Nonunion probation officers obtain dues refunds

Michael P. Tremoglie Apr. 25, 2012, 7:17am

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - Four Monroe County, N.Y., probation officers won their protracted federal court battle against the Civil Service Employees Association Local 828 over their First Amendment rights.

David Scheffer and his three colleagues filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York in 2005 seeking to prevent the further collection of forced union dues and asking for full refunds and punitive damages.

The probation officers sued the union for deliberately violating their First Amendment rights by seizing forced union dues from their paychecks for illegal union expenditures. The officers charged that union officials were spending their forced dues on union organizing drives, despite the officers' objections.

The district court ruled in the unions' favor in 2007. The plaintiffs won on appeal in 2010 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the CSEA illegally spent nonunion workers' dues money on organizing.

The case was remanded to the District Court which ordered CSEA on April 20 to pay damages to the plaintiffs of $401.83 each. The officers' suit initially sought similar relief for all nonmember public employees represented by CSEA union affiliates throughout the State of New York, a number believed to be in the thousands. However, the courts' decision only gives relief to the four officers in this case.

"Employees should not have to go to federal court to stop use of their forced union dues being illegally spent on union boss politics and organizing," said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which provided free legal aid.

"However, as long as public employees in New York labor under forced unionism, these abuses by union officials will inevitably continue. This is why New York desperately needs to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary."

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