Large Oregon Paper Questions SEIU’s Actions

 The largest newspaper in Oregon is questioning SEIU’s decision to continue collecting dues from a woman who has resigned from the union. Although the union will start accepting dues at any time, there is only a two-week window each year during which the union will allow members to revoke their authorization for the collection of dues.

One such [home care] worker is [Maryann] Rose, who in February 2014 – months before the Supreme Court’s decision – signed an SEIU membership application that permits the deduction of dues from her paycheck, according to a federal lawsuit filed on her behalf last week by the Freedom Foundation. So far, no problem. But the application contained a provision making the deduction authorization “irrevocable for a period of one year from the date of execution and from year to year thereafter.” To revoke her authorization, Rose was required to send the union a written notice during a 15-day window that opened only once per year on the anniversary of her authorization’s execution.

Given the ease of signing up for membership and the difficulty of stopping dues payments, you have to wonder whether the SEIU consulted the playbook used by people who peddle cell-phone contracts. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

…Harris v. Quinn gave home care workers like Rose the ability to save money by canceling their union memberships and ceasing dues payments. And that’s exactly what Rose tried to do, according to the suit, which was filed in federal court Friday.

In November 2015, Rose sent the union a letter resigning her membership and asking that deductions for dues cease. She received a letter from the union in December confirming the resignation of her membership in SEIU. However, the letter continued, “deduction of dues will continue until such time as you revoke the dues check off authorization you signed … in the manner and in the time periods set out in that authorization.”

According to Freedom Foundation attorney Nick Dagostino, the deductions had not ceased as of early February, notwithstanding the fact that Rose is no longer a member of the union. This behavior is illegal, he argues. If unions may not collect fees in lieu of dues from nonmembers, why would it be OK for them to collect dues from nonmembers?

Heather Conroy, executive director of SEIU Local 503, declined in an email to discuss the lawsuit, except to call the Freedom Foundation “an organization dedicated to dismantling unions like SEIU” and to dismiss its chances in court.

Time will tell whether Conroy’s legal prognostication is correct, but her union’s treatment of Rose (and, according to Dagostino, many other workers like her) speaks volumes about its respect for the very workers it represents. Shouldn’t it be just as easy to quit a union and stop paying dues as it is to join and start?