SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - A respiratory care practitioner at Sutter Roseville Medical Center has won a settlement against a statewide union over charges it coerced employees into paying forced union dues.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional office in San Francisco ruled that employees were denied their rights not to pay union dues.

Mary Massen filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB after Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers-West officials mandated she pay union dues for political purposes. Because California does not have right to work protections for its workers, Massen, who has exercised her right to refrain from formal union membership, is still forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment.

However, because of a Supreme Court precedent in Communication Workers v. Beck, she cannot be compelled to pay that portion of union dues used for the union's political, lobbying, and member-only activities.

Union officials are legally obligated to inform workers of these rights. They also must provide workers with an independently verified audit of chargeable and non-chargeable expenses.

Union officials failed to provide non-member employees with the disclosure Beck requires and forced the workers to object annually. The attorneys of the National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF) said this was a tactic designed to coerce workers into paying full union dues.

NRWF is an organization which represents employees in grievances involving compulsory union membership. They assisted with the litigation by providing free legal aid to the employees.

The SEIU-UHW union officials also had taken the extraordinary step of requiring employees, who refrain from paying union dues used for union political activities, to provide their social security numbers. This is also designed to further discourage workers from exercising their rights.

According to the NRWF, the unions' misuse of social security numbers to retaliate against workers who refuse to adhere to the union's policies is not without precedent. NWRF attorneys are assisting 16 employees in North Carolina whose social security numbers and other personal information were publicly posted by union officials in apparent retaliation for exercising their right to not join the union.

The settlement with Massen prohibits SEIU-UHW from requiring annual renewal, stops union officials from demanding social security numbers from workers exercising their Beck rights, and requires union officials to post an informational notice in the workplace.

NRWF attorneys are appealing a part of the settlement because the NLRB is not requiring union officials to post the informational notice on the union's website.

"This precedent-setting victory defeated a union hierarchy's scheme to force workers to give away sensitive personal information for no other reason than to discourage them from exercising their statutory rights" said Patrick Semmens, NRWF Legal Information Director.

"California needs a right to work law to protect workers from these forced unionism abuses in the future."

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