14 Feb 2003

Union Faces Trial At Labor Agency For Threatening to Kill Dissident Workers

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Orlando, Fla. (February 14, 2003) — The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 835 officials face federal prosecution for illegally threatening to “kill” or otherwise harm workers who participated in efforts to toss out the union and breaking a previous settlement agreement with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Local 835 officials operate an exclusive union hiring hall that provides workers for the trade show, convention, and exhibition service industry in the Orlando area.

After investigating the unfair labor practice charges filed by James Zitis and Clay Wayman – who obtained free legal representation from attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation – the NLRB investigators found that union officials had “threatened to kill employees” and “threatened employees with the loss of work opportunities and the loss of their homes and possessions” if they engaged in activity to decertify the union through an NLRB-supervised election.

In addition to naming IATSE Local 835, the NLRB complaint cites two of its top officials, Susan Wolfgang and Peter Merrifield, for their involvement in the harassment.

“The outrageous threats issued by these union officials show they have no respect for the law or employees’ well being,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.

On May 16, 2002, IATSE union officials agreed to accept an NLRB settlement agreement of some of the employees’ charges, which required them to post a notice alerting workers that they only had to pay fees equal to the cost of running the hiring hall. Union officials have failed to live up to the NLRB settlement and continue forcing non-union members to pay fees as a condition of using the hiring hall’s referral process without explaining how the fee was calculated. The NLRB has set the hearing date for July 21, 2003 to examine the charges against IATSE Local 835.

Even though Florida has a highly popular and effective Right to Work law that frees nonunion employees from paying membership dues to an unwanted union, IATSE union officials use their monopoly bargaining privileges to set up exclusive hiring halls. In such halls, the union decides which employees to refer for work at conventions and trade shows, and the workers are forced to pay the union to be eligible for work.

13 Feb 2003

Cleveland State University Employees Hit Union With Federal Civil Rights Suit

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Cleveland, Ohio (February 13, 2003) — With the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, five Cleveland State University (CSU) employees today filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court against a union and university administrators in their official capacities for violating the workers’ First Amendment and due process rights by forcing them to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics.

The five non-union employees –Ronald Walker, Ed Burkhart, Thomas Ensley, Julius Gipson, and Joseph Sirna – filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union Local 4309 and CSU administrators.

“This is a clear case of union officials trying to bully employees into subsidizing objectionable union political activities,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Unfortunately, Ohioans do not have the protection of a Right to Work law, which would give employees a choice about whether a union hierarchy deserves their support.”

From February 2001 to July 2002, CWA union officials illegally seized an agency fee equal to full union dues from non-union employees without providing any explanation of how the agency fee is justified. In July 2002, when CWA officials sent a letter to non-union employees claiming that the agency fee was 75% of full union dues, they failed to provide the workers with an independent audit verifying Local 4309’s claims.

The actions of CWA union officials directly violate the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, which requires union officials to provide objecting employees an advance reduction of forced union dues used for politics and other non-bargaining activities. Under Hudson, union officials must provide audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures made from forced union dues seized from employees who choose to refrain from union membership.

As part of their charges the workers demand an independent audit to verify the claims made by CWA officials and a return of all money that was illegally seized since February 2001, plus interest.

“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Union bosses routinely break the law to try and shake down workers to pay for their political activities,” stated Gleason.

13 Feb 2003

Legal Action Forces Plumbers Union to Refund Illegally Seized Funds

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Cincinnati, OH (February 13, 2003) — Responding to charges filed by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has forced the Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Mechanical Equipment Service union Local 392 to return $4,500 that it illegally seized from employees of Fluor Daniel Fernald’s uranium plant in Hamilton.

Foundation attorneys originally filed the charges on behalf of seven company workers, led by Rick Wilson, after the union threatened to fire them for refusing to pay an illegal fee, which amounted to as much as $750 per worker. The Plumbers union must refund, with interest, the so-called “re-instatement fee” they illegally charged the workers as a condition of keeping their jobs.

