Union officials and state play God with firefighter’s rights
San Francisco, CA (May 21, 2012) – A California Department of Forestry fire captain has filed a religious discrimination charge against the California Department of Forestry Firefighters (CDFF) union for violating his statutory right to refrain from paying forced union dues to support a union hierarchy involved in activities he considers immoral.
With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, Susanville firefighter John Valentich filed the charge against the CDFF union with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission located in San Francisco.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination against religious employees and requires companies and unions to attempt to reasonably accommodate employees' sincerely-held religious beliefs. The obligation to accommodate applies to the payment of compulsory union fees, as no employee should be forced to fund a union that engages in activities that offend their religious convictions.
Because California does not have a Right to Work law, nonmember workers can be forced to pay union dues and fees. However, employees who have a sincere religious objection to supporting a union – regardless of church affiliation – may divert their compulsory union dues to a charity instead.
Valentich, who has sincere religious beliefs which bar him from joining or paying money to the CDFF union, asked union officials for a religious accommodation that would allow him to redirect his union fees to a mutually agreed-upon charity. The union's lawyer told Valentich that he was not a member of a church authorized for accommodation by California law, and therefore he was not entitled to an accommodation.
"It is outrageous that union officials and state bureaucrats get to decide which religions are state-approved and which are not," said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. "If someone has a sincere religious objection to supporting a union thought to be immoral, his or her rights should be respected."
"This case provides another reason why California desperately needs to pass Right to Work protections for its workers making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary."