SACRAMENTO, Calif. (April 23, 2002) – The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California today ordered the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) union to return nearly $300,000 to California state employees who were illegally forced to pay for lobbying and other union political activities.
U.S. District Court Judge Garland E. Burrell, Jr., ruled that the union had seized almost $100 per employee over a seven-month period in 1999 and ordered the union to pay nominal and compensatory damages to 3,200 non-union employees, totaling approximately $298,000.
“Today’s ruling shows that California’s union officials cannot get away with ripping off the working men and women of this state,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation, which provided free legal aid to the workers.
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys originally filed the class-action suit, Wagner v. PECG, in September 1999 on behalf of Richard Wagner, an investigator for the California Air Resources Board in the Sacramento area, and Kristin Schwall, a water quality engineer from San Diego. In February 2002, the case was deemed a class-action suit, enabling all 3,200 non-union government workers under the PECG’s statewide memorandum of understanding (MOU) – also known as a collective bargaining agreement – to join the suit.
The PECG is one of California’s most politically active unions. At unusually high levels, union officials have seized union dues and used them to fund its ballot initiatives and other political activities. The court held that 56 percent of the amount charged to non-union employees was not lawfully chargeable to non-members, as it was for politics and other activities not shown to be related to bargaining. In union budgets since 1999, the percentage of dues spent for politics has risen to more than 75 percent of full union dues. In recent weeks, the state engineers filed a related class-action complaint seeking a similar rebate for dues illegally seized since April 2001.
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.
Buffalo, N.Y. (April 16, 2002) — With the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, four Laidlaw Transit Services employees filed charges against Teamsters officials for illegally forcing them to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics, and failing to notify them of their right to refrain from formal union membership.
The four workers, Alfonso Ditillio, June Reinard, Jill Galluzzo, and Tim Stalker, have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 449.
“It should come as no surprise that the Teamsters union has such a negative reputation after the way they have lied to and misled these workers,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
Teamsters officials never notified the workers of their right not to join the union and pay a reduced agency fee, rather than the full union dues. When the employees participated in a campaign to decertify the Teamsters as their representative, they were harassed by union officials. After they finally learned of their rights and resigned from the union, in October, 2001, Teamster officials continued to charge them full union dues.
The four worker are seeking to have their dues reduced to the legal minimum. In New York, employees are forced to pay compulsory union fees as a condition of employment.
“This is another example of the corruption and crookedness that plagues the Teamsters,” stated Gleason. “Because New York does not have a Right to Work law to protect people, the Teamsters still have the power to shake down and coerce workers.”
The Teamsters actions 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 who are not protected by a Right to Work law may resign from formal union memberships and halt and reclaim the portion of forced union dues spent on politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
New York, N.Y. (April 15, 2002) — With the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a New York University (NYU) employee today filed charges against union officials for illegally forcing her to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics.
Raechel Legakes, a non-union member, is filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against United Staff Association of New York University (USANYU), Local 3882.
“This is a clear case of union officials demanding workers shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Without the protection of a Right to Work law, New Yorkers are forced to pay compulsory union dues or risk losing their jobs.”
When Legakes began working for NYU in January, union officials failed to notify her of her right to refrain from joining the union and to pay a reduced agency fee to the union. Instead, the USANYU has demanded she pay the full cost of union dues, and has refused to provide a breakdown of how the agency fee is calculated. Under New York law, if Legakes does not pay the agency fee, she could be fired from her job.
The USANYU is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the AFL-CIO, two of the most politically active unions in the country. Every year, both organizations 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.
“Unfortunately, this not an isolated incident. Union bosses routinely break the law to try and shake down workers to pay for their political activities,” stated Gleason.
The actions of USANYU officials directly violate the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, which requires unions 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 have chosen to refrain from union membership.
Los Angeles, Calif. (April 11, 2002) – With the help of attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation, Victoria Heggem filed suit against the Arcadia Teachers Association (ATA) for religious discrimination. Foundation attorneys filed the suit today in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Ms. Heggem, a devout member of the Lake Avenue Congregational Church, asked ATA officials to accommodate her religious beliefs (which prevent her from supporting an organization involved in activities she considers immoral) and instead divert the dues to a mutually agreed upon charity.
In retaliation, ATA union officials demanded Heggem pay $700.00, union dues for a full year, in one lump sum. ATA officials told Heggem that if she did not meet this demand (a demand not imposed on any other teachers), they would not honor her religious objection and would begin automatically deducting fees from her paycheck that would go directly to the objectionable union.
