PORTLAND, OR. — A Chicago-based conservative group is threatening to sue Oregon government officials if they don’t stop collecting union dues and agency fees from workers’ paychecks, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
The Liberty Justice Center has sent cease-and-desist letters to state officials, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
The nonprofit helped represent an Illinois child support worker in his landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in a June ruling that public employees can’t be required to pay union dues or fees if they opt out of membership.
The decision ended a provision in Oregon and 21 other states that required public employees to pay what’s known as “fair share” or “agency” fees as a condition of their employment, even if they opted out of union membership. The fees are supposed to cover bargaining and contract administration, including handling grievances.
Lawyers from the Liberty Justice Center say the court’s decision means that public employers must get written consent from employees before collecting all union dues. The group argues in the letter that the employees’ consent was based on a false choice: become a union member and pay dues or pay an agency fee as a non-member.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum says the high court’s ruling only applies to agency fees or union dues from non-members.
The interpretation has huge implications for Oregon’s unions.
They collected nearly $21 million in dues from 25,000 state employees who are union members, and another $5 million in fair share fees from 6,000 state workers who opted out of union membership, according to the Oregon Department of Administrative Services.
The state has stopped deducting fair share fees from non-members’ paychecks.