30 May 2001

71,000 Communications Workers Are Notified They May Reclaim Millions in Illegally Seized Union Dues

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 30, 2001) — The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced that approximately 71,000 communications workers are today being offered an opportunity to reclaim approximately $70 million in forced union dues illegally seized over nine years by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union for politics.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia forced CWA union officials to mail the rebate notice pursuant to the 1998 Foundation-won Abrams v. CWA ruling. In Abrams, the court found that union officials broke the law by failing to give workers lawful notice of their right to object to payment of full union dues, including dues spent for partisan political activities.

In the Foundation’s landmark case CWA v. Beck (1988), the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that no worker could be lawfully forced to become a formal, full-dues-paying union member and pay for any activities unrelated to collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment.

“CWA union officials should never have taken this money in the first place,” said Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason. “Now they must return millions of dollars.”

The union must allow workers 30 days to retroactively request refunds, plus interest, for all dues between 1987 and 1995 that were used for purposes, such as politics, other than collective bargaining. Workers who think they might be eligible for the refund should contact the Foundation at 1-888-789-4255.

The CWA union’s disclosure over those years admitted that around 25 percent of full dues were not used for collective bargaining. This portion amounts to – on average – about $100 per worker, per year, before interest. Thus, many of the affected workers may be eligible for rebates up to as much as $900 for the full nine years. The court also ordered union officials to pay some 120,000 workers more than $500,000 in damages.

Kenneth Abrams and three other workers at Bell Systems-affiliated companies from Maryland and New Jersey originally filed the suit in 1987 in opposition to the union’s financing of its political agenda.

17 May 2001

Maryland Worker Hits Union with Federal Charges

Largo, Maryland (May 17, 2001) — Denise Mack has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against local union officials for demanding that she be fired for refusing to give in to their illegal demands for more than $1,000 in forced union dues.

Last month, Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), Local 2 officials ordered Mack to pay what they called “back dues” for a two-year period in which she worked at a Kaiser Permanente Medical Group office in Virginia. But under Virginia’s Right to Work law, there was no requirement that Mack, who was not a member of the union, pay any union dues during that period.

National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed the charges on behalf of Mack, now employed at Kaiser Permanente’s Largo, Maryland, office, with the National Labor Relations Board against the OPEIU Local 2.

“This is a flagrant attempt by union officials to swindle Mack and skirt Virginia’s highly popular Right to Work law,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “It’s also obviously designed to send a message to Kaiser Permanente employees in Virginia – ‘pay up now, or we’ll get the money from you when you’re transferred to Maryland.'”

The OPEIU Local 2 union has “exclusive representation” power over Kaiser Permanente’s Virginia and Maryland employees. Last December, Mack was transferred to Maryland where union officials began demanding forced union dues from her paycheck. Maryland is not a Right to Work state. On April 18, an OPEIU Local 2 union official sent Mack a letter demanding that she pay a total of $1,153.04 in reinstatement fees and “back union dues” from February 1998 – February 2000, a time period in which she worked in Virginia, or be fired.

Foundation attorneys are seeking an immediate injunction to stop OPEIU Local 2 union officials from seizing any dues or from having Mack fired. They are also seeking to force the union to return any forced dues seized as a result of their illegal threats and to have union officials held in contempt for violating an earlier NLRB judgment against them.

17 May 2001

Appellate Court Rules that Employees Cannot be Fired for Refusing to Fund Union Organizing Drives

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (May 17, 2001) — The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today overturned the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) precedent-setting mandate that employees fund union organizing drives nationwide with their forced union dues.

Attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation convinced the unanimous appellate court panel to overturn the NLRB’s decision in Meijer (which the Board issued after more than 10 years of inexplicable delay) on the basis that it violated U.S. Supreme Court precedent and thereby would have forced the 7.8 million American employees who work in compulsory union shops to pay union organizing expenses or lose their jobs.

