March 5, 2019 — Since 2014, Shalea Oliver has seen thousands of dollars removed from her paycheck to fund an organization and political efforts that she does not support. When she tried to push back against those deductions, she faced indifference and a refusal to help from the very people who claimed to represent her.
Now, with a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision fueling her arguments, Oliver, a Pennsylvania state employee, is suing to get some of that money back.
“If you don’t have any personal knowledge, if you didn’t read the news, if you didn’t look into things yourself, you wouldn’t even know that you have the right to leave this union at this point,” Oliver said during a recent interview. “And I think that they purposely try and keep those who are hypothetically ignorant of the situation in the dark.”
Oliver works for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services in Philadelphia. She said that not long after starting the job, she agreed to join as a full member of the Service Employees International Union Local 668 because she was paying what the union calls “fair share” fees anyway and figured that the few dollars difference didn’t matter.
Over time, though, she soured on the union and its political activities, and in 2016 she sought to resign her membership.
“I felt like the union didn’t represent me or my views, and in that instance, I didn’t even want them to have access to those few extra dollars that they had convinced me to give them,” she said.
Quitting the union, Oliver found, was pretty much impossible. She couldn’t find information on her own on the process to quit and had to ask the union itself how she could go about it.
“It almost came across like it was a blood contract,” she said.