Oklahoma City, Okla. (April 29, 2003) – Ironically arguing that the state of Oklahoma cannot protect the right to join a union, union lawyers have successfully stalled a final decision as to whether Oklahoma’s popular Right to Work constitutional amendment will be upheld.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit – based in Denver – has ruled that certain provisions of the Right to Work law are preempted by federal law, but has referred to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court the state law question as to whether the core of the law is “severable” and will ultimately be allowed to stand.
“This is a last ditch effort by union bosses to defy the will of Oklahoma’s voters, who decisively rejected Big Labor’s self-serving propaganda and scare tactics by establishing a statewide policy of voluntary unionism,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation, whose legal-aid attorneys have been representing employees defending the Right to Work law from this union attack.
“Oklahoma citizens are already reaping the economic benefits of the new Right to Work Law, to say nothing of the additional protection of individual rights that it provides. That is why union operatives are so angry.”
In September 2001, Oklahoma voters enacted State Question 695, making Oklahoma the nation’s twenty-second Right to Work state. The Right to Work constitutional amendment bans the widespread union practice of forcing workers to join an unwanted union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.
In November 2001, the Oklahoma AFL-CIO, six local unions, and a heavily unionized company filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma to overturn the amendment. The U.S. District Court ruled favorably on motions submitted by Governor Frank Keating’s legal team and attorneys for the National Right to Work Foundation, who represented three Oklahoma workers in defending the law.
The District Court held that, as in other states, the Right to Work law cannot be enforced with regard to employees covered by the Railway Labor Act (RLA) or employees of the federal government. But the law clearly and constitutionally protects employees who work for private companies under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The Tenth Circuit in a ruling issued recently held that the provision in Oklahoma’s Right to Work Law that protects the right to join a union is also preempted by the NLRA (which already protects that very right), and thus can only be enforced as to public employees in the state. The State Supreme Court must now decide whether the preempted provisions of the law are severable from the core of the law, which establishes the right of employees not to join or financially support an unwanted union.
Teacher Files Suit to Establish Right of Union Members to Withhold Funds Spent for Union Political Agenda
Benton, Tenn. (April 24, 2003) — In a rare challenge to the coercive power of union officials to compel teachers to support political activities as a condition of union membership, a Polk County teacher filed suit against the National Education Association (NEA) affiliates in Tennessee for expelling him from the union because he objected to supporting their political activities.
Dewey Esquinance, with the help of attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation, filed the suit against the NEA’s affiliates, the Polk County Education Association (PCEA) and the Tennessee Education Association (TEA), in the state of Tennessee Circuit Court of Polk County.
If victorious, Esquinance’s suit will result in either 1) the right for full union members to withhold union dues spent for ideological activity without losing their right to vote on the collective bargaining agreements that bind them, or 2) a ruling striking down union monopoly bargaining power — also known as “exclusive representation”– as unconstitutional under the Tennessee constitution.
“This case will test whether NEA officials care more about actually representing workers, or simply shaking them down to finance their radical political agenda,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
In September 2002, Esquinance joined the PCEA and began paying full union dues, even though he objected to the NEA’s political agenda. When Esquinance notified union officials that he wanted to remain a full union member, but only pay for activities related to collective bargaining, union officials informed him his union membership was terminated and there was no appeal process.
Esquinance objects to the NEA and its affiliates using his dues to promote a political agenda that takes pro-abortion, pro-race preferences, and pro-homosexuality positions. The NEA is one of the most politically active unions in the country; every year it seizes millions of dollars in compulsory dues to support candidates and causes that many teachers members find objectionable.
However, as a non-member Esquinance loses several privileges that union members enjoy, including voting on the collective bargaining agreement that binds him to certain terms and conditions of employment, as well as a voice in determining the criteria for teacher evaluations, control of sick bank donations, and access to teacher training. As a non-union member, Esquinance would automatically forfeit these benefits.
Esquinance is challenging the membership dues based on the rights established by the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Under Abood and subsequent rulings, employees have a constitutional right to refuse to pay for union non-collective bargaining activities and ideological activities — such as politics.