Organizing expenses often exceed 20 percent of a union’s budget.

“The notoriously biased NLRB has again been caught red-handed fabricating its own vision for labor relations favoring union officials even when it violates clear Supreme Court precedent,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an organization that provides free legal aid to victims of forced unionism abuse.

The ruling comes one day after President George W. Bush promoted Board member Peter Hurtgen to NLRB Chairman – even though he signed the NLRB’s anti-employee Meijer ruling.

The unanimous three-judge panel on Ninth Circuit agreed that the NLRB’s decision directly violates the previous rulings of the Supreme Court. Under the Court’s 1988 ruling in Communications Workers v. Beck, a case brought by Foundation attorneys, employees may not be forced to pay for union political activities and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining, contract negotiation, or grievance adjustment. In the Foundation-won precedents Ellis v. Railway Clerks and Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, the High Court determined that union organizing expenses were clearly unrelated to collective bargaining, and thus employees who are not members of the union could not be forced to financially support this type of advocacy activity.

In Meijer, the Board attempted to whitewash the abuse of three grocery store employees Phillip Mulder, Charles Buck, and Leon Gibbons, who originally filed the case (with the help of Foundation attorneys) against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union in Michigan.

The National Labor Relations Board, especially under President Clinton, has a long history of ruling against employees who chose not to join or support unions. Previous appellate court rulings in this area of law have chastised the Board for its “administrative arrogance” and labeled its decisions “not rational.”

14 May 2001

Toilet Seat Makers Nail Carpenters Union with Federal Charges

ALGOMA, Wis. (May 14, 2001) — Nine Olsonite Corporation employees today filed federal charges against the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners union Local 1521 for refusing to honor their written objections to financially supporting the union.

The charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) state that Local 1521 officials illegally seized full union dues from the objecting nonmembers and arbitrarily rejected their objection letters because of a technicality.

“These independent-minded employees don’t want their hard-earned dollars going into the union’s militant political and organizing campaigns,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a charitable organization that is providing free legal aid to the employees.

Olsonite, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of toilet seats, signed a collective bargaining agreement with the union requiring all employees to pay the union a so-called agency fee – even when the employees have no desire to associate with the union.

But under numerous federal statutes and U.S. Supreme Court precedents, including the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck decision, union officials cannot compel workers to become formal union members or pay full dues. Under Beck, objecting nonmembers may halt and reclaim all forced union dues used for activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as political action.

National Right to Work Foundation attorneys are demanding that the NLRB enforce the Beck decision by striking down the Carpenters union’s unlawful practices of seizing political money from nonmembers and refusing their objections.

8 May 2001

State Employees Win $3 Million Judgment Against Powerful California Union

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (May 8, 2001) — The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California has ruled that the California State Employees Association (CSEA) union must return approximately $3 million in forced union dues illegally seized from the paychecks of more than 37,000 employees throughout the state.

“This ruling sends a clear message to Big Labor in California that they can no longer violate the rights of employees with impunity,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.

In its ruling, the District Court found that CSEA union officials illegally seized forced union dues from employees without providing a proper independently audited financial disclosure of union expenditures as required by the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson decision.

“Fearing that employees will learn how their dues are spent, union officials go to great lengths to hide the true extent of their political spending,” said Gleason.

The court ruled that CSEA union officials must return to all nonmembers 20 percent, plus interest, of all forced dues seized in the 1999 “fee-payer year.” (Union officials seized approximately $1.1 million per month from 37,000 employees over 13 months.)

The District Court’s ruling came in response to a class-action lawsuit filed by Christine Cummings of Sacramento and seven other state employees. The lawsuit was filed in November 1999, with the assistance of National Right to Work Foundation attorneys on behalf of all state government workers in State Bargaining Units 1, 3, 4, 11, 14, 15, 17, 20, and 21 who have declined to join the union or who have joined since the union began enforcing its “forced-share fee” contract, which was signed by Governor Davis on October 10, 1999.

