Worker refused to abandon job during highly-publicized strike
Newport News, VA (May 14, 2012) – A Newport News, Virginia Verizon (NYSE: VZ) worker has won a settlement from the company and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, and its local affiliate, for violating her rights following last year's strike that grabbed national headlines.
With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, Williamsburg resident Monika Cassell filed a lawsuit in federal district court in February against Verizon, the CWA and its affiliate, Local 2205, for refusing to honor her right to refrain from paying union dues.
Upset by CWA union officials' strike order and unwilling to walk off their jobs, Cassell and several other Verizon employees resigned from the union last year and revoked their dues deduction authorizations – documents used by union officials to automatically collect dues from employees' paychecks – while the union did not have a contract at their workplaces.
Under Virginia's popular Right to Work law, no worker can be required to join or pay money to a union. Under federal labor law, employees can revoke their dues deduction authorizations once a contract ends. However, at the behest of CWA union officials, Verizon continued to confiscate full union dues from Cassell and several of her coworkers despite their attempts to opt out.
Moreover, Verizon and union officials agreed to a contract that retroactively applies to the time no contract was in effect – a blatant attempt to corral the workers who exercised their right to refrain from dues paying union membership back into paying union dues. Cassell's lawsuit also challenged the CWA union's dues deduction authorizations because those authorizations do not allow employees to revoke them when no contract is in effect, as federal law requires.
The settlement requires Verizon and union officials to return all illegally-seized union dues and fees with interest to Cassell, totaling over $456. But most significantly, the settlement also requires CWA Local 2205 union officials to acknowledge the revocation of all workers' dues deduction authorizations during the strike and in similar situations in the future for all workers in the bargaining unit, affecting Verizon workers in Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Maryland; and West Virginia.
"It is indefensible that workers who exercised their right to resign their union membership and continued to work to support their families had to resort to a federal lawsuit after their rights were blatantly violated by their employer and union officials," said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work. "While Foundation attorneys have won a full capitulation from Verizon and CWA union officials in this case, CWA union officials continue to use illegal dues deduction authorizations that prevent workers from exercising their statutory right to refrain from full union dues payments when a union contract is no longer in effect."