Trenton, NJ (July 15, 2003) — In order to protect the rights of non-union government workers to refrain from paying dues to an unwanted union, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed arguments on behalf of Hunterdon County workers attacking the constitutionality of a recently amended state law.
The amicus curiae, or “friend of the court” brief, was filed in Hunterdon County v. CWA, Local 1034 pending in the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division on behalf of Henry Wieczorek and other non-union Hunterdon County employees. The brief challenges the decision by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) ordering the county to seize compulsory agency fees from all employees in the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 1034 bargaining unit.
Foundation attorneys argue there is no compelling state interest to justify PERC’s forcing Hunterdon County to collect compulsory dues from non-union members when county officials have already rejected the requirement during the collective bargaining process. In addition, Foundation attorneys charge that if counties are forced to collect the fees, it will strip away safeguards that protect workers from having compulsory agency fees used to support union politics or other activities not directly related to collective bargaining.
“CWA union bosses want to use the county government as their collection agency and strong-arm workers into subsidizing a union that they do not support,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union officials would rather have the power to compel payment of dues than have to earn employees’ voluntary support.”
Until recently, New Jersey’s county and municipal employees who had refrained from union membership could not be compelled to pay so-called “agency fees” unless local government officials had agreed to such a requirement through the collective bargaining process. However, a new statute signed by Governor McGreevey in 2002 gave union officials the power to utilize a new PERC procedure to force county governments to impose the requirement as a job condition.
Last December, in response to demands from CWA Local 1034, PERC ordered Hunterdon County to begin deducting agency fees from all non-union county government employees. Seeking to defend its employees freedom of association, Hunterdon County officials filed suit against the CWA union challenging the commission’s order. A ruling in favor of the county would strike down the McGreevey law.
Tulsa, Okla. (July 15, 2003) – After National Right to Work Foundation attorneys discovered a collusive lawsuit attacking the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s Right to Work amendment, a Tulsa County judge has ruled to allow an employee represented by Foundation attorneys to intervene in the case in order to defend the law.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Drew Edmondson, embarrassed when his previous decision to sit on the sidelines became public, has also now filed a motion to intervene in the case. However, rather than oppose the union’s motion for summary judgment, the attorney general is merely arguing that proceedings in the Tulsa case should be delayed until the State Supreme Court resolves the other pending legal challenge to the Right to Work amendment. Meanwhile, the attorney general has failed to respond to the Foundation’s formal request for internal documents detailing why the attorney general had previously chosen not to defend the law.
Judge David Peterson of the Oklahoma State District Court for Tulsa County ruled to admit Stephen Weese, an employee of Oklahoma Fixture Company, as a “defendant intervenor” in the case of Eastern Oklahoma Building and Construction Trades Council v. Ralph Pitts. As “defendant intervenor,” Weese can file briefs and his attorneys can make arguments in court defending his financial and liberty interests at stake in the preservation of the Right to Work amendment.
Weese argues, in part, that if the union lawyers prevail in overturning Oklahoma’s Right to Work amendment, which prohibits the abusive practice of forcing employees to pay compulsory dues as a job condition, he will suffer direct financial harm.
“By allowing a pro Right to Work employee and his attorneys to enter the case, the court will finally have the opportunity to hear serious arguments opposing this cynical legal attack on Oklahoma’s Right to Work law,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Since the plaintiff union and defendant employer are in cahoots, the court would have only heard one side of the story.”
Filed quietly on May 13, 2003, in Oklahoma State District Court for Tulsa County, Eastern Oklahoma Building and Construction Trades Council v. Ralph Pitts challenges the Right to Work constitutional amendment on grounds that it somehow violates the Oklahoma constitution. Circumstances suggest that the suit is a “collusion suit” intended by both parties (union and employer) to void the state’s Right to Work law quietly without arguments made zealously by a party that sincerely supports the law.
Legal documents show that the employer defendant, electrical contractor Ralph Pitts, is represented by an attorney who has previously represented International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 584, a member of the plaintiff trades council and the “real party in interest” in this lawsuit. This attorney filed only perfunctory “opposition” to the union’s motion for summary judgment.
Right to Work Foundation to Appeal Ruling that Forces Teachers to Pay for Union Political Activities
SEATTLE, Wash. (July 9, 2003) — After a Washington appellate court threw out provisions of the state’s campaign finance law that required union officials to obtain the prior consent of public employees before spending mandatory union dues for politics, attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced they will seek discretionary review on behalf of more than 4,000 teachers at the state Supreme Court.
The ruling dismissing the teacher’s suit, Davenport v. Washington Education Association (WEA), came in connection with the appellate court’s decision last week to strike down part of Initiative 134, Washington’s so-called “paycheck protection” law, in the related case of Public Disclosure Commission v. WEA.
