Alaska troopers want to stop forced-dues scheme

Michael P. Tremoglie Mar. 12, 2012, 9:58am

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Legal Newsline) -- Two Alaska State Troopers have filed a federal lawsuit against a local union and the Department of Public Safety for violating their rights.

Patrick Johnson and Robin Benning filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in Anchorage with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation.

Both Johnson and Benning resigned from formal union membership in the Public Safety Employees Association union, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 803, in August 2011, and invoked their right to refrain from paying full union dues.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Foundation's Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson (1986) case that union officials can collect union fees as a condition of employment, but must first provide nonmember public workers with an independently-audited financial breakdown of all forced-dues union expenditures and the opportunity to object and challenge the amount of forced union fees before an impartial decision maker.

This minimal safeguard is designed to ensure that workers have an opportunity to refrain from paying for union boss political activities and union member-only events.

PSEA and state officials continue to deduct full union dues from the Troopers' paychecks as if they were union members. PSEA union officials have refused to provide a breakdown of union expenditures and have not given the Troopers an opportunity to challenge the forced union fees before an independent third party.

The Alaska Department of Public Safety is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit for its complicity in the confiscation of full forced dues from the Troopers' paychecks.

The Troopers seek refunds of the amount of forced union dues payments illegally taken from their paychecks and to enjoin future collection of any dues until PSEA union officials comply with the requirements laid down by the Supreme Court in Hudson.

"PSEA union bosses are deliberately keeping rank-and-file workers in the dark to keep their forced-dues gravy train going," said Patrick Semmens, National Right to Work Foundation legal information director. "To prevent these types of forced unionism abuses in the future, Alaska needs a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary."

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