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Cal State Professors Sue State, Union Over Dues

Labor: Plaintiffs challenge a new California law that mandates collection of annual fees.


Three California State University professors on Thursday filed suit against the state and the union that represents them, claiming there are constitutional problems with a new California law that forces them to pay about $600 each in annual dues.

The professors are represented by the Virginia-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which has filed dozens of lawsuits across the country challenging compulsory collection of union dues, with limited success. The suit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court and names the California Faculty Assn. as well as the state.

Last month, the foundation filed a similar lawsuit against the California State Employees Assn. on behalf of groundskeepers, dispatchers and other nonprofessional employees in the university system.

Both suits challenge a state law signed by Gov. Gray Davis last year that requires Cal State and University of California employees covered by union contracts to pay their "fair share" of costs related to collective bargaining even if they have not joined the union.

About 20 unions covering about 93,000 employees are effected. The foundation claims that 75,000 of those employees are not union members. The faculty association and state employees association are by far the largest, representing a combined total of 34,000 employees.

Only about 8,000 of the 20,000 covered faculty members belong to the CFA. The remaining 12,000 began to pay their "fair share"--73% of regular dues, or about $50 a month--in late January.

CFA President Susan Meisenhelder said that the union, which has represented faculty for 17 years, has been hamstrung by lack of resources, and that the infusion of new money will allow it to improve communications and research.

Meisenhelder said union attorneys believed the lawsuit had no merit. "We're very confident we're on quite safe ground," she said. "The ground they're trying to tread has been covered before [in unsuccessful lawsuits]."

The suit challenges several aspects of the law and its enforcement, including the union's estimate that 73% of the dues go toward collective bargaining. The three professors also claim an option for objecting on religious grounds is overly restrictive.

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