“This type of shakedown is a common tactic used by Big Labor to keep workers’ money pouring into their forced-dues coffers,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.

In addition to refunding the illegal fee, the settlement also forces union officials to post a notice alerting employees of the Hamilton plant of their right to refrain from formal union membership and the payment of full union dues. Under law, an employee may resign from formal union membership, pay a reduced fee to cover only the union’s collective bargaining costs, and further challenge the veracity of the union’s calculations.

The case arose after Plumbers union officials violated the workers’ rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision. Under Beck, a case that Foundation attorneys argued and won, workers may halt and reclaim forced union dues spent on politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.

3 Feb 2003

Electrical Workers Vote to Free Themselves from Compulsory Union Dues

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Somerset, Ky. (February 3, 2003) – After union officials negotiated a contract that eliminated key employee benefits, employees of Charter Communications obtained a deauthorization election and voted to prohibit the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union Local 369 from forcing workers to pay union dues as a job condition.

Led by Sarah Lewis, an employee of Charter Communications, the workers voted in an election supervised by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials. Lewis first sought the deauthorization election after union officials announced the contract they negotiated had eliminated workers’ benefits, including matching funds in the 401(k) program, sick leave, and leave for family funerals. Lewis learned of her rights, and received free legal assistance, from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Despite an intense propaganda campaign waged by union officials seeking to scare employees and to demonize Lewis and her employer, 75 percent of the 60 eligible employees voted to strip the union hierarchy of its special privilege to compel payment of union dues.

“The employees of Charter Communications can now force the union hierarchy to be accountable to the interests of rank-and-file workers,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Since workers in Kentucky do not enjoy the protections of a Right to Work law, a deauthorization election is the only way they can break the grip of compulsory unionism.”

In order to hold the deauthorization election, Lewis needed to have over 30 percent of her coworkers sign a petition requesting the election. Once that occurred, Lewis had to obtain “yes” votes from an absolute majority of workers in the bargaining unit. The requirement for an absolute majority, set by the National Labor Relations Act, is more difficult for employees to achieve than the standard for certifying a union, which requires only a majority of those voting.

30 Jan 2003

Legal Action Forces Statewide Teacher Union To Respect Rights of Religious Teachers

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Cincinnati, Ohio (January 30, 2003) – Facing religious discrimination charges and embarrassing media exposure, Ohio Education Association (OEA) union officials have agreed to honor the right of two Gallia County Public Schools teachers, Donna Barnes and Frances Phillips, to have their union dues re-directed to charity because the union’s social advocacy violates their religious convictions.

With free legal assistance from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Barnes originally filed religious discrimination charges against the OEA in 1999. A practicing Christian and member of the New Life Lutheran Church, Barnes objected to supporting the union because it advocates pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality positions.

As part of the agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Barnes’ forced union fees, those which non-members must pay to the union for costs related to collective bargaining, will be diverted to a mutually agreed charity.

“No one should be forced to support financially an agenda they find morally objectionable,” stated Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Teachers across the country, regardless of their faith, are being shaken down to pay for this radical agenda.”

In a related highly publicized ruling last summer, the EEOC found that the National Education Association (NEA) union, the OEA’s national affiliate, is systematically discriminating against religious objectors. An Ohio teacher, Dennis Robey, brought charges against the NEA and its local affiliates after they refused to honor his religious objection to supporting the union because it promotes pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality positions and constantly attempts to interfere with parental rights.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, union officials may not force any employee to support financially a union if doing so violates the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. To avoid the conflict between an employee’s faith and a requirement to pay fees to a union he or she believes to be immoral, the law requires union officials to accommodate the employee – most often by diverting the funds to a mutually acceptable charity.

30 Jan 2003

Court Allows Hawaii Professors to Challenge Union’s Illegal Seizure of Dues for Politics

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Honolulu, Hawaii (January 30, 2003) — By certifying a federal lawsuit as a class action, the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii has allowed 625 non-union members of the University of Hawaii to challenge the money confiscated for politics and other activities by University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) union officials.

