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.
Hartford, Conn. (April 2, 2003) — With the help of attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an employee of Colt Manufacturing filed federal charges today against his bargaining unit’s union for illegally forcing him to pay full union dues – including dues spent in pursuit of the union’s political agenda – or lose his job.
George Gally, a non-union member, filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) union local lodge 376.
“In order to keep stuffing their political coffers with forced union dues, the union’s officials demand that workers shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
Gally originally objected to full union membership more than a decade ago, but under rules set by UAW union officials, has to again renew his objection every year in order to avoid full dues payment. Though Gally renewed his objection to being a full-dues-paying member in response to a union notice to do so, union officials disregarded his objection and have illegally demanded that he tender full dues in order to keep his job.
The actions of UAW union officials violate the workers’ rights established by the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision. Under Beck and subsequent rulings, workers have to right to refrain from full dues-paying union membership, pay a reduced fee to cover only the union’s collective bargaining costs, and refuse to pay for union ideological activities — such as politics.
“This sort of illegal power grab highlights the abuses that flow from compulsory unionism,” said Gleason. “Until workers like Gally enjoy the protections of a Right to Work law, union bosses in Connecticut will enjoy free reign over rank-and-file workers.”
Alleged $802,000 Theft is Merely the Most Recent Example of Financial Problems Involving Massachusetts Teacher Union
Springfield, Va. (March 28, 2003) – When contacted about the recent financial scandal involving the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), National Right to Work Foundation attorney Bruce Cameron issued the following statement regarding reports that former MTA Finance Director Richard Anzivino was accused of stealing $802,000 in compulsory union dues:
“I’m not surprised by this report of financial irregularities in this union. MTA union officials have fought us tooth and toenail all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep their affiliates from being forced to have their finances audited.
“Although we presented evidence of financial irregularities in MTA locals, MTA lawyers were unwilling to accept an audit requirement. Even governmental authorities joined us in arguing the need for audits, and reported on past financial irregularities in MTA locals. The MTA lawyers gave up on their opposition to required local audits only after they lost every appeal.
“For years we argued that the MTA union’s record-keeping was sloppy and inaccurate. In defense of its questioned record-keeping, the MTA lawyers called on the very accountant which it has now reportedly fired for theft, and an outside auditor who reportedly failed to catch the theft.
“Years ago, Massachusetts authorities held that the financial claims MTA officials made against my clients were unlawful. It is hardly shocking to me to read that a top MTA manager is alleged to have stolen money from the union when the union hierarchy for years has been attempting to shake down my clients for compulsory union dues based on questionable financial claims.”
Cameron spent years litigating against the MTA union and its affiliates on behalf of teachers who challenged the accuracy of the financial information the MTA union provided to teachers. Cameron was lead counsel in a case involving a 53-day trial challenging the accuracy of the financial record-keeping of the MTA.
Ohio Attorney General Likely to Part With President Bush by Allowing Discriminatory Union-Only Contracting
Columbus, Ohio (March 24, 2003) — Inside sources revealed that union lobbyists have likely convinced Attorney General Jim Petro to refuse to appeal a high-profile Ohio State Supreme Court decision that voided the state’s Open Contracting Act, a popular measure that bans mandatory union-only contracts or project labor agreements (PLAs) on taxpayer-funded construction projects.
The attorney general faces a deadline of Thursday, March 27, to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court in Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council v. Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners. If Petro does not appeal the Ohio Supreme Court ruling, union officials will be able to force independent workers and contractors across Ohio to submit to compulsory unionism on all state-funded construction projects.
By failing to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, Attorney General Petro will also put himself directly at odds with policies laid down by President George W. Bush – the leader of Petro’s own political party – who signed an Executive Order prohibiting the use of discriminatory union-only PLAs on federally funded construction projects. The Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling explicitly parted with a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling upholding the widely supported Bush directive.
“Aside from betraying Ohio’s taxpayers and independent workers who have much at stake in this legal battle, the attorney general risks alienating key players who will have tremendous influence over whether he will win his party’s nomination for governor,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Meanwhile, there is no political gain in trying to appease union officials who will never support Petro in any meaningful way.”
Currently, Right to Work supporters and non-union employees and contractors across Ohio are mobilizing to counter the pressure union political operatives are putting on Petro. The attorney general’s office has already been contacted by thousands of constituents demanding he support a policy of open contracting in public works projects.
A project labor agreement is a scheme that requires all contractors, whether they are unionized or not, to subject themselves and their employees to unionization in order 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.
After the Ohio legislature passed the Open Contacting Act in 1999, union lawyers sued the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners to retain forced unionism on state construction projects. In December 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed an appellate court ruling upholding the Act. Attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation participated as an amicus curiae in support of the Open Contracting Act, arguing that the state legislature has the right not to finance a form of compulsory unionism with public construction funds.
