NJ State Employees Challenge Union’s Statewide Collection of Compulsory Union Dues 

Trenton, N.J. (June 1, 2004) — Three employees of the New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection today filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against a Communications Workers of America (CWA) union affiliate for illegally deducting compulsory dues from the paychecks of thousands of nonunion State of New Jersey employees. The employees, receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, charge that CWA union officials collected compulsory dues without properly disclosing the union’s expenditures and may well have collected far more than allowed by law. Tracy Grabiak, Roman Luzecky, and another worker filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The workers allege that CWA Local 1034 union officials intentionally seized the forced union dues without first providing the independently audited financial disclosure required by a long-standing U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Such actions flagrantly violate protections established under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution intended to ensure that employees are not forced to pay for ideological and other non-collective bargaining activities they may oppose. The workers are asking the court to enjoin CWA officials from collecting forced dues from any nonunion employee represented by Local 1034 until they provide an audited accounting as to how compulsory union dues are spent, along with the other required procedures that protect the First Amendment rights of nonmembers. In addition, the workers seek class-action status for their case, as well as restitution for all similarly situated state employees in New Jersey in the form of a refund of all past agency fees collected since June 2002. If the court grants class-action status, a remedy in the case could force significant financial reimbursements to all past, present, and future nonunion employees of the State of New Jersey who were unlawfully forced to pay union fees estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Union officials simply want New Jersey state employees to shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Unfortunately, without the protections of a Right to Work law, New Jersey state employees can be forced to pay certain compulsory union dues or risk losing their jobs. However, they do have due process rights.” Under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decision Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, before collecting any forced dues, union officials must first provide an audited disclosure of the union’s books. Such audits are intended to ensure that forced union dues seized from nonunion public employees do not fund union activities unrelated to collective bargaining.


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