Washington, D.C. (April 22, 2003) – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia today upheld President George W. Bush’s Executive Order requiring federal contractors to post notices informing employees that they cannot be compelled to join a union or pay union dues spent for partisan politics or other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
The 2-1 decision overturns a previous ruling from the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia that invalidated the President’s Executive Order. In addition to defending the order as amicus curiae in the case, the National Right to Work Foundation had called upon the Bush administration to appeal the District Court’s original decision and delivered over 100,000 signed grassroots petitions urging President Bush to defend his Executive Order from union attack.
“This ruling is a step toward informing employees they have the right not to be shaken down to pay for union political activities,” stated Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “No employee should be forced to fund a political agenda they abhor as a job condition.”
Signed on February 17, 2001, Executive Order 13201 would affect a segment of the 12 million American employees compelled to pay union dues as a condition of employment, as it requires companies with federal contracts to inform workers of their rights under the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Communications Workers v. Beck. Bush’s father issued a similar Executive Order in April of 1992 that was immediately revoked at the request of union officials when President Clinton took office in 1993.
Additionally, the Clinton National Labor Relations Board stonewalled the enforcement of these precious employee protections, often leaving many cases languishing within the bureaucracy for six or more years. To this day, the NLRB has failed to enforce the Beck decision aggressively.
In January 2002, Judge Henry H. Kennedy of the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia enjoined the implementation of the President’s directive on the grounds that the action was preempted by Congress – despite the fact that Bush’s Executive Order only seeks to enforce the Supreme Court’s interpretation of congressionally enacted law. In May 2001, a group of unions filed the case, known as UAW-Labor Employment and Training Corporation et al. v. Chao et al.
Las Vegas, Nev. (April 21, 2003) — The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and ruled it is a violation of federal law for union officials to arbitrarily expel workers from an exclusive union hiring hall, deny them the ability to obtain work, and offer them no means of reinstatement.
The court’s ruling comes in a case brought by Las Vegas-area worker Steven Lucas, with the help of attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation, challenging a ruling from the Clinton-NLRB. In 1999, the NLRB ruled in favor of union officials from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 720 who faced unfair labor practice charges after expelling Lucas from the hiring hall and arbitrarily denying him any possibility for future reinstatement.
“Employees should not face arbitrary and vindictive tactics at the hands of union bosses when running their hiring hall monopolies,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Through their mistreatment of Lucas, union officials were sending a message to other employees that the union hierarchy rules the roost.”
Lucas was a union member from 1981-1992 and used the hiring hall until 1994, when union officials illegally and arbitrarily expelled him from the hiring hall. By not allowing Lucas to be reinstated in the hiring hall, IATSE union officials denied him opportunities to work in the Las Vegas trade show and convention industry.
Even though Nevada 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.
“Hiring halls allow union officials to undermine state Right to Work laws which are supposed to protect employees from compulsory unionism abuse,” stated Gleason. “The Ninth Circuit ruling gives workers a measure of protection from this corrupt system.”
Washington, D.C. (April 15, 2003) – The National Right to Work Foundation today blasted officials of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union for continuing to exploit America’s national security concerns for private gain by shutting down warplane production for the U.S. military.
Directly from the union playbook used during other periods of national crisis, the strike at Lockheed Martin’s key Fort Worth, Texas, facility threatens to halt production of the F/A-22 jet fighter, which will replace the F-16 jet fighter. By ordering a strike, IAM union officials are attempting to force workers to put their allegiance to the union ahead of their employer and their country. In the past, workers who have decided to continue working have been the victims of hefty fines, harassment, and union violence.
The Foundation announced it will provide free legal aid to workers seeking to honor their commitments to their families by continuing to work during the strike free from union retaliation.
“Big Labor’s actions are callous and opportunistic. True to form they are exploiting a national crisis to force acceptance of their excessive demands,” stated Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “This is a perfect example of why workers should be freed from government-backed forced unionism, which gives union bosses a virtual stranglehold over workers’ jobs and America’s economy.”
In March 2002, IAM union operatives also attempted to use strikes to halt production of the F-22 jet fighter and C130-J military transport planes, which were being used at the time by American forces in Afghanistan as part of the war on terrorism.
Union officials have a long history of using national crises to expand their power and influence. During the Second World War, Big Labor used strikes and work stoppages to impose forced unionism on hundred of thousands of workers. In the most notorious of these strikes, union officials were able to shut down vital iron mines and ultimately persuaded the federal government to mandate that all mining employees pay union dues as a condition of employment.