In that action the Thurston County Superior Court fined the WEA union $400,000 for intentionally violating I-134 and enjoined it from collecting that portion of the agency fee that was used for politics. Despite that ruling, Washington’s so-called “paycheck protection” law, like its counterparts in other states, has proven ineffective in limiting the use of union dues for political activities. In the case of the WEA, the union has actually increased its political resources since the law was passed.
Union lawyers for the WEA had filed an appeal in Davenport after Thurston County Superior Court Judge Daniel Berschauer ruled that the teachers had an implied right of action under I-134 to recover the fees the WEA had used, without their authorization, for political purposes. The trial court also certified the case as a class action on behalf of thousands of non-member teachers.
“These cases just show that so-called ‘paycheck protection’ laws are ineffective in halting the practice of forcing employees to function as ATM machines for union political operatives,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “The only way to make sure workers are protected is to strip Washington union officials of their power to seize union dues from employees as a job condition.”
Even though by its own admission the WEA union spends millions of dollars each year on activities unrelated to collective bargaining, the much-hyped “paycheck protection” regulation has offered little relief to Washington teachers. If the state Supreme Court reinstates the Thurston County court’s rulings, teachers will still only be able to reclaim about $10 each per year, on average, under I-134. Greater relief is available under a settlement of a First Amendment lawsuit litigated by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys in recent years. Under that case, Leer v. WEA, non-member teachers may annually reclaim more than $175 each.
Construction Workers at Will Rogers Airport File Federal Charges Against Union After Illegal Firings
Oklahoma City, Okla. (July 7, 2003) — With free legal aid provided by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a pair of Oklahoma City airport workers filed federal charges today against a local union for illegally causing their termination in retaliation for refraining from union affiliation.
Mitchell Girod and Terry Southerland, both construction workers at the Will Rogers World Airport site in Oklahoma City, filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Last month, ISEC, Inc. managers fired the two employees at the request of union officials with the Arkansas Council of Carpenters and Joiners (ACCJ) under the auspices of an unlawful pre-hire agreement.
A majority of ISEC, Inc. employees had already voted against union representation in an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election. Nevertheless, only weeks later, the union and employer entered into the pre-hire agreement, which requires employees to get clearance from union officials and pay a fee to an exclusive union hiring hall to perform work on the construction site.
“Ignoring the fact that the employees had already rejected unionization, union officials demanded that employees pay up or be fired,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This is the type of tyranny that Oklahomans meant to end when they enacted the state’s Right to Work law.”
The firings violated the law because the employees had rejected unionization within 12 months before the new contract; Girod and Southerland were never informed of their rights; and the union hierarchy specifically retaliated against them for refusing to pay money to the union.
In addition to running afoul of federal law, the agreement violates the spirit of Oklahoma’s highly popular Right to Work constitutional amendment. The amendment, passed in 2001 through a statewide referendum, frees workers from being forced to join or to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Since its passage, Oklahoma has led the nation in several categories of economic growth.
Unfortunately, federal law preempts state law in the hiring hall context. “Hiring halls are used by union bosses to undermine the protections of a Right to Work law,” said Gleason.
Lake Geneva, Wis. (July 1, 2003) — Enjoying free legal aid from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an employee of Trostel SEG, Inc., filed federal charges against local union officials for illegally forcing him to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics.
Brandon Moran, a non-union employee at Trostel’s Lake Geneva plant, filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the Independent Union of National Amalgamated Workers (NAW) Local 711. The NLRB is responsible for investigating the charges and will decide whether to prosecute the union for unfair labor practices.
“NAW union officials’ actions show they only care about stuffing their coffers with union dues rather than respecting the wishes of rank-and-file employees they claim to represent,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
Within the past six months, Moran notified NAW union officials of his resignation from the union and intention to pay only those costs directly related to collective bargaining. NAW union officials have illegally continued seizing full union dues from Moran, claiming Moran had authorized the employer to deduct full union dues from his paycheck. Despite the union’s claims, neither the company nor NAW has shown it has a valid dues deduction authorization on file.
The actions of NAW union officials violate the Foundation-won Communications Workers v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court decision. Under Beck, workers are allowed to resign from formal union membership and halt and reclaim the portion of forced union dues spent on activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as union politics, organizing, and public relations. Union officials must provide workers a list of activities they claim they can compel non-members to subsidize.
“No one should be forced to pay compulsory dues to a union, especially when its officials continually abuse that federally granted special privilege,” stated Gleason. “Until Wisconsin workers enjoy the protections of a Right to Work law, workers will continue suffering this type of abuse at the hands of self-serving union officials.”
