Public Sector Unions End Forced Dues Collection

Harris v. Quinn ruling prompts unions to cease collecting ‘fair-share’ fees from some non-members

Public sector unions across the country are cutting back on coercive dues collection in states across the country, according to the National Right to Work Foundation.

The Supreme Court in June struck down a coercive dues system established in Illinois that forced home health providers, many of whom were caring for disabled relatives, to pay dues from their monthly disability stipends. Quinn v. Harris, however, applied only to the state of Illinois, rather than the 11 other states that had similar systems in place.

Public sector unions in those states have begun to allow those who collect such stipends and do not want to join a union to opt out of the dues payments, which amount to several hundred dollars per year.

A Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local in Washington State informed one such member that he or she would no longer be forced to pay dues. The union also indicated that it would explore refunding the dues payments already withdrawn from the member’s stipends.

"In light of the uncertainty created by the United States Supreme Court’s June 30, 2014, decision in Harris v. Quinn, the union has asked the State to cease deduction of your fair-share fees. No such fees will be deducted from your future paychecks," the July 8 letter said.

In the wake of the Quinn Harris ruling, the NRTW Foundation began filing similar suits in other states with similar practices. The SEIU in Massachusetts and Minnesota ended the dues schemes before those cases could proceed to trial, an acknowledgement that they could not survive the precedent established in Quinn v. Harris.

"Thanks to a National Right to Work Foundation-won victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, SEIU bosses across the country are being forced to back down from their forced union dues demands," Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, said in a statement.

Unions had successfully pushed about 500,000 workers into their ranks through forced dues systems, according to foundation estimates. Freeing those members, each of whom typically contributes up to $500 per year, could lead to tens of millions of dollars in lost dues for the labor powerhouses, most of whom are also major supporters of the Democratic Party.

Mix said workers are better off now that they can use the money to serve their stewards, rather than the interests of union officials. 

"SEIU officials are no longer empowered to siphon off money that is designated for low-income and special needs children and adults who receive care at home," Mix said in the statement.