By the end of World War Two, over 78 percent of unionized employees were governed by contracts that required them to pay union dues as a condition of employment, an increase by a factor of four.
In addition to the threat of strikes, union operatives have used the terrorist attacks on September 11 to try and advance forced unionism on Capitol Hill. In the days following the attack, union lobbyists attempted to push a bill that would impose forced unionism on police and fire-fighters, but so far have been defeated in their efforts. Union officials have described the bill, which was passed out of Ted Kennedy’s Senate Labor Committee last year without even a hearing, as “the largest expansion of labor (union) rights considered by Congress in decades.”
Milwaukee, Wis. (April 10, 2003) – Citing the expiration of a six-month statute of limitations, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) avoided adjudicating unfair labor practice charges filed against Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI) and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union for jointly coercing employees to sign union authorization cards as part of a so-called “neutrality” agreement.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys will appeal the dismissal of the first-of-its-kind case to the NLRB’s General Counsel in Washington, DC. Meanwhile, the Foundation is stepping up its efforts to locate union-abused employees in the many other JCI workplaces where the statute of limitations may not yet have expired.
“We are committed to protecting workers from having their rights trampled under these insidious so-called ‘neutrality’ agreements,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “As union operatives increasingly use this organizing tactic to impose compulsory unionism on employees, we are certain that more individuals will come forward to challenge this new type of employer-union collusion.”
Robert Walach, a non-union member, filed the charges in January against JCI and the UAW union challenging the so-called “neutrality” agreement as a violation of the National Labor Relations Act. As part of the agreement, workers are denied the ability to reject unionization through a secret ballot election, and union operatives are permitted to attain the appearance of support by using the notoriously abusive “card check” authorization scheme. Once UAW officials sign up a majority of the workers, JCI agrees to declare the union as the exclusive representative of all its workers, even those who did not sign a card.
Bowing to pressure brought by UAW union operatives, JCI originally signed the pact last summer to halt crippling strikes staged by UAW officials at various unionized JCI facilities. Under the agreement union organizers are given full access to non-union employees’ personal information at the company’s 26 non-union facilities. The company’s 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 from Big Three automakers.
Union operatives increasingly use “neutrality agreements” and other “top-down” organizing techniques to force employers to recognize unions without a vote by the workers. The National Right to Work Foundation’s legal challenge to this tactic is the first of its kind.
Oceanside, Calif. (April 9, 2003) — With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, three City of Oceanside police officers filed charges with the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against the local policemens’ union hierarchy for overtly discriminating against them as non-union members.
Led by Detective Bobbie Joe Garza, the officers filed the unfair labor practice charges after the Oceanside Police Officers Association (OPOA) union illegally attempted to collect forced dues from their paychecks without providing an independent audit of how the forced fees were spent.
The OPOA union officials’ actions violate California statutes and regulations that are intended to protect an employee’s right to refrain from formal membership, and not pay for activities unrelated to collective bargaining- such as union political activity. The charges seek to cease attempts to collect forced dues from all non-union members by the OPOA union until it provides an independently audited calculation of its costs.
“This is a shakedown scam pulled by government union bosses to keep money pouring into their political coffers,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This violation of these officers’ constitutional rights is symptomatic of the union’s emphasis on playing politics rather than representing employees.”
Last month, OPOA union officials began illegally deducting the forced fees, totaling nearly $600 annually per officer, from the paychecks of non-union police officers. Though the union hierarchy provided a so-called “compilation” of its expenditures, the document specifically stated that the listing was not an audit, despite requirements of PERB Regulation 32992.
Under Governor Gray Davis, California’s public sector unions have become notorious for their misuse of public employees’ forced dues for politics. Just last year, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California ordered the Professional Engineers in California Government union to return nearly $300,000 to California state employees who were illegally forced to pay for lobbying and other union political activities.
San Francisco, Calif. (April 8, 2003) — Rejecting arguments from union lawyers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has affirmed the nearly unanimous vote of hundreds of Swissport Corporation employees to strip a major union of its power to force them to pay union dues as a job condition.
Last October, Swissport employees voted by a margin of 212-11 in the NLRB-supervised deauthorization election to remove the mandatory dues provision in the collective bargaining agreement with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union District Lodge 190, Local 1414. Despite the overwhelming vote, however, IAM lawyers tried to overturn the election on the grounds that Swissport illegally intervened, but the NLRB rejected all of the union lawyers’ claims.
