The 7-2 decision released by the high court this morning in Knox v. SEIU Local 1000 means that unions must give nonmembers an immediate chance to opt out of unexpected fee increases or special assessments required of workers in closed-shop workplaces, such at California’s state government.
The court said that Dianne Knox and other nonmembers represented by Local 1000 didn’t receive the legally required notice in advance of a $12 million assessment the 93,000-state employee union charged them to raise money for the union’s political fund.
In 2007, a district court ruled against the union and ordered refunds of the money with interest. San Francisco’s 9th Circuit Court reversed that decision as “practically unworkable.”
The high court said today that union opt-out fee policies “approach, if they do not cross, the limit of what the First Amendment can tolerate.” Then this summary passage:
The SEIU, however, asks us to go farther. It asks us to approve a procedure under which (a) a special assessment billed for use in electoral campaigns was assessed without providing a new opportunity for nonmembers to decide whether they wished to contribute to this effort and (b) nonmembers who previously opted out were nevertheless required to pay more than half of the special assessment even though the union had said that the purpose of the fund was to mount a political campaign and that it would not be used for ordinary union expenses. This aggressive use of power by the SEIU to collect fees from nonmembers is indefensible.