Washington, D.C. (March 12, 2003) — Inside sources reveal that former Hoffa campaign chief and Teamsters union national field director, Todd Thompson, will be tasked with tripling contributions to the Teamsters political action committee (PAC) and that the funds will be spent to defeat “all GOP candidates” in the 2004 election cycle.
This development appears to represent a shift in strategy by the union’s political operatives who had been willing to support a few left-wing Republicans in the past.
In the 2002 election cycle the Teamster’s PAC, known as DRIVE, spent $2.3 million on behalf of federal candidates. 86 percent of the contributions went to Democrat party candidates – even though studies have consistently shown that 40 percent of union households vote for other candidates.
“This move further demonstrates that Teamsters union officials are totally out of touch with the interests of rank-and-file workers,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Despite all of James Hoffa’s rhetoric about reaching out to Republicans, the reality is that Teamsters officials are nothing more than Democrat party shills.”
This latest move by the union hierarchy also points up the failure of a strategy pursued by the White House political office to make core policy concessions in exchange for union political support. Despite these concessions, union officials have made ongoing attacks on Bush and other Republicans.
For example, over the past eighteen months, the White House political office has: 1) given Teamsters and Carpenters officials significant influence over selection of nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB); 2) encouraged Congress not to hold hearings on legislation that would be embarrassing to union officials, such as legislation to end compulsory unionism; 3) filed arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court opposing review of a NLRB decision that gutted employee rights not to pay forced union dues spent to support objectionable union activities; 4) inserted a discriminatory union-only project labor agreement in the Alaska energy legislation; and 5) signaled its intention to release the corrupt Teamsters union from federal oversight.
“For anyone in the White House who believed they could get Big Labor bosses to play nice in the 2004 elections this is a loud wake up call,” said Gleason. “The Teamsters hierarchy and other union bosses are predictably focused on defeating George W. Bush and retaking both houses of Congress.”
El Paso, Texas (March 11, 2003) – With the help of attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a worker for a federal contractor at Ft. Bliss today filed federal charges against officials of a local engineering union and his employer for illegally forcing him to pay full union dues as a job condition.
Cordev Inc. employee Richard Cabler, a non-union member, filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) union Local 35 and Cordev. The union’s officials illegally threatened to get him fired for refusing to pay full dues, including dues spent for politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
“In an effort to stuff their coffers, union officials are demanding that employees simply shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.
In December 2002, both IUOE union officials and Cordev notified all employees at the Fort Bliss facility that they would be fired if they failed to sign a dues check-off card forcing employees in the bargaining unit to pay full dues. However, the workers never received timely notice of their right to refrain from formal union membership and pay only a reduced fee.
These threats violate the workers’ rights established by the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision. Under Beck and subsequent NLRB rulings, union officials must specifically inform employees of their right to refrain from formal union membership and paying any costs other than those directly related to collective bargaining.
The Cordev controversy is somewhat unique in the Lone Star State, since Texas has a highly popular Right to Work law that bans compulsory unionism. However, because Cordev’s employees work on federal property under exclusive federal jurisdiction, the state’s Right to Work law does not protect them.
“The abusive actions of IUOE union officials show why most Texas workers are fortunate to have the protections of a Right to Work Law,” said Gleason.
Columbus, Ohio (March 4, 2003) — Today, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation sent a letter calling on Attorney General Jim Petro to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court of the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision striking down the state’s highly popular Open Contracting Act.
Last December, in Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council v. Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners, the elected judges threw out the Open Contracting Act, which bans mandatory union-only contracts, or project labor agreements (PLAs), on government construction projects.
If the attorney general does not file an appeal by the deadline of March 27, union officials will be able to force workers across Ohio to submit to compulsory unionism on all state construction projects. The National Right to Work Foundation is also contacting thousands of its Ohio supporters, asking them to contact the attorney general and Governor Bob Taft.
“Union lawyers are trying to strip away any protections that workers and taxpayers have from compulsory unionism,” said Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse. “This is an opportunity for Attorney General Petro to defend Ohio’s workers and taxpayers from the numerous abuses associated with union-only PLAs on government construction projects.”
A PLA is a scheme that requires all contractors, whether they are unionized or not, to subject themselves and their employees to unionization in order 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.
After the Ohio legislature passed the Open Contacting Act in 1999, union lawyers sued the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners to retain forced unionism on state construction projects. In October 1999, a trial court permanently enjoined enforcement of the law. An Ohio appellate court later reversed the lower court’s decision, ruling that the National Labor Relations Act does not prohibit states from banning government-mandated discriminatory, union-only PLAs on government construction projects.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation participated as an amicus curiae in support of the Open Contracting Act. Foundation attorneys argued that the state legislature has the right not to finance a form of compