Marquez and Bloom:
"Term of Deception"

When Foundation attorneys enter the U.S. Supreme Court to argue Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild (SAG), they will have one more powerful arrow in their legal quiver.

The case is Bloom v. NLRB, and its implications for workers’ rights could be staggering.

Last month, Foundation attorneys won big for Gary Bloom. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit walloped the National Labor Relatioins Board (NLRB) for rampant disobedience of the Court’s orders. A prior decision by the Court in the same case had ordered the NLRB and the union officials involved to fix a contract between the union and Bloom’s employer. Not only did the new contract language not fix the contract, but the agency flouted the Court’s authority by merely applying the legal equivalent of a powder-puff.

The Court’s blistering opinion blowtorched the NLRB’s "revised" contract language, substituted the court’s own clauses requiring protection of employees’ Foundation-won Beck rights, and warned that “we will no longer uphold or enforce a union security clause that does not contain this language or reflect its undiluted equivalent.”

For union officials, this ruling is a potential disaster. As October 5th–the date set for arguments in Marquez before the Supreme Court–approaches them like an oncoming train, one of their key arguments against upholding workers’ rights has been furnaced.

“Bill Clinton’s hand-picked NLRB had been playing down the impact of the Eighth Circuit’s original worker-protecting Bloom decision,” said Foundation President Reed Larson. “Now the Court has reinforced its original decision in the strongest possible terms, and union lawyers have lost even more credibility.”

How union officials walled off workers’ rights

But why is Gary Bloom’s case so important” What can the case of a health insurance worker in Minneapolis have to do with the problems of a television actress in Seattle?

The answer: follow the money. In both cases, union officials keep political cash coming in the door by keeping workers in the dark about their rights. The more workers learn about their right to reclaim their political forced dues, the less money Big Labor’s political juggernaut can snatch from their pockets.

In the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case CWA v. Beck a decade ago, National Right to Work Foundation attorneys vindicated telephone worker Harry Beck’s right not to subsidize the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union’s political activities.

For years, union officials had fought tooth and nail against any law favoring a worker’s right to refrain from union activities. To contain potential damage to their political treasury, they had created a legalistic and bureaucratic maze between workers and their rights, and at the entrance they had hung a sign: “Go ahead–sue us.”

But after Beck, the writing was on the wall. The already effective bob-and-weave legal avoidance strategy moved into high gear.

Big Labor lawyers refine the sidestep

Taking advantage of obscure technicalities and arcane legalese, union power brokers continued to contrive contracts which illegally required formal, full-dues-paying “membership in good standing” in the union as a condition of employment.

As three U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals have pointed out, there is only one purpose to having such a clause in a contract. When workers question whether they must really be full, formal members of the union to keep their jobs, they’re shown the contract. And there, in black and white, are the magic words–"membership in good standing" is "a condition of employment." Translation: join the union or be fired.

This is, in fact, exactly what happened to Gary Bloom. When workers are discouraged from resigning by such deceptive contract language, they can’t invoke their Beck rights. Workers are thus ensnared into paying full union dues and contributing to union politics they might not support.

Despite the Supreme Court’s unequivocal stance that such a requirement is illegal, the vast majority of union-employer pacts now contain such clauses. But even with such a strategy of legalistic deception in place, union officials need one more thing to keep workers from reclaiming their money: cooperation from the authorities.

Big Labor thus went to work with help from Bill Clinton’s hand-picked NLRB, which has stonewalled cases that threatened to derail the forced-dues freight train.

In particular, NLRB member Sarah Fox has been without question the most dilatory single member of the NLRB — not surprising, in view of her background as a union lawyer and Ted Kennedy’s Chief Labor Counsel in the Senate.

Yet Bill Clinton may nominate Fox as the next NLRB chairman. Many have equated that to appointing AFL-CIO czar John Sweeney to the job.

With the NLRB’s blessing, union lawyers continue to negotiate contracts that require “membership” or “membership in good

NLRB Board Member
Sarah Fox

standing” as a condition of employment. When Foundation attorneys haul them before a federal judge, the union’s disingenuous defense amounts to claiming, “membership doesn’t really mean membership.”

‘Term of deception’

But Foundation attorneys have opened a chink in union lawyers’ armor. After union lawyers tried to wriggle around the Eighth Circuit’s prior Bloom decision by claiming that the word “member” is really just a subtle “term of art,” the Court said that “in this context, “member” is not a term of “art,” as has been suggested to us, but one of deception.”

And now, in Marquez v. Screen Actors Guild, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Foundation attorneys’ persuasive arguments on behalf of a worker’s right to know his rights.

With almost eight out of every ten union-employer pacts containing such deceptive “membership” language, the stakes for Big Labor have rarely been higher.

Actors union chiefs clobber employee rights

The Marquez case arose when a film producer and Screen Actors Guild moguls ordered Washington state actress Naomi Marquez to join the union before she could take a job for which she?d successfully auditioned. Moreover, she would have to pay full SAG union dues and initiation fees. SAG chiefs even told her she must pay up before she received her first

Actress Naomi Marquez
paycheck from the production company.

The forced payment demands amounted to more than $500 in compulsory dues. Ms. Marquez’s pay would have been only $550 for the one-day, one-line acting job.

When she couldn’t afford to pay the huge fees before the job even began, the production company knuckled under to pressure from union officials and produced the show with another actress. “SAG officials–Hollywood’s true power brokers–shook down Naomi Marquez for money she hadn’t yet earned, and cost her a job,” said Larson.

Bloom Task Force Gains Ground

This crucial case results directly from the aggressive nationwide strategy of the Bloom Task Force, created in 1994 after Foundation attorneys took up the case of clerical worker Gary Bloom. The Bloom Task Force specifically attacks organized labor’s practice of lying to workers about their Beck rights by demanding formal union membership as a condition of employment.

Now, the Bloom Task Force will take the strongest opinion a federal judge could write–and the powerful arguments of Foundation attorneys–to the Supreme Court itself.

Foundation’s litigation strategy pays off

“Foundation attorneys have fought this battle tenaciously,” said Larson. “And now, the legal groundwork for a critical showdown against Big Labor at the Supreme Court has paid off.”

The Foundation’s winning litigation strategy is designed, in part, to bring similar cases in multiple U.S. Courts of Appeal. When decisions differ from circuit to circuit, as is the case with decisions involving “member in good standing” contract language, the U.S. Supreme Court is much more likely to review the issue upon appeal.

Foundation attorneys with the Bloom Task Force carried the issue of illegal, forced-membership contract language through the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and District of Columbia Circuit Courts of Appeals–and now to the highest court in the land.

A victory in Marquez would send shock waves throughout organized labor’s High Command, which relies on these deceptively worded contracts to corral workers into full union membership against their will. Most compulsory unionism agreements could become unlawful unless they are rewritten to remove the lies to workers.

The Supreme Court will hear Marquez on October 5 and issue its ruling possibly by the end of this year.