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys originally filed the civil rights lawsuit, Swanson v. UHPA, last September on behalf of Sandra Swanson, an instructor at Maui Community College.

Since August 2000, the UHPA and its national affiliate, the National Education Association (NEA), have demanded that all non-members pay an agency fee equal to the cost of full union dues. The union hierarchy never observed employees’ due process rights, including failing to provide an independent audit of the union’s books and records to ensure that objecting employees are not subsidizing non-collective bargaining activities.

“For years, Hawaii’s union officials have been trampling the rights of educators in order to seize union dues to be spent on politics,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.

Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted in the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, union officials must provide independently audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures made from forced union dues seized from teachers who have chosen to refrain from union membership.

According to the constitutional protections construed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Foundation-won decisions of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, the union may only collect compulsory dues that are spent on collective bargaining activity. Politics, lobbying, organizing, public relations, and other non-bargaining activities are explicitly non-chargeable to employees who have exercised their right to refrain from union membership.

The NEA is one of the most politically active unions in the country. Every year, union officials seize millions of dollars in compulsory dues to support candidates and causes that many of their members find objectionable. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of rank-and-file union members object to having their dues spent for political activities.

28 Jan 2003

National Agreement Between Teamsters Union and UPS Illegally Undermines Right to Work Laws

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Raleigh, NC (January 28, 2003) – Attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation today filed an employee’s legal challenge to the national contract signed by United Parcel Services (UPS) and the Teamsters union that illegally requires company officials to pressure tens of thousands of workers to join the union.

Employees laboring in America’s 22 Right to Work states have the right to refrain from union affiliation without interference from officials of a union or an employer.

Douglas Ragone, a non-union member, filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against UPS and the Teamsters. The NLRB is responsible for investigating the charges and will decide whether to prosecute the union and UPS.

A contract provision requires UPS officials in Right to Work states to tell new employees that they should become full dues-paying union members. Ragone is challenging the agreement because the National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from supporting unions and coercing employees into joining them.

“Teamsters officials are afraid to let workers choose for themselves; they know that without the fear of coercion workers will reject unionization,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.

In running afoul of federal statutes, the agreement violates the spirit of North Carolina’s highly popular Right to Work law. Also, a state Right to Work law frees workers from being forced to join or to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

“Teamsters officials wrote this agreement as a direct assault on Right to Work laws around the country,” stated Gleason. “As more workers enjoy the benefits of a Right to Work law, union bosses are turning to more strong-arm tactics to take away their freedoms.”

28 Jan 2003

Supreme Court Upholds Bush Ban on Discriminatory Union-Only Contracting

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 28, 2003) — The U.S. Supreme Court struck down efforts by union lawyers to overturn the Bush Administration’s Executive Order 13202, which bans government-mandated discriminatory union-only contracts, also known as project labor agreements (PLAs), on federally funded construction projects.

The court denied certiorari to an attempt by union officials to appeal a U.S. Court of Appeals decision in AFL-CIO et al., v. Allbaugh et al., which upheld the president’s right to issue the Executive Order banning government-imposed union-only contracts. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed an amicus curiae (Friend of the Court) brief with Associated Builders and Contractors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce arguing that the executive order was not preempted by the congressionally enacted National Labor Relations Act and that President Bush acted within his constitutional authority.

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a step toward protecting workers and taxpayers from higher costs and other abuses that flow from compulsory unionism,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason.

A PLA is a scheme which requires that all contractors, whether they are unionized or not, subject themselves and their employees to unionization to work on government-funded construction projects. PLAs usually require contractors to grant union officials monopoly bargaining privileges over all workers; use exclusive union hiring halls; force workers to pay dues as a condition of employment; and pay above-market prices resulting from wasteful work rules and featherbedding.