“These results show that even in Big Labor strongholds like San Francisco, workers overwhelmingly reject the notion of compulsory unionism,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation which provided free legal aid to the employees. “For workers in California, who do not enjoy the protection of a Right to Work Law, a deauthorization election is the only way they can break the grip of compulsory unionism.”
Led by Swissport worker Kirk Williams, the employees filed a petition to obtain an election under supervision of the NLRB. Williams decided to seek the deauthorization election after becoming frustrated that IAM union officials were indifferent to the needs of the rank-and-file.
In order to trigger the deauthorization election, Williams needed to obtain signatures from at least 30 percent his coworkers. Once that occurred, for the deauthorization to pass, Williams had to get an absolute majority of workers in the bargaining unit to vote “yes.” The requirement for an absolute majority established by the National Labor Relations Act is more difficult for employees to attain than the standard for certifying or decertifying a union, which requires only a majority of those actually voting.
Though federal law still denies the employees their right to bargain with their employer individually on their own merits, IAM union officials may no longer compel Swissport employees to pay for unwanted union representation.
“Union officials disdain the accountability that inherently flows from voluntary unionism,” stated Gleason. “Now, IAM officials will have no choice but to sell union membership on its merits, rather than using force.”
HARRISBURG, Penn. (April 4, 2003) — In a long-running civil rights suit brought by Pennsylvania teachers, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that local affiliates of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) union must have their books independently audited to justify how they spend teachers’ compulsory union fees.
The ruling came in a case brought by Marsha Otto and six other non-union Pennsylvania teachers who challenged how PSEA union officials were spending their compulsory dues. The teachers, who were represented by attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation, charged union officials were illegally using their forced dues to pay for non-collective bargaining activities while refusing to provide meaningful financial disclosure.
“PSEA union lawyers have fought tooth and nail for years in order to keep teachers in the dark about how their forced dues are spent,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “With this victory, Pennsylvania teachers will finally have an opportunity to hold the union accountable.”
The teachers brought suit because they wanted union officials to provide an independent audit detailing how their compulsory dues were being spent, so they could verify that their money was not illegally spent on union politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining. In an earlier settlement, union officials agreed to return amounts spent for certain types of non-collective bargaining activity, but they refused to agree to provide the independent audits required by U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
The actions of teacher unions’ officials violated the teachers’ rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments as articulated in the Foundation-won Supreme Court decisions Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson. Under Abood and Hudson, teachers that exercise their right not to join a union cannot be legally forced to pay for union activities unrelated to collective bargaining — such as politics, organizing, public relations, and lobbying — and must be provided several procedural protections.
“This settlement is a small step toward freeing teachers from being forced to support the PSEA’s political agenda,” said Gleason. “But the only way to fully protect teachers from this kind of abuse is to end compulsory unionism.”
Court Allows 2,800 California Engineers to Challenge Union Funding of Ballot Initiatives and Politics
Sacramento, Calif. (April 3, 2003) — By certifying a federal suit as a class action, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California this week has allowed more than 2,800 California state employees to challenge the money illegally confiscated for politics and other activities by the Davis Administration and Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) union officials.
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed the class-action suit, Hoirup v. PECG, in March 2002 on behalf of Donald Hoirup, who works for the California Department of Conservation California Geologic Survey in Sacramento.
Hoirup filed the complaint on behalf of all non-member government workers under the PECG’s statewide memorandum of understanding (MOU) – also known as a collective bargaining agreement – who have been illegally forced to pay for union political activities. The employees are asking the court to provide the abused workers with retroactive refunds, with interest, on all dues illegally collected since April 1, 2001.
“Union officials are trying to get away with using California state employees as their personal political ATMs,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Rather than actually represent these workers, union operatives simply want them to shut up and pay up.”
The PECG is one of California’s most politically active unions. Union bosses have seized compulsory dues from workers and used them to fund ballot initiatives and other political activities. According to the union’s own records, over three-fourths of PECG’s $8.1 million annual budget for the year 2000 was used for political activities.
On April 1, 1999, then newly elected Governor Gray Davis signed the MOU which forced all workers under the agreement to pay illegally high dues to PECG union officials.
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 not collect compulsory dues spent on activities unrelated to collective bargaining. 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.