Complaint filed against Calif. nurses union

Michael P. Tremoglie Mar. 23, 2012, 1:30pm

PLEASANTON, Calif. (Legal Newsline) -- A nurse has filed federal unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against the California Nurses Association, alleging the union violated her rights as a worker by not refunding to her the appropriate amount of compulsory union dues.

Donna Von der Lieth, a nurse at the Kaiser Pleasanton Clinic, sent a letter to CNA officials resigning from formal union membership and invoked her right to refrain from paying full union dues in September 2011.

She filed the charges March 20 with the NLRB's Regional Office 32, Oakland, Calif.

Because California does not have a Right to Work law, Von der Lieth is required to pay CNA for dues related to bargaining.

But she does not have to pay the portion of union dues used for CNA's political, lobbying, and member-only activities. Therefore, CNA must provide her with a financial disclosure form of union expenditures indicating how dues are spent.

Von der Lieth requested CNA officials to provide the legally-required breakdown of union expenditures. But, according to her, CNA refused to provide the information.

"Even though union officials often refuse to acknowledge their rights, honest hard-working nurses such as Von der Lieht are still forced to pay union dues and fees as a condition of employment," said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a workers' rights advocacy group that is providing free legal assistance. "Union bosses will continue to take workers' hard-earned money while disrespecting their rights until California passes Right to Work protections for its workers. Only then will it be less difficult for rank-and-file workers to hold union bosses accountable for forced unionism abuses such as this case."

Daniel DiSalvo is Assistant Professor of Political Science at The City College of New York and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is also a contributor to, a website blog that addresses issues of state and local public finance. He is very familiar with the issue of union dues for nonunion employees.

"The main thing that is being demanded is a statement saying the dues that she has paid are her fair share for bargaining purposes," he said. "For example, if I did not belong to the union I could request a refund for a percentage of the fees in excess of collective bargaining. The union is supposed to provide an itemized list of how much was spent for bargaining and ask if I want a refund of the rest."

Prof. DiSalvo said that the unions have a great deal of control of this process. It is the union that determines how much is spent on bargaining and nonbargaining activities. They have all the information but they are often quite reluctant to be more forthcoming as to the exact amounts.

"The unions do not go out of their way to make the process easy," he observed. "They are in a very privileged position. The individual does not have the right to choose to pay the dues or not. The dues must be paid first. Then the union will say how much they are willing to refund. The disputes arise because the worker does not believe what the union tells them."

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