Dues fight escalates toward decertification

Related story: "School union: No discount for non-members"

Unions act as if 'closed shop' was never banned

Employees of the Las Virgenes (CA) Unified School District who are neither teachers nor members of the local classified union are being forced to pay an "agency fee" that is equal to the monthly dues paid by union members.

Sherill McMichael, the office manager at Lupin Hill Elementary School in Calabasas, spoke to the board of education on July 22 on behalf of employees who have chosen not to join the Las Virgenes Classified Association (LVCA), the local union that represents office workers and other non-teacher workers.

McMichael said the fee represents a mandatory deduction of $25 to $50 per month from non-union paychecks, the same monthly amount that union members must pay. McMichael said that because only 48 percent of the school district employees are members of the LVCA, the fee should be terminated.

"During this tough economic time, a yearly pay reduction of $250 to $500 for an unplanned, unauthorized payroll deduction could spell disaster for many families," said a letter to the board of education that was submitted by McMichael and fellow union members Sandy Moreno and Le Ann Christianson.

"When hired as an employee of the Las Virgenes Unified School District, no employee was instructed it was mandatory to pay an agency fee to LVCA," the letter stated.

The trio of classified employees spoke to the school board on behalf of all district employees who are not members of the local classified association.

Christianson said the move to force non-members to pay the fee was "disrespectful for the non-member majority."

"(The issue) has nothing to do with the administration or the board," Christianson said. "It's purely a union thing."

Moreno said the union decided to charge the fee during the summer while employees were away. "Their first paycheck when they return will be deducted," Moreno said. "They raised dues but never told anyone."

But LVCA President Penny Ellis said state law requires the deduction.

The law states that public school employees must either join the "recognized employee organization" or pay the organization a "fair share service fee."

McMichael said even if the fee is required by law, it is negotiable and should at least be lowered, if not eliminated.

The letter states that if LVCA enforces the mandatory agency fees, the non-member majority will file documents for a decertification of the union.

The women are contacting other nonmembers to sign a petition against the union.

"I'm not going to back down, I can tell you that," Moreno said.


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