Oregon judge deals state early loss in dues deductions case

U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman of Oregon granted a temporary restraining order Wednesday preventing the state’s Department of Administrative Services from deducting dues on behalf of the Service Employees International Union from a state employee who never consented to the deduction.

Victoria Bright began working for the state in November 2022. She declined SEIU membership because she disagreed with the union’s political agenda and bargaining tactics, according to the Freedom Foundation.

Bright was a dues-paying SEIU member from 2013 until 2022 while working for the Oregon State Hospital.

However, she left for a non-state job and then took the job with the Department of Human Services, where she declined union membership.

When she received her first paycheck at her current job, she saw that her employer deducted union dues.

Bright contacted the union many times about this problem. She said that the union agreed to pay her back. However, the problem was never fixed, and her employer kept deducting the union dues.

In response, she contacted the Freedom Foundation, which helped her take legal action against her employer.

“This is a perfect example of why the state shouldn’t be in the dues-collection business,” Jason Dudash, Northwest Director of the Freedom Foundation, said in a news release. “It doesn’t matter whether the state is acting out of incompetence or fealty to the union. What matters is that it wouldn’t happen at all if the union was taking responsibility for its own accounting procedures, like every other independent service provider.”

The 2018 Supreme Court Case Janus v. AFSCME says mandatory union membership violates free speech and association rights for government employees.

Bright wants a declaratory judgment preventing dues deductions from her paycheck. She also wants to ensure that what happened to her does not happen to other state employees. Additionally, she is seeking injunctive relief.

Oregon has been enjoined from deducting any more union dues from Bright’s wages, and a hearing for preliminary injunction will take place on Tuesday next week.

“The state clearly does not have the necessary safeguards and procedures in place to ensure this won’t happen — and isn’t already happening — to other public employees who simply haven’t noticed it yet,” Rebekah Millard, litigation counsel for the Freedom Foundation, said in the release. “This is what happens when the government partners with a private entity, like SEIU, and both parties begin to conclude the money they’re confiscating belongs to them rather than the person who earned it.”

“Unfortunately, we can expect such problems to continue until we change the statute to get the state out of the dues-deduction business,” concluded Millard.

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