 for deducting dues from members’ paychecks, even after they resigned.
The organization has represented 10 other public workers in similar cases and received reimbursement, plus interest, for the illegal practice, McGrath said.
SEIU Local 668 represents more than 20,000 social service employees across the state. Christopher Hundley, a union spokesperson, told The Center Square on Tuesday its attorneys just received the complaint and "as such, we have no comment at this time."