Big Labor gives back thousands in forced fees to avoid court battle

By Tim Pearce

One of the largest public-sector unions in the U.S. is paying back nearly $3,000 in forced union fees to an Oregon public employee, the first such case after the Supreme Court ruled forced fees unconstitutional.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) settled with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife employee Deborah Nearman after she sued the union in April for requiring dues as a condition of employment by the state. Nearman charged that the mandatory dues violated her first amendment rights by compelling her to support speech she did not agree with, according to the National Right to Work Foundation.

A Supreme Court ruling in AFSCME v. Janus, issued two months after Nearman’s suit, found that such “agency fees” payed by workers to unions to stay employed were unconstitutional.

“Nearman’s refund represents the first of what should ultimately be hundreds of millions of dollars or even more returned to public employees for union fees seized from them in violation of the First Amendment,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement.

Nearman’s husband successfully ran for the Oregon State Legislature in 2016. The SEIU, which Nearman was paying mandatory dues to at the time, spent roughly $53,000 in an attack campaign against Nearman’s husband.

“SEIU 503 agrees that it will neither seek to collect nor accept any future dues or fees deducted from the Plaintiff’s wages unless she affirmatively chooses to become a member of SEIU 503 and authorize deductions,” the settlement says, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

Class-action lawsuits to recoup agency fees for workers forced to pay them without consent have been filed against at least eight unions nationwide.

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