Tulsa, Okla. (June 27, 2003) – In a ruling that severely jeopardizes Oklahoma’s recently enacted Right to Work amendment, Judge David Patterson of the Oklahoma State District Court for Tulsa County ruled that the constitutional amendment enacted by the voters is somehow unconstitutional.
Judge Patterson issued the order in Eastern Oklahoma Building and Construction Trades Council v. Ralph Pitts, a recently discovered “collusive lawsuit” filed quietly in May with the apparent intention by both parties (union and employer) of voiding the state’s Right to Work law without serious arguments made by a party that sincerely supports the law.
Learning of the stealth suit, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys – representing Stephen Weese, a Tulsa-area employee – filed a motion two weeks ago to intervene in the suit to ensure that the law was vigorously defended. However, rather than act on that pending motion, the court instead rushed to grant summary judgment for the union and declare that the Right to Work amendment – which protects employees from being fired for refusal to pay union dues – is unconstitutional.
Legal documents show that the employer defendant, electrical contractor Ralph Pitts, is represented by an attorney who has previously represented International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 584, a member of the plaintiff trades council and the “real party in interest” in this lawsuit. This attorney filed only a perfunctory “opposition” to the union’s motion for summary judgment.
Earlier this week, the Foundation filed a formal request under Oklahoma’s Open Records Act with Attorney General Drew Edmondson for all internal documents that reflect discussion as to why the attorney general refused to intervene to defend state law and the will of Oklahoma voters. Aside from telling the media that the attorney general does not “usually” get involved in district court cases challenging the constitutionality of state law, the attorney general’s office has not yet responded to this request. In fact, the attorney general has intervened in similar cases.
“The shenanigans that have taken place in this lawsuit raise serious questions,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the Foundation. “This appears to have been an inside job from the beginning.”
As a “defendant intervenor,” Weese and Foundation attorneys could make arguments to defend his direct financial and liberty interests at stake in the preservation of the Right to Work amendment. Foundation attorneys vow an appeal of the judge’s ruling. On September 25, 2001, Oklahoma became a Right to Work state when voters enacted State Question 695, a constitutional amendment. Since it effect, Oklahoma has led the nation in several economic performance categories – despite a struggling American economy.
Federal Labor Agency To Challenge Union Policies Requiring Workers To Annually Object to Forced Union Dues for Politics
Washington, DC (June 25, 2003) — After years of legal arguments and public pressure brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, the National Labor Relations Board General Counsel has finally agreed to challenge a common union tactic of requiring employees to object every single year if they don’t want union officials to spend their compulsory union dues for political activities.
The union requirement that employees object year after year – rather than once – has dramatically hampered the effect of a well-known U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing that employees cannot be compelled to pay union dues for political and other non-collective bargaining activities.
“Union officials use these annual objection schemes to hamstring and demoralize employees so that their forced-dues money continues to flow into union political coffers,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the Foundation. “Though encouraging, the NLRB General Counsel’s decision finally to prosecute this tactic as an unfair labor practice is a merely a small step towards vigorous enforcement of employees’ right to withhold union dues spent for partisan politics.”
The first-ever complaint issued by the General Counsel’s office on this issue came years after two federal courts ruled that such a requirement is illegal. The complaint arises out of unfair labor practice charges filed at the NLRB by Foundation attorneys on behalf of Patrick Quick and four other employees. A former president of Graphic Communication International (GCI) Union Local 735-S, Quick lives in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and retired recently.
In 1999, Quick notified Local 735-S union officials of his desire to resign his union membership, a right affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Patternmakers v. NLRB. The union maintains a policy that employees must annually renew their objections if they desire a reduction in their forced union dues so that they are only subsidizing collective bargaining activity.
Foundation attorneys contend that this annual objection requirement violates worker protections established by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1998 Communications Workers v. Beck decision. Under Beck, a case argued and won by Foundation attorneys, non-members cannot be forced to pay for costs unrelated to collective bargaining, such as union political activity.
National Worker Rights Advocacy Group Launches Ad Campaign to Educate Employees Subjected to UAW Union’s Top-Down Organizing Pro
Detroit, Mich. (June 23, 2003) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation today announced it has launched a national ad campaign to educate the public about the abusive nature of the increasingly prevalent union organizing tool known as a “neutrality agreement.” Under these pacts, employers are required to substantially assist union organizers in corralling employees into union ranks.
The ads are currently running in targeted communities where the United Auto Workers (UAW) union is rolling out its coercive organizing drive at Big Three suppliers located in cities such as Glasgow, Kentucky; Gaffney, South Carolina; Lowell, Michigan; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Athens, Tennessee. Numerous other communities are on the advertising target list for in the coming weeks.
