Sued for their Greed

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seattle timesThe National Right to Work Foundation and the Freedom Foundation have filed a class-action lawsuit against SEIU Local 925 challenging its right to be the exclusive representative of 12,000 child care providers. The lawsuit seeks the return of three years’ worth of mandatory union fees as well as attorneys’ fees and damages.

A ruling in favor of the conservative group would be a major blow to organized labor, which already has seen its clout diminished over decades of declining union membership.

“The viability of public-sector unions in Washington state is at stake in this litigation,” Elizabeth Ford, a labor-law expert and visiting professor at Seattle University School of Law, said in an email.

The case challenges “a central proposition” in U.S. labor law since the New Deal — that a union, once elected by a majority of workers in a workplace, has the authority to bargain on their behalf, Ford said…

The child-care providers who joined the lawsuit object to the union’s liberal political activism.

Cindy Mentele, a Shoreline family child-care provider who is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a written statement she hoped it would “shed some light on the shadowy relationship between the state and SEIU,” calling the union “more of a political organization than an employee union.”

The lawsuit seeks to build on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn ruling last year that struck down the ability of unions like SEIU to collect mandatory fees from workers to cover collective-bargaining expenses.

Despite that ruling, Freedom Foundation officials said, some workers here have had to repeatedly pester SEIU before the union stopped deducting the fees.