Jury Awards Worker $135,000 in Right to Work Case
Foundation attorneys enforce Virginia Right to Work law

March/April 2000 Issue

ACCOMAC, Va. - Foundation attorneys racked up a big win in the ongoing campaign to shut down "camel's-nose-under-the-tent" attempts to undermine Right to Work laws across the country. In late December 1999, a jury in Virginia awarded Frederick Pusey $135,000 for violations of his rights under Virginia's Right to Work law.

The monumental award for back pay as well as other damages is only the latest victory for Foundation attorneys representing Pusey. In an earlier decision, the Virginia court had ruled decisively that Virginia's precious Right to Work law applied on the entire Wallops Island area where Pusey works.

Union argued that Virginia isn't really Virginia

"Union bosses so despise Right to Work laws, it's no surprise they try to worm their way around them," said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. "By claiming that Wallops Island, Virginia, was an exclusive 'federal enclave' and thus not really in Virginia, union fat-cat lawyers hoped to ensnare NASA workers into their forced-fee-for-forced-representation schemes."

The case arose when union bosses demanded the firing of Frederick Pusey, an employee at the facility, for refraining from joining the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union and paying compulsory fees.

In some cases, such as that of Johnson Controls worker Burton Ayres (see July/August 1999 Foundation Action) in Georgia, federal property clearly is under exclusive federal jurisdiction, which precludes the application of state Right to Work laws. But in the Pusey case, the union lawyers' claim of federal enclave jurisdiction was based on a 1940 grant of federal jurisdiction to build and operate an air base to defend Norfolk's naval facility during World War II.

Notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. Navy had abandoned the airfield and left the area in 1959, the union lawyers argued that it remained an exclusive federal enclave. After Foundation attorneys sued both the IAM union and Pusey's employer, Accomack County Circuit Court Judge Glen Tyler rejected the union argument as "not credible," finding that any claim to exclusive federal jurisdiction had long since lapsed.

Prior to the court's decision that the Virginia Right to Work law applied, the Virginia Department of Labor had claimed that compulsory unionism was permitted on Wallops Island. However, following the court's ruling, the state agency reversed course and announced that it would enforce the Right to Work law on the Island. While that decision liberated the workers there from the shackles of forced unionism, a jury trial was needed to compensate Fred Pusey for the damages he suffered in standing up to Big Labor.

Big Labor despises Right to Work laws

Because Right to Work laws guarantee to workers the right to refrain from joining and paying dues to a union, Big Labor chieftains have deployed an array of schemes to sneak worker coercion into states that have these protective laws.

In some cases, such as in Nevada, union bosses attempt to gouge "fees for services rendered" from workers who do not want union representation and who refrain from union membership and the payment of all compulsory fees.. Although this union practice typically violates a Right to Work law, Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa went on record endorsing the practice. Foundation attorneys are challenging this abuse in the Nevada Supreme Court.

By "getting the camel's nose under the tent" in this manner, union bosses seek cleverly to erode worker freedoms in cases where even their formidable political machinery has failed them.

"Right to Work laws protect the very worker freedoms that incense union bosses most," said Gleason. "That's why Foundation attorneys are squelching such union assaults all across America."

Union lawyers will certainly appeal the monetary award to Fred Pusey and probably fight to get Wallops Island declared an exclusive federal enclave. However, the jury's verdict puts union bosses everywhere on notice that attempting to violate or get around state Right to Work laws will cost them dearly.


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