“No one should be forced to support a union and political agenda that they find morally offensive,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This is a fight to protect people of faith from being harassed by union bosses.”
Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, unions must accommodate sincere religious objectors like Heggem by allowing them to make charitable contributions in lieu of paying union fees.
The ATA is an affiliate of the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the National Education Association (NEA), two of the most powerful and politically active teachers’ unions in the country. Many teachers object to the unions’ support for abortion, special rights for homosexuals, and other objectionable social causes.
“Unfortunately, this not an isolated incident. Teachers across the country, regardless of their faith, are being shaken down to pay for this radical agenda,” stated Gleason.
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (April 8, 2002) – After National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed a series of legal actions against National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) Local 308, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled the union must pay $13,900 to non-union employees who had been denied payment for working overtime.
The case arose when NPMHU officials reached a settlement for overtime reimbursements for work done at the Philadelphia Air Mail Center in 1996 and 1997. But, union officials had refused to submit the names of non-union employees to be paid for their work. When questioned about the payments by non-union members, union officials used stalling tactics and reacted with hostility.
“It is amazing to think that anyone would trust the postal union brass after the way they treated the workers at this facility,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “They tried to deny people their wages since they would not submit to the union’s authority.”
Union officials were also found to have abused the rights of employees in other ways. As a result of the judge’s ruling, the NPMHU officials must also post a notice alerting all the employees of their right not to join the union, and that NPMHU officials will not fail to represent nonmembers, or any other employees, in a fair and impartial manner.
“The callous discrimination these workers endured points up the injustice of the privileges handed to union officials under federal law,” said Gleason.
Though postal employees are denied their right to bargain individually, they do have the right to refrain from joining or financially supporting a union. Union officials may not discriminate against nonmember employees on the basis of union status. Meanwhile, other employees in Pennsylvania are not protected by a Right to Work Law, thereby allowing union officials to force employees through-out the state to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 5, 2002) — Attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have forced Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 108 to drop their vindictive suit against City of Anderson employee Michael Thompson.
In March, union officials filed the suit against Thompson, a non-union member who works in the city’s water pollution control department, claiming that he owed them $609.72 in back dues, including dues the union may have spent for political activities. Once the union realized that Thompson was represented by Foundation attorneys, they dismissed the suit.
To counter the charges brought by UWUA officials, Foundation attorneys showed that Thompson was never provided with the required disclosure of how non-member fees were spent. As a non-member, Thompson may only be compelled to pay for union expenses that are directly related to collective bargaining and contract administration. Under Foundation-won rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, Thompson cannot be forced to pay anything until these First Amendment due-process rights are respected.
“The UWUA never intended to provide a record of how they spent workers’ hard-earned money,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It’s simply pay up and shut up.”
The actions of UWUA officials directly violate the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, which requires unions 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 have chosen to refrain from union membership.
Statement from Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
Regarding the home care workers’ class-action lawsuit:
“No American should be forced to support a labor union in order to work for a living. But that is a freedom that officials of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are attempting to take away, in order to rake in millions of dollars in forced union dues.
“A vast majority of Los Angeles County’s 80,000 home care providers did not vote for and did not want a union to interfere with their employment. Many never knew the union even existed, until they were chagrined to discover their wages being seized by the county and handed over to SEIU Local 434b.
“That’s when the National Right to Work Foundation began receiving calls from the distraught home care providers who requested free legal assistance to protect their First Amendment Rights.
“With the help of Foundation attorneys, these home care workers are fighting back – despite the personal risks involved in opposing a notoriously militant union. It turns out that this new forced unionism scheme, which “magically” turns independent contractors into public employees for collective bargaining purposes only, may well be unconstitutional.
“This appears to be nothing more that a union fundraising scheme to rip off those who care for the elderly and disabled, to say nothing of the millions of taxpayer dollars at stake in Los Angeles County alone; and then there is the rest of California, as well as Washington and Oregon. It’s no wonder that the union bosses are reacting with such hysteria to the class action lawsuit.”
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (April 2, 2002) — After scores of home care providers contacted the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation regarding a class action suit seeking to overturn a new statewide forced unionization scheme, Foundation attorneys filed an amended complaint adding additional plaintiffs and claims against the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) and Los Angeles County.
The civil rights class action suit challenges, on constitutional grounds, the entire scheme that arbitrarily deems private care providers as “public employees for collective bargaining purposes only” and imposes forced union representation and forced union dues as a job condition.
