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How Classified School Employees in Washington Can Opt Out of a Portion of PSE/SEIU 1948 Dues

In RCW 41.80, the state legislature granted union entities a monopoly over workplace representation services for public school employees. The Public School Employees (PSE) union secured the privilege of representing classified employees in many school districts and later invited the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to be a financial partner.

Many believe the union arrangement is not a good fit. They may simply prefer to manage their own affairs. Others find themselves lumped in with other employees whose interests cannot possibly be uniformly represented by one monolithic organization like PSE-SEIU 1948.

Others find the politicking and use of dues to advance partisan causes, candidates and ideology distasteful. Still others believe that union officials take advantage of the power to force people to pay by overcharging and underperforming.

If you object to PSE-SEIU overcharging you for workplace representation, and you would rather reclaim these funds, then you may request to pay the reduced representation fee by filling out the form below and mailing the letter produced to PSE-SEIU.

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How do I keep my money from going to PSE-SEIU's extraneous activities like politics and ideological causes?

The form above will generate a letter meeting the requirements. The letter will indicate your desire to resign and to pay an agency fee rather than full union dues. It will notify them that you “object” to paying for the optional portion of the fee.

Send a signed copy of your letter to:
Public School Employees SEIU 1948
PO Box 798 Auburn, WA 98071-0798.

To assure acceptance, certified mail delivery may be necessary. Keep a copy for your reference.

If I turn in the form above, will the union still help with workplace issues?

Yes. The union must provide the range of workplace representation services for those paying the fee, but you will no longer have to fund items unrelated to workplace representation like politics, marketing, litigation, ideological causes. If they refuse to provide these services, they are violating their legal obligations.

The union has a franchise to be the exclusive representative of the members of the bargaining unit. It can and will prevent members of the bargaining unit from securing their own assistance with workplace issues. In return for the monopoly on this particular service, unions have a corresponding legal duty to provide fair representation. The union is required to provide workplace representation, contract enforcement, discipline assistance and grievance assistance for those paying fees.

How much will my dues be reduced?

According to the 2017 Hudson notice from PSE-SEIU, those who opt out and pay only for representation get a 29.2% refund or reduction.

Why does this right to opt out and pay less exist?

The courts have acknowledged that the extraordinary power of unions to seize funds from people against their wish can lead to abuses. Specifically, the court recognized that unions have power to wrongfully overcharge for services, and the power to compel people to fund a speech they don’t support in violation of the First Amendment.

Public employees have challenged some of the unions’ abuse of power, and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed that employees have certain rights. Now you can keep the hundreds of dollars in overcharges and make your own decisions about politics and causes.

Key cases include Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, 500 U.S. 507 (1991), Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, 475 U.S. 292, (1986), and Abood v. Detroit Board of Education 431 U.S. 209 (1977).

PSE-SEIU acknowledges this right in your bargaining agreement, in their membership form, the Hudson Notice they send to those getting the refund each year, in their Dues Process Manual, and in their “Union Leadership Handbook” on page 26.

If I stop paying the full amount of dues to the union, will I still receive the same wages and benefits specified in the PSE-SEIU contract with my employer?

Yes. The union has arranged to be the “exclusive representative” of its bargaining units, meaning that one contract will cover all employees. As one who pays a fee to the union for their work on the contract and for other workplace services, you will receive the wages and benefits as directed in the contract.

Does it affect my pension?

No. Under state law, a union contract is binding on all employees in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether they are technically union “members.” Your compensation, benefits and conditions of employment are all set by the contract with your employer and the state legislature, and these will remain unchanged whether you pay full union dues or only the representation fee.

How will my relationship with the union change if I resign my membership in PSE-SEIU and stop paying the full amount of dues?

While the terms of the contract will still apply as a nonmember of PSE-SEIU, the union may choose to deny participation in internal union affairs, such as attending union meetings or voting for union officers. Unions commonly withhold any special “members only” deals or discounts the union has arranged with businesses. The union newsletter or similar publications are sometimes withheld. Some unions also have policies preventing those paying for workplace representation from participating in contract ratification votes. While this is wrong, it is their prerogative since they have no obligation under law to have votes in the first place, and no legal obligation to act on the results of those votes. As a result, the ability to discriminate in voting is allowed.

How does PSE-SEIU spend my dues money?

Public employee unions are private organizations with minimal obligations to disclose financial information.

PSE-SEIU does claim to release financial information to those who request it: “Any employee desiring a copy of the entire 2017 financial audit can receive one by sending a request via email to ekay@pseofwa.org

Fee payers must be given an annual accounting of how much the union spends on “nonchargeable” activities which are refunded.

PSE SEIU 1948 2017-18 Hudson Packet is available here.

PSE SEIU 1948 2014-15 Hudson Packet is available here.

As a nonprofit, the IRS requires the basic 990 tax return to be a public document.

PSE SEIU 1948 2015 IRS 990 tax return is available here.

PSE SEIU 1948 2014 IRS 990 tax return is available here.

PSE SEIU 1948 2013 IRS 990 tax return is available here.

Those financially paying the PSE SEIU 1948 are also paying the umbrella organizations SEIU includes in the dues. These organizations are obligated to report expenditures, salaries, political amounts and other details as required by the federal National Labor Relations Act.

The SEIU state council receives a portion of dues.

SEIU Council 14’s 2016 LM-2 report is available here.
SEIU Council 14’s 2015 LM-2 report is available here.
SEIU Council 14’s 2014 LM-2 report is available here.
SEIU Council 14’s 2013 LM-2 report is available here.
SEIU Council 14’s 2012 LM-2 report is available here.

The SEIU national organization receives a portion of dues.

SEIU’s National 2016 LM-2 report is available here.
SEIU’s National 2015 LM-2 report is available here.
SEIU’s National 2014 LM-2 report is available here.
SEIU’s National 2013 LM-2 report is available here.
SEIU’s National 2012 LM-2 report is available here.

Can I donate to a charity instead?

Those who have a personal religious, faith-based objection to the union or its activities are allowed under state and federal law to donate the full amount of dues to a charity. This option requires the objector to write a letter to the local union president. For more information about the accommodation for religious objections, see the information here.

Why do unions get to take money in the first place?

In RCW 41.59, the state legislature granted private organizations the ability to secure a monopoly franchise over workplace representation services for school district employees and to compel them to pay. The Public School Employees union garnered the privilege of representing classified employees in most school districts roughly fifty years ago.

The union is not governed by the usual consumer protection or anti-trust law, so abuses of the privilege of collecting money are possible. For example: They can charge whatever they wish. They can spend money on whatever they wish. They do not have to disclose how the money is spent to those who pay it. They can speak for employees without consulting or informing them. They can injure some members’ interests while advancing the interests of others. They can prevent employees from getting help in their workplace from other sources. They are not governed by any obligation to provide quality service, and they almost never have to seek reauthorization of their right to have this monopoly on workplace services.

Some states and some Washington state school districts do not allow the forced payment to unions.

Public sector union activities – including negotiating with government – potentially violate First Amendment rights of workers who are forced to fund the political voice of the union. A 2018 US Supreme Court Case, Janus v. AFSCME, has been filed by public employees who seek to strike down the forced funding of the union organization. A ruling is expected in 2018.