Kristen Williamson, 773-809-4403
New class action lawsuit demands refunds from SEIU Local 668 for illegal fees taken from Pennsylvania social services workers
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Aug. 12, 2019) – A new class action lawsuit filed against a Pennsylvania union demands illegal union fees be refunded to social services employees for the Commonwealth. If successful, approximately 2,000 employees could recoup as much as $1 million in illegal union fees they paid between 2017 and 2018.
For decades, Pennsylvania required state employees who were not union members to pay hundreds of dollars a year in “agency fees” to government unions. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME ended the practice of requiring government employees to fund government unions as a condition of working in public service. The new lawsuit, Kioussis v. SEIU Local 668, demands the union pay back the illegal union fees taken from non-members prior to the Court’s ruling in Janus.
The lawsuit was filed by attorneys at the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The non-profit law firms also represented the plaintiff in the Janus case.
“Pennsylvania workers paid mandatory fees to government unions for decades just to hold a job. The Supreme Court ruled this practice is unconstitutional and these government workers are now entitled to get back the money illegally taken from them,” said Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center.
The plaintiff in this case is Catherine Kioussis, who has been an income maintenance supervisor for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since 2008. During her time working for the state, she has paid $450 per year in agency fees to SEIU Local 668, despite never being a member of the union.
Kioussis is seeking a refund of union fees she and other Pennsylvania employees paid from August 7, 2017, through June 27, 2018 – the time period permitted under the Pennsylvania statute of limitations. If she is successful, all Pennsylvania social services workers who were not union members but paid fees to SEIU Local 668 during that time period could receive refunds. While the employees could be entitled to about one year of union fees, most employees paid much more in illegal union fees over the course of their public service careers.
“As the Supreme Court made clear in Janus last year, union bosses have seized forced union dues from hundreds of thousands of nonmember government workers in violation of the First Amendment. This includes the thousands of Pennsylvania state workers this case is filed for, who join public employees across the country in simply seeking the return of money that never should have been taken from them in the first place,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “We’re proud to stand with Catherine Kioussis in her fight for overdue justice from the SEIU bosses who profited from violating her rights for years.”
BACKGROUND ON JANUS V. AFSCME SUPREME COURT CASE:
For decades, government workers in Pennsylvania and other states without right-to-work laws were required to pay union fees as a condition of employment. It didn’t matter if workers weren’t union members or did not support the unions’ positions on policies and politics; politicians in New York and elsewhere had granted government unions the power to exclusively represent public sector workers, and to collect mandatory union fees from their paychecks. But in 2015, a child support specialist for Illinois government named Mark Janus filed a federal lawsuit challenging the practice of mandatory union fees. The case, Janus v. AFSCME, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of Mark Janus on June 27, 2018, restoring the rights of Free Speech and Freedom of Association to more than 5 million government employees across the country.
The new class action lawsuit, Kioussis v. SEIU Local 668, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. A copy of the case is available here: https://libertyjusticecenter.org/cases/kioussis-v-seiu-local-668/
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The Liberty Justice Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest litigation center that was founded to fight against political privilege. The most notable example of the Liberty Justice Center’s success in this arena is its 2018 U.S. Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME. Beyond its work in the Janus case, the Liberty Justice Center’s team of talented, liberty-minded attorneys are also fighting to protect economic liberty, private property rights, free speech and other fundamental rights. The Liberty Justice Center pursues its goals through strategic, precedent-setting litigation to revitalize constitutional restraints on government power and protections for individual rights. Learn more about the Liberty Justice Center’s fight to restore workers’ First Amendment rights at standwithworkers.org, and about the organization itself at LibertyJusticeCenter.org.