Beckley, WV (May 31, 2013) – A former Penn Service Line, Inc. truck driver/laborer has won a substantial federal settlement from a Pennsylvania-based construction company and a West Virginia union after the company and union violated his rights and illegally seized union dues from his paychecks for the union's political action committee (PAC).
Jeff Richmond of Meadow Bridge, WV, received free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
In July 2012, when Penn Line Service hired Richmond, company management told him that the job was a "union job." Between July and October, the company confiscated, and the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 453 accepted, full union dues from Richmond's paychecks even though he had not joined the union or consented to union dues payments.
In October 2012, company management gave Richmond and his coworkers a union membership and dues deductions authorization form. The form included a section for the employees to authorize "voluntary" contributions to three LIUNA-affiliated political action committees. Richmond signed up for union membership because he thought it was required for him to keep his job. Richmond did not, however, authorize the "voluntary" PAC contributions. Shortly thereafter, Richmond was discharged from his job for refusing to sign up for the union PAC contributions.
Under federal law, no worker can be forced to join a union. However, because West Virginia does not have a Right to Work law, workers who refrain from union membership can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Foundation-won Communications Workers v. Beck case that nonmembers may not be forced to pay for union activities unrelated to workplace bargaining, such as union political activities and members-only events.
After Richmond filed the charges, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a formal complaint against the union and the company. The company and the union settled the case to avoid further prosecution. Under the terms of the settlement, Richmond will receive over $10,000 in back pay, other expenses, and refunded union dues and fees that were illegally taken from his paychecks.
As a result of Richmond's charges and the resulting investigation, an additional Penn Line Service worker will also receive over $600 in refunded union dues and fees illegally taken from his paychecks.
"Bulldozing someone into contributing to a union PAC that violates their sincerely-held beliefs is unconscionable," said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work. "No worker should ever be forced to pay union dues or fees for a cause in which they disagree. That is why West Virginia needs to pass a Right to Work law making union membership and dues payments completely voluntary."