CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – A judge has rejected a request by nonunion workers to stop the state from deducting fees from their paychecks for the State Employees Association.

Merrimack County Judge Carol Ann Conboy said the workers failed to show the so called “fair share” deductions – approved in a contract agreement – were unlawful.

The fees are not full union dues but are intended to cover some of the benefits that nonunion workers receive, including the cost of contract negotiations.

The state agreed to deduct the fees automatically from paychecks, a practice seven nonunion workers alleged was illegal.

Debra Black, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the mandatory deductions are unfair. If workers don’t have a choice about whether to pay the dues, they should at least have some say in how they pay them, she said.

“The SEA is not something that I have to do. It’s something that’s being forced down my throat. The least they can do is bill me like some other creditor does. My town taxes they don’t take out of my paycheck,” she said.

State Employees Association President Gary Smith said the lawsuit was “one more challenge that has concluded favorably for the union, and it continues to demonstrate that we’ve been transparent and have conducted our affairs properly.”

The union secured the right to collect the fees in 1999, but were required to reach 60 percent membership first. The union hit that figure earlier this year. It has since increased its ranks to about 70 percent of the state’s roughly 10,000 eligible employees, Smith said.

Information from: Concord Monitor,

AP-ES-12-30-06 1100EST