Two Swedish Medical Center employees have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board alleging their union forced them to pay full dues after they sought to pay reduced dues, according to a statement from their attorney’s office.
Daniel Dalison and Roger White are accusing Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) 1199NW of attempting to force them into paying union dues “beyond what can be required for federal law,” according to a statement from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is representing the employees.
The two separate complaints were filed at the National Labor Relations Board Region 19 in Seattle.
“Given the unprecedented challenges (health care) workers currently face, it is especially outrageous that they also have to deal with SEIU union bosses violating their rights just to stuff the union’s coffers with more forced dues,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix in the statement.
The complaints come after the union and hospital both confirmed last week they had — after nearly a year of negotiations — agreed on a new contract. A few months before the agreement, SEIU employees had led a three-day strike at Swedish campuses to protest staffing shortages, faulty equipment and a lack of security for patients and workers.
“Since settling our contract our unity is stronger than ever,” said SEIU Vice President Betsy Scott, a registered nurse at Swedish. “Our union is our voice during the COVID-19 crisis and we are focusing on providing great care for our patients at Swedish at this critical time.”
Dalison, one of the workers who filed a complaint against SEIU, said he tried to resign his union membership and pay reduced dues in the last six months, but SEIU leaders ignored him, according to the complaint. He also argued that union leaders failed to inform him and other employees of their option to pay reduced dues if they objected to formal union membership.
Months later, SEIU responded to Dalison, informing him he had to apply in writing and appear in person with a photo identification in order to receive copies of his membership paperwork or any union documents he signed, according to the complaint.
Dalison argued the policy “delay(s) and hinder(s) employees from exercising their rights to resign union membership and revoke their dues checkoff authorizations,” the complaint said.
White, the second employee who filed a complaint, said he sent the union a letter in January asking to resign his membership, according to his complaint. Union leaders acknowledged the letter and admitted 35% of the dues were spent on “political and nonrepresentational activities,” but continued to collect full membership dues from White, the documents said.
In March, White sent another letter asking to pay reduced fees, but the union didn’t respond.
In Washington, where state officials haven’t enacted right-to-work protections for employees, workers can be forced to pay a fee to the union as a condition of employment, the statement said. However, private sector workers who choose to refrain from formal union membership can only be required to pay the part of dues related to the union’s bargaining functions, the statement said.
“NLRB Region 19 must act swiftly and decisively to ensure that SEIU officials are held accountable for the continuing rights violations at Swedish Medical Center, but these cases demonstrate the abuses that inevitably occur when union officials are granted the power to force employees to subsidize their activities or be terminated from employment,” Mix said in the statement.