A coalition of union officials filed Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, et al. v. Allbaugh, et al. after President Bush issued the order in February 2001 to establish a policy of non-discrimination on federal contracting. More than 80 percent of American contractors and their employees have refrained from unionization.

“PLAs are nothing more than a shakedown — union officials use them to demand taxpayer handouts and government-granted special privileges in exchange for not ordering strikes or causing other disruptions,” said Gleason.

23 Jan 2003

Johnson Controls and UAW Hit With Federal Charges for Collusion in Coercing Workers to Join Union

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Milwaukee, Wis. (January 23, 2003) – In an unprecedented employee challenge to an emerging unionization tactic, attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation today filed federal charges against Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI) and the United Auto Workers union for jointly coercing employees to sign union authorization cards as part of a so-called “neutrality” agreement.

Robert Walach, a non-union member, sought free legal aid from Foundation attorneys to file the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which will investigate the charges and decide whether to prosecute the defendants for unfair labor practices.

Last summer, bowing to pressure brought by UAW union operatives, JCI signed a so-called “neutrality agreement.” Under the agreement union organizers are given full access to non-union employees’ personal information and company facilities. Also, non-union employees are forced to attend “captive audience” speeches in which they are told that, if they do not support the union’s organizing effort, they could risk losing potential job opportunities. (A copy of the text of JCI’s “captive audience” speech is available bly clicking here.)

“This agreement is nothing more than a license for union bosses and weak-kneed employers to threaten and intimidate workers into accepting compulsory unionism,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.

As part of the agreement, workers are denied the ability to reject unionization through a secret ballot election, and union operatives are allowed to sign up workers under a “card check” authorization scheme. Once UAW officials sign up a majority of the workers, then JCI declares the union as the exclusive representative of all the workers, even those who did not sign a card. Under the “card check” unionization process, workers are often misled, harassed, or threatened into signing union authorization cards.

In recent years, as union organizers have had less success in persuading employees to vote for unionization during secret ballot elections, unions have focused on organizing employers. Bolstered by a series of Clinton NLRB rulings, union operatives increasingly use “neutrality agreements” and other “top-down” organizing techniques to force employers to recognize unions without a vote by the workers.

“Big Labor is afraid to let workers choose for themselves in a fair secret ballot election; they know that without the fear of union coercion, the workers will reject unionization,” stated Gleason.

16 Jan 2003

Legal Action Forces Teacher Union to Respect Rights of Religious Objector

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Pasadena, Calif. (January 16, 2003) – Rather than a face an adverse judgment in a religious discrimination suit, California Teachers Association (CTA) union officials begrudgingly have agreed to honor the right of an Arcadia elementary school teacher to have her monthly union fees re-directed to charity because the union’s social advocacy violates her religious convictions.

With free legal assistance from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Victoria Heggem filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against the CTA and its affiliates, the Arcadia Teachers Association (ATA) and National Education Association (NEA), for forcing her to follow the union’s illegal policy that requires teachers to pay a large lump-sum payment as a condition of accommodating religious objections to supporting the union.

Victoria Heggem, a member of the Lake Avenue Congregational Church, objected to association with the CTA union because of its support of resolutions calling for special legal protections for homosexuality and support for abortion.

“It’s outrageous for the union hierarchy to demand that a teacher put allegiance to the union’s radical social agenda ahead of her religious faith,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.

The case arose when Heggem asked ATA officials to accommodate her religious beliefs and divert the dues to a mutually agreed upon charity. To discourage requests for religious accommodations, ATA union officials demanded she pay $700.00, union dues for a full year, in one lump sum at the start of the school year. ATA officials told Heggem that if she did not meet this demand (a demand not imposed on teachers who were not religious objectors), they would not honor her religious objection and would deduct fees from her paycheck that would go directly to the union.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, union officials may not force any employee to financially support a union if doing so violates the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. To avoid the conflict between an employee’s faith and a requirement to pay fees to a union he or she believes to be immoral, the law requires union officials to accommodate the employee – most often by designating a mutually acceptable charity to accept the funds.