The newspaper ads expose several tactics – some of which are illegal – employed by union operatives under these coercive “neutrality agreements.” Under these agreements, employers typically turn over employees’ names, addresses, and other personal information to union organizers who then conduct “home visits.” They also give union organizers wide access to company facilities, and conduct company-paid “captive audience” speeches during which employees are told that they risk losing job opportunities if they opt against unionization. Additionally, employees are usually stripped of the opportunity to decide on unionization through a traditional secret ballot election.
“When workers see their employer working hand-in-glove with union organizers, they feel tremendous pressure against exercising their legally protected right to refrain from union affiliation,” stated Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation, which provides free legal assistance to employee victims of compulsory unionism abuse. “The ads are intended to inform employees that they have the right to resist the harassment and threats that have become so common during these top-down organizing drives.”
Pressured by UAW officials, crippling strikes, and the “Big Three” auto makers, companies such as Johnson Controls, Magna International, and Freightliner have signed one of these so-called “neutrality agreements” requiring the major suppliers to assist in efforts to unionize employees at their non-union facilities across America.
The use of “neutrality agreements” is part of a larger national trend in union organizing. 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 instead, thereby short-circuiting employee consent. For more information or to obtain copies of the ads, please call Dan Cronin, National Right to Foundation Director of Legal Information, at 703-770-3317.
Tulsa, Okla. (June 19, 2003) – Obtaining free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a Tulsa-area worker this week asked to intervene in state court to defend Oklahoma’s Right to Work constitutional amendment against a stealth union lawsuit filed without fanfare two months ago.
Filed in Oklahoma State District Court for Tulsa County, Eastern Oklahoma Building and Construction Trades Council v. Ralph Pitts challenges the Right to Work amendment on grounds that it violates the Oklahoma constitution. Circumstances suggest that the suit is a “collusion suit” intended by both parties (union and employer) to void the state’s Right to Work law quietly, without arguments made zealously by a party that sincerely supports the law.
Meanwhile, the state’s Democrat attorney general quietly declined to intervene to defend the Right to Work amendment. Neither the attorney general nor any party to the suit has publicly revealed its existence, even though it could overturn the will of a majority of Oklahoma voters.
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys representing Stephen Weese, an employee of the Oklahoma Fixture Company in Tulsa, learned of the suit from a legal brief filed by union lawyers in the Oklahoma Supreme Court as part of proceedings in another lawsuit filed against the Right to Work amendment on entirely separate grounds. That case, which awaits a final ruling by the state’s highest court, challenged the amendment on grounds that certain provisions were preempted by federal law.
Weese filed papers this week with the Tulsa court seeking to be admitted to this new case as a “defendant intervenor” to ensure that his attorneys can file briefs and make arguments to defend his direct financial and liberty interests at stake in the preservation of the Right to Work amendment.
“Stephen Weese shows real courage by coming forward to stand up for worker freedom across Oklahoma,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “As a defendant intervenor, Weese will be able to make sure the court hears arguments that Oklahoma’s Right to Work law is beneficial to employees.”
In this new “stealth” lawsuit, union lawyers argue the Right to Work law is unconstitutional under the state constitution, even though the Right to Work law was passed as an amendment to the state constitution.
On September 25, 2001, Oklahoma became a Right to Work state when voters enacted State Question 695, a constitutional amendment which bans the widespread practice of forcing workers to join an unwanted union or pay any union dues as a condition of employment. Since Right to Work took effect in Oklahoma, the state has led the nation in creation of new jobs – despite a struggling American economy.
San Diego, Calif. (June 16, 2003) — Responding to charges filed by an employee of the City of San Diego, a California Public Employment Relations Board (CPERB) Administrative Law Judge has ordered the San Diego Municipal Employees’ Association (MEA) union to stop discriminating against non-union members by illegally withholding benefits.
Enjoying free legal assistance from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Tanya DuLaney originally filed charges in March 2002, after MEA union officials withheld dental and eye care coverage from all non-union employees. The MEA union officials’ actions violated several California statutes that are intended to protect an employee’s right to abstain from membership and that require union officials to represent employees fairly.
The scheme, part of the Memorandum of Understanding between the union and the city, was designed to pressure employees into signing up as formal union members, thereby causing them to give up certain rights, including the ability to refrain from funding union political activities.
“This prosecution is a small step towards protecting independent workers who routinely suffer discrimination at the hands of California government union bosses,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Unfortunately, as long as union officials are given a monopoly on representing employees and other compulsory unionism privileges, this abuse will continue to be prevalent.”
The labor board judge has ordered city and MEA union officials to form a benefits plan that does not interfere with workers’ rights to remain independent of union representation, and the city must post a notice informing workers of the CPERB decision.
With the support of Governor Gray Davis over the past five years, government union officials have seized control over much of California’s economy and workforce. For example, Davis has signed several laws that require hundreds of thousands of teachers and other public employees to pay union dues as a job condition.