On October 31, 2019, Sacramento County employee filed an unfair labor practice charge with California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Stationary Engineers Local 39. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provided free legal aid to this employee who asserted that union bosses demanded that he cough up fees that clearly violated California labor law. He believes that this action infringes on his First Amendment rights.
Ethan Morris, the employee question, is employed at the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant and does not belong to the IUOE Stationary Engineers. He states in his charge that in July 2019 he received a notice from an IUOE financial secretary which sustained that “employees who do not join the Union must pay a…fee” to the union as a condition of employment, and that such mandatory fees are “legal and enforceable in California” through direct deductions non-union employees’ paychecks.
Morris’ charge contends that the union’s demands for dues constitute a violation of his First Amendment rights established under the the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, which the Foundation won in 2018. In this case, the majority of the Court acknowledged that union dues or fees cannot be imposed on public employees and may only be taken from government workers’ paychecks if they give “affirmative and knowing” waivers of their right to not subsidize a union, which the First Amendment protects.
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According to Morris’ charge, IUOE Stationary Engineers bosses transgressed on his rights based on California’s Milias-Meyers-Brown Act (MMBA). The statue grants California workers “the right to refuse to join or participate in the activities of employee organizations” and prohibits unions from “coerc[ing] or discriminat[ing] against” employees for asserting this right. Morris demands that union officials correct the matter by ending the illegal fee demands and posting a notice approved by PERC letting his coworkers know of their right to withdraw from union activities and recognizing that forced union dues violate First Amendment rights.