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James G Martin Center

College Professor Sues for Union Back Dues

After Janus this poorly rated college professor is suing to get agency fees that were collected from the past three years

Brian Young's picture
Mar 05, 2019

Nearly a year after the Janus case was heard by the Supreme Court, anti-union forces are continuing to try and destroy public sector unions. After membership numbers held strong in the immediate aftermath of the case, some groups like New Choice NY began knocking on teachers doors to bully them into opting-out. Others began filing lawsuits challenging a union's exclusive bargaining right. In New York, a new case has been filed demanding back pay for agency fees that were deducted before the Janus decision.

The case has been filed by a poorly rated Brooklyn College professor named David Seidemann, whose students describe as someone who often "goes off topic and rambles about politics and what he hates about it." He is suing his union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), for agency fees that he was required to pay in the years before the Supreme Court banned these fees in the Janus decision. Seidemann believes that he is entitled to 3 years of back fees. Since he paid about $1,000 a year, he is hoping to recoup about $3,000. In his filing, Seidemann appears to be trying to achieve a class action status by having other public employees join his case.

Because dues and fees are shared among sister and umbrella unions, United University Professions, which represents State University of New York professors, as well as New York State United Teachers, which represents K-12 public school teachers, are also named in the class action suit. Also named are the AFL-CIO and American Association of University Professors Collective Bargaining Congress.

Seidemann’s is not the first lawsuit seeking fees that were paid before the Janus decision. Rather, cases like this are part of a national move by anti-union forces to tie local unions up in court. The hope is to get a case in front of a friendly judge who will force the union to pay a huge one-time payback that will defund the local union. While most of these lawsuits fail, since unions were following the rules in place at the time, it may only be a matter of time before one of these cases makes it way to the Supreme Court.

“Professor Seidemann's lawsuit is one of a number of identical lawsuits filed by anti-union activists across the country,” PSC President Barbara Bowen said in a prepared statement. “Every one of these cases that has been decided has been dismissed as meritless. We are confident that Professor Seidemann's case will also be found to be without merit."

The news of the lawsuit comes just a day after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) further limited what agency fees can be used for. Currently, only private sector employees in free bargaining states (like NY and California) still pay agency fees. These payments are made to help cover the basic costs of things like collective bargaining. However, a new NLRB decision has found that unions can not use these fees to help pay for lobbying costs, even when that lobbying will help them settle a contract.

The decision by the NLRB, which is now controlled by Trump appointees, proves the danger of these types of cases making their way through the courts. All it will take is for one Trump appointment to decide that the union needs to pay back these fees and the financial stability of many public sector unions could be put in jeopardy. All because David Seidemann wants to weaken his coworker's voice at work and save a few bucks a year.

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