Government worker files suit against AFSCME

By Michael P. Tremoglie | Mar 6, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) -- A government worker has filed a federal lawsuit against a local union and the public agency for violating his rights.

The employee is alleging that the union has illegally collected dues from him in violation of labor law.

Alameda County East Bay Municipal Utility District employee James C. Hankins filed the lawsuit March 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. Hankins resigned from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 444 more than ten years ago.

Yet in April 2011, AFSCME Local 444 and EBMUD officials began to deduct full union dues from Hawkins's paycheck as if he was a full union member. This is in violation of a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that union officials can collect some union fees related to contract negotiations but they must first provide workers with an independently-audited financial breakdown of all union expenditures.

This is known as a "Hudson" notice. Workers must also be permitted the opportunity to object to and challenge the amount of forced union dues or fees before an impartial decision maker.

According to the communique by the National Right to Work Foundation, which is providing free legal assistance to Mr. Hankins, AFSCME Local 444 union officials have refused to provide such a breakdown and have not given workers an opportunity to opt out of paying full union dues.

The EBMUD is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit for its complicity in the confiscation of full forced dues from Hankins's paycheck.

Hankins seeks a refund of the money collected in union dues taken from his paycheck. He also requests an injunction for future collection until AFSCME Local 444 complies with the Hudson notice.

"AFSCME Local 444 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, California needs a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary."

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