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UCI lab assistant receives settlement in lawsuit alleging union of violating 1st Amendment

U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles on Oct. 24, 2014.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A class action lawsuit filed by a UC Irvine lab assistant in July was dismissed Tuesday after a settlement was reached between her and the University Professional and Technical Employees that refunded dues collected from her paycheck after she left its membership in June last year.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in July and named both the University of California system and the union as defendants. The lab assistant’s attorneys argued that the university system negligently deferred to the union on whether the university collects dues from employee paychecks, which then allegedly led to the union denying a request from lab assistant Amber Walker after she resigned from it.

Court documents stated that Walker was a part of the union in 2018.

When she sought to end her membership she was told to mail a revocation letter to the union during a specified period of time to stop the collection of dues from her paycheck, according to the complaint. Walker said she did so in January within the required time period, but received an email in March that said her form was incomplete without photo identification.

The form, according to Walker, did not have any indication that providing identification was necessary.

Attorneys contended the union would continue to take dues from Walker’s paycheck through January 2022, at which point she would be able to resubmit notice with identification.

Walker and the union signed a settlement in October with the requirement that Walker receive a refund of the fees collected from her paycheck to date. Walker received that check — $485.11 — on Monday and filed to dismiss the case that same day.

Court officials accepted the dismissal Tuesday.

“Before pursuing a lawsuit against UPTE, I tried to voice my concerns to many different officials in the union organization,” wrote Walker in an e-mail to the Daily Pilot Friday morning. “Many just ignored my plea and one official even raised their voice and rudely hung up the phone in my face.

“While I am pleased to have finally gotten to a point of recognition and my money will be refunded for unfair due deductions, as well as the union agreeing to end its photo-identification policy, I believe it should not have taken a lawsuit to make UPTE respect my constitutional rights,” she said.

Officials at the University of California system and with the union did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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