Meet Shalea Oliver, Plaintiff in Oliver v. SEIU
Shalea Oliver is a Philly girl. It’s where she was born and raised, and now as an adult she not only lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but also serves the people in her community through her job at the Commonwealth. Since 2014, Shalea has worked as an income maintenance caseworker. Her job is to help her neighbors get access to services they need from the Commonwealth.
Shalea joined government union at her workplace, the SEIU, in 2015. She soon developed a low opinion of the union, feeling that it was not representing her or other newer employees well. She was also frustrated to see the union support political candidates without consulting members. The union was hesitant to make the changes that Shalea felt she and other members deserved, so she tried to exercise her right to leave the union. The union refused to let her out.
Not one to sit on the sidelines, Shalea was determined to find the right way to speak up for herself and her colleagues.
“I no longer wanted a penny of my money supporting a cause that I didn’t believe in,” Shalea says of her motivation for wanting to leave the union. “When I read about the Janus decision, I realized that case was exactly what I’d been trying to do! As soon as I heard about the decision, I spoke to the union representative on site about rescinding my membership and it was the same type of response I was getting before when I was trying to demote myself to only paying fair share fees. I was told ‘I’ll get more information for you’ over and over.”
The more Shalea read about the Janus decision, the more she was encouraged to keep pursuing her right to resign from the union. She found the Liberty Justice Center’s worker outreach website StandWithWorkers.org while searching online how to resign from her union.
Shalea says she submitted a letter to her union using the advice on StandWithWorkers.org to her union, but they ignored her request.
“That’s when I contacted LJC and began to get help—real help—about getting out of the union.”
The Liberty Justice Center is now representing Shalea in a lawsuit against the SEIU that was filed in February 2019, Oliver v. SEIU.
As Shalea says: “This lawsuit is about rights. The right to choose. And it’s also about transparency. I want to make sure that everyone can make their decision on whether their union is supporting their best interest and then go from there to decide if they want to be a member.”