Even if the scheme were found to be constitutional, Foundation attorneys have discovered that SEIU Local 434B union officials have failed to provide adequate financial disclosure and have been seizing dues (from 80,000 home care providers to elderly and disabled citizens) in amounts well in excess of its own agreement with Los Angeles County.
“This compulsory dues rip-off scheme is a slap in the face to working people who just want to work without union interference,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Those who want to be affiliated with a union should have that right, but a vast majority of the 80,000 home care providers never voted in favor of a union.”
The additional named plaintiffs include Carla West (a single African-American parent who cares for her elderly mother), Eden Rosen, and Brenda Davis. They are joining a suit originally brought by Janos Hummel against the AFL-CIO-affiliated Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 434B, the Personal Assistance Services Council (PASC) of Los Angeles County, and Attorney General Bill Lockyer, along with several other California officials.
Foundation attorneys will soon file for a preliminary injunction to stop union fee seizures from non-members.
The AFL-CIO has hailed the forced unionization of the 80,000 home care providers as organized labor’s single largest organizing victory ever. Sacramento and San Diego counties and, more recently, Oregon and Washington state, have since adopted virtually identical schemes.
The class-action lawsuit asks that SEIU Local 434B’s entire contract with PASC, and as well as its ability to collect forced dues from independent home care providers, be revoked as an unconstitutional infringement on workers’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. National Right to Work Foundation attorneys are also demanding all illegally seized union dues be returned to the plaintiffs.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (March 28, 2002) — With the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, two Sacramento city employees, Hewett Hesterman and Michele Rudek, have filed a federal suit against the city of Sacramento and the Western Council of Engineers (WCE) union for forcing the illegal firing of workers who refuse to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics.
Foundation attorneys also filed for a temporary restraining order against the city in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
“Hesterman and Rudek should not have their careers destroyed for opposing the union’s agenda,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “How can union officials claim to be on the side of workers when they thwart their ability to make a living?”
The situation arose last month, when WCE officials demanded that non-union employees pay an agency fee equal to full union dues or face termination from their jobs. In response, Hesterman and Rudek asked for a written account of how the union spends workers’ dues and asked for a reduction in the fee because they were not union members. In violation of the employees’ constitutional and due-process rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court, WCE officials rejected both of these requests and had Hesterman fired last Friday, March 22. Rudek has been notified she will be fired on April 4 if she refuses to pay the full agency fee.
Since the union officials have flagrantly violated the employees constitutional rights, Foundation attorneys are seeking a court order to reinstate Hesterman to his job and to prevent Rudek from being fired, in addition to having their dues demands reduced to an amount that covers only expenses that directly relate to collective bargaining. Hesterman is also demanding all back pay he would have earned had he not been illegally dismissed.
The actions of WCE officials directly violate the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, which requires unions 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 have chosen to refrain from union membership.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 25, 2002) – In a stunning 11-0 reversal of its previous unanimous ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the new nationwide rule of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that union officials may force 7.8 million employees to pay for union organizing drives as a condition of employment.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation immediately announced it will appeal today’s ruling – authored by Judge Stephen Reinhardt (a former union attorney and former executive committee member of the Democratic National Committee) – to the U.S. Supreme Court. In recent years, the Ninth Circuit has been overturned by the High Court more frequently than any other federal appellate court.
“No worker should be forced to fund the recruitment of supporters to a private ideological cause,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This ruling is an outrageous affront to employee freedom and previous rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In its original 3-0 ruling issued early last year, the Ninth Circuit overturned the NLRB for abusing its discretion when it parted with Supreme Court precedent establishing that employees cannot be compelled to pay for union recruitment activity. Unless overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, today’s en banc ruling will compel 7.8 million American employees who work in compulsory union shops under the National Labor Relations Act to pay union organizing expenses or lose their jobs. Organizing expenses often exceed 20-30% of a union’s budget.
Many labor law experts agree that the Ninth Circuit’s decision directly violates previous rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. Under the Court’s 1988 ruling in Communications Workers v. Beck, a case brought by Foundation attorneys, employees may not be forced to pay for union political activities and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining, contract negotiation, or grievance adjustment. In the Foundation-won precedent Ellis v. Railway Clerks, the High Court determined that union organizing expenses were clearly unrelated to collective bargaining, and thus employees who are not members of a union could not be legally forced to financially support this activity.
In establishing the nationwide precedent, the Court of Appeals decided against grocery store employee Phillip Mulder and five other employees, who originally filed the case (with the help of Foundation attorneys) against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union.