30 Apr 2001

Big Labor Uses Workers’ Forced Union Dues to Fund 100 Days of Bush Bashing

Washington, D.C. (April 30, 2001) — As Big Labor today holds nationwide campaign-style political rallies criticizing President George W. Bush’s first 100 days in office, National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason reminded Americans of the illegitimacy of Big Labor political power.

“Big Labor’s political clout is fueled by union bosses’ inordinate ability to seize forced union dues from millions of hardworking Americans as a condition of employment,” said Gleason. “Union officials are pushing a political agenda that’s out of step with the working men and women forced to foot the bill.”

To highlight this point, Gleason noted that while Big Labor has devoted the vast majority of its political resources in the last 100 days to bashing the new president, almost 40 percent of union members voted for President Bush in the last election.

Meanwhile, a recent Zogby poll shows that more than 55 percent of union members favor the Bush tax cut plan.

Big Labor’s campaign against President Bush is an extension of its role in the 2000 election campaign, in which it poured unprecedented amounts of workers’ forced-dues money into an intense “ground war” costing an estimated $800 million. And when the election came down to recounting Florida’s ballots, Big Labor sent an army of union militants into the state in an attempt to change the election’s outcome.

30 Apr 2001

U.S. Supreme Court Halts Union’s Attempt to Gut Virginia’s Right to Work Law

Washington, DC (April 30, 2001) — The United States Supreme Court today rejected an attempt by International Association of Machinists (IAM) union lawyers to gut Virginia’s highly popular Right to Work law, a measure that prohibits forced unionism.

The ruling today ensures a broader application of Virginia’s Right to Work law as well as the payment of $135,000 in damages to the union-abused employee.

“IAM union lawyers so despise employee freedom and Virginia’s Right to Work law, they took their crusade all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason.

The High Court rejected IAM union lawyers’ petition for writ of certiorari, refusing to review a Foundation-won Virginia Supreme Court ruling in favor of Frederick Pusey who was fired for refusing to support the IAM union. IAM union officials had forced the firing of Pusey claiming that Virginia’s Right to Work law somehow did not apply to workers on NASA’s Wallops Island facility.

In some cases, federal property clearly is under exclusive federal jurisdiction, which precludes the application of state Right to Work laws. But in the Pusey case, union lawyers’ claim of federal enclave jurisdiction was based on a 1940 grant of federal jurisdiction to build and operate an air base to defend Norfolk’s naval facility during World War II.

Notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. Navy had abandoned the airfield and left the area in 1959, the union lawyers argued that it remained an exclusive federal enclave. After Foundation attorneys sued both the IAM union and Pusey’s employer, Accomack County Circuit Court Judge Glen Tyler rejected the union argument as “not credible,” finding that any claim to exclusive federal jurisdiction had long since lapsed. In December 1999, a jury ordered the union to pay Pusey $135,000 in damages and back pay. Last year, by refusing to hear an appeal from union lawyers to throw out the lower court’s ruling, the state’s highest court upheld the damage award to Pusey. Union lawyers almost immediately appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

26 Apr 2001

Union Retaliates Against Cosco Employees, Threatens Firings

COLUMBUS, Ind. (April 26, 2001) — Three Cosco, Inc. employees filed federal charges today against a powerful local union for threatening to end their careers in apparent retaliation for exposing the union’s illegal scheme to collect forced union dues.

In a previous federal case which resulted in a settlement agreement, National Right to Work Foundation attorneys forced United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 1155 union officials to stop illegally seizing forced union dues from the workers who had been “grandfathered” out of doing so under the union’s collective bargaining agreement.

Foundation attorneys filed today’s unfair labor practice charges on behalf of Douglas Brown, Ronald Venable, and Kenneth Witt with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Local 1155 union officials for violating the terms of that settlement by demanding that the employees be fired for not paying forced union dues under a prior collective bargaining agreement, reaching back to 1996. Under the settlement, union officials were barred from demanding forced union dues prior to October, 2000.

“Union officials are out for revenge,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “They want to put these brave employees out on the street for exposing the union’s illegal scheme.”

The employees first filed federal charges in 1997 against Local 1155 officials, under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision, for using a portion of their forced dues for politics.

Upon further investigation into that case, Foundation attorneys discovered that the collective bargaining agreement at Cosco did not authorize the seizure of forced union dues at all between July 26, 1998 – October 20, 2000 from employees who were not members of the union. Union officials have since amended the collective bargaining agreement to force all nonmembers to pay union dues.

Foundation attorneys are seeking an immediate injunction prohibiting union officials from ordering Cosco management to fire these employees.

24 Apr 2001

Cement Factory Worker Hits Teamsters Union with Federal Charges

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (April 24, 2001) — A cement factory worker today filed federal charges against a local affiliate of the powerful Teamsters union, seeking to force union officials to stop their illegal practice of funneling compulsory union dues into politics.

The Vulcan Materials Company cement factory employee, Gordon Merkley, sought legal help from National Right to Work Foundation attorneys after officials of Teamsters Local 87 threatened to have him fired from his job for refusing to support the union’s political campaigning and lobbying activities.

“Teamsters bosses harassed and threatened Gordon Merkley simply because he exercised his right not to fund the union’s political machine,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a charitable organization that provides free legal aid to victims of compulsory unionism abuse.

The federal charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board against Local 87, state that union officials violated the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision, which held that workers who resign their union memberships may withhold any union dues used for politics and other non-representational activities. As a nonmember of the union, Merkley can only be required to pay for union activities directly related to collective bargaining.

The charges also state that union officials provided inaccurate and unaudited financial records that unlawfully concealed the union’s actual spending practices and improperly categorized politics, public relations, and organizing expenditures as “chargeable.” Under the Foundation-won Supreme Court ruling in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, union officials must provide employees with an independent audit of their books so that employees can identify non-chargeable expenditures, such as politics.

Foundation attorneys are demanding that union officials immediately return any forced union dues illegally seized from employees.

18 Apr 2001

Bush’s Union Dues Executive Order Takes Effect Today

Washington, D.C. (April 18, 2001) — President George W. Bush’s Beck executive order goes into effect today requiring federal contractors to post a workplace notice informing employees of their right to reclaim all forced union dues not used for collective bargaining activities, like politics. 

The order informs objecting employees of their rights under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Communications Workers v. Beck.  National Right to Work Foundation attorneys originally won Beck at the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988 on behalf of telephone lineman Harry Beck.

Signed on February 17, 2001, the executive order only affects a small segment of the 12 million American employees compelled to pay union dues as a condition of employment, as it just requires federal contractors to inform workers of their Beck rights by posting workplace notices. 

Bush’s father issued a similar executive order in April of 1992 that was immediately revoked at the request of union officials as President Clinton took office in 1993.  Additionally, the Clinton National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) stonewalled the enforcement of these precious employee protections, often leaving many cases languishing within the bureaucracy for six or more years.

Noting that President Bush will be able to appoint three new members to the five-person NLRB, Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason urged him take a “real step forward” in Beck enforcement.  “This order is only a small symbolic first step.  The president must now appoint individuals to the NLRB who are willing to enforce the Beck decision.”

Experts estimate that during the year 2000 elections, union officials spent approximately $800 million on soft money and in-kind political activities, nearly all of it paid for out of union dues collected from employees as a condition of employment.  Gleason pointed out that even with full enforcement, the Beck precedent is not a cure-all.  Nevertheless, the Foundation’s free legal aid program has ensured that hundreds of thousands of employees are getting substantial dues reductions.

Gleason  also noted that the best solution is to attack compulsory unionism abuse at its root, not to fashion new regulatory schemes and government bureaucracies to regulate its ill effects.