Union Bosses Use Federal Enclaves to Advance Forced Unionism
Fort Gordon, Ga. -- After dragging its feet for more than two years, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) responded to charges filed by Right to Work attorneys and decided to prosecute a union that had a worker fired who objected to paying for the union's political and ideological activity.
In 1997, Transportation Workers of America (TWU) Local 526 officials strong-armed Johnson Controls, Inc. at Fort Gordon to fire U.S. Army veteran Burton Ayres despite his desperate attempts to save his job by paying compulsory dues he didn't even legally owe.
The union brass even returned a check Ayres had mailed and thumbed their noses at his offers to pay in installments, and they also tried to threaten Ayres into signing a checkoff card that would have allowed them to raid his paycheck directly for the illegally excessive union dues.
But Ayres was steadfast in his refusal to pay for Big Labor's radical brand of politics. "I won't sign anything that has to do with the union taking my money," he told them. After he refused, the union brass made good on their threat, and Ayres was promptly fired.
"Threats are always more effective when you can point to a hide on the wall," said Reed Larson, President of the Foundation. "That's Burton Ayres. The union bigwigs made him their trophy."
Pouring even more salt on the wounds, the union's Political Action Committee later sent Ayres a letter suggesting that paying into the union's political fund assures "job security."
Ayres gets Foundation aid
After the long, drawn-out investigation, the NLRB Regional Director recently issued a formal complaint against Local 526 officials and scheduled a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge to prove exactly how Local 526 officials violated Ayres' Foundation-won rights.
"I didn't know I was fighting for Americans' freedoms only so I could lose mine," said the 21-year Army veteran.
Right to Work states not entirely free from forced unionism
Ayres' struggle might never have taken place in a Right to Work state like Georgia if it weren't for the federal policy of forced unionism. Sadly though, there are still tens of thousands of workers within Right to Work states who are legally shackled into paying forced union dues.
Employees in Right to Work states whose jobs are located on land owned by the federal government are often not protected by their state's Right to Work laws. These so-called federal enclaves, often military bases, sometimes fall under the exclusive jurisdiction of federal labor laws that authorize compulsory unionism. The determination of whether an enclave is protected by Right to Work laws depends on how the federal government acquired the land.
Except for the efforts of Right to Work attorneys, union bosses in these enclaves are free to force workers to pay full union dues as a job condition -- a situation no different than the 29 states without worker-protecting Right to Work laws.
Clinton/Gore Administration grants union bosses more power
To make matters worse, the Clinton/Gore Administration has bent over backwards to serve Big Labor's interest in increasing its coercive power over workers.
In 1997, President Clinton signed an executive memorandum that "encouraged" government agencies to grant federal contracts only to companies that force their employees to accept unwanted union "representation."
Since most employers operating within federal enclaves receive federal contracts, this memorandum was a double blow to those workers. First, the Clinton Administration forces employers into collective bargaining agreements with union bosses if they want to keep their lucrative federal contracts. Then, because of the federal government's anti-worker policies and laws, union bosses are able to force workers to pay dues or surrender their jobs.
Florida worker nearly fired for not paying dues
Employees in the Right to Work state of Florida have also fallen victim to the federal enclave loophole.
In 1994, the TWU Local 525 president demanded that Douglas Nelson, also an employee of Johnson Controls, Inc. (but in Cape Canaveral, Florida), pay dues dating back to his expulsion from the union. Nelson was expelled for the "crime" of signing a petition expressing his desire to be represented by another union.
Fearing that the union official would get him fired for refusing to pay back dues, Nelson filed federal charges to protect his job.
Slippery NLRB bureaucrats flip-flop on ruling
A year later, the NLRB handed down an erroneous ruling that sided with Local 525 officials and stated that Nelson was still liable to pay forced dues despite being expelled from the union. When they learned about this decision, Foundation attorneys immediately contacted Nelson and received his authorization to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
That's when the alarm bells went off at the NLRB's huge marble headquarters in Washington, D.C.
After learning that the National Right to Work Foundation was on the scene, the NLRB begged the appellate court for another chance to rule. Presumably, the NLRB bureaucrats feared another embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Foundation's expert attorneys.
Given its second chance, the NLRB realized it had no choice but to rule in favor of Nelson and award him a refund (with interest) of all dues paid to the union since 1994 -- a total of almost $2,500. The Foundation-won ruling also ordered the union bosses to stop threatening workers with termination for not paying dues after they are expelled from membership.
Foundation's efforts to stop abuse will continue
Foundation attorneys are currently representing dozens of workers in federal enclaves whose rights have been trampled by over-zealous union bosses.
"These two cases show how union coercion is still commonplace in Right to Work states," said Larson. "With the help of its contributors, the Foundation is dedicated to fighting for any worker who has the courage to stand up to Big Labor's demands."