Despite submitting a formal request to disassociate himself from the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD) in December 2020, the union has continued to deduct both dues and explicit political fees from Dr. Robert Espinoza’s paycheck.
Dr. Espinoza, a practicing physician at the California Institution for Men, a state prison located in Chino, CA, filed a federal lawsuit and two applications for temporary restraining orders in an attempt to protect his First Amendment rights, with the help of the Freedom Foundation.
The Globe spoke with Timothy R. Snowball, the lead Freedom Foundation attorney on the case providing Dr. Espinoza with pro bono legal representation.
Snowball said it’s unusual for labor unions to allow a case such as Dr. Espinoza’s to get this far. He said after the Freedom Foundation notifies the unions of the unconstitutional deductions, they usually wind up backing down and reimbursing the employee back dues and fees. Or if a lawsuit is filed, the union backs down knowing the deductions are unconstitutional, and will be ordered to cease the deductions and pay back everything owed to the employee.
“In Dr. Espinoza’s case, they kept taking his money,” Attorney Snowball said. “The union’s tactics are just part of a larger strategy to ignore and circumvent the Supreme Court’s clear intent in Janus.”
In the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that public workers have a First Amendment right to refuse to subsidize the political speech of unions like UADP, unless they have affirmatively consented to waive their rights.
The justices also ruled that union dues can only be taken from a public employee with an affirmative and knowing waiver of that employee’s First Amendment right not to pay.
Snowball said it was during the fall of 2020, appalled by the candidates being supported by UAPD with his dues money and fees, Dr. Espinoza spent six months wrangling back and forth with the union before contacting the Freedom Foundation looking for help.
And adding insult to injury, Snowball said the UAPD labor union has continued to take Dr. Espinoza’s money, necessitating the filing of an additional application for a temporary restraining order, which is currently pending.
“Legally, all political deductions should have stopped when Dr. Espinoza submitted his opt-out request in December 2020,” Snowball said. “The political fee was always voluntary and the court’s ruling in Janus affirmed that the arrangement under which he agreed only months earlier to join and pay dues was unconstitutional to begin with.”
“But even at that,” Snowball said, “the deductions should have stopped in July. They didn’t.”
And, adding to the egregiousness of the case, Snowball said Dr. Espinoza’s contract expired in July.
Snowball said Dr. Espinoza discovered the UAPD is making all kinds of political contributions to different races throughout the state, and contributed major money to the campaign to defeat the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“They are using the force of state law to take people’s money without their consent,” Snowball said. “And then they ignore them when they say ‘I don’t consent to this.'”
“We had to file a federal lawsuit and two different emergency applications (First TRO, Second TRO), after telling a federal judge they would stop,” Snowball added. “Exemplifying how bad things have gotten with an organization like UAPD, the UAPD is supposed to be representing members but is acting like a pseudo-political action committee.”
Snowball said in the next few days we will find out about the second temporary restraining order. “We had to file a lawsuit for them to recognize his rights… but they are digging in their heels.”
“The suit also lists UAPD’s state accomplices — California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS), California Controller Betty Yee and state Attorney General Rob Bonta — as co-defendants because they directly take unauthorized deductions from Espinoza’s lawfully earned wages for use by UAPD in its clandestine political activities,” the Freedom Foundation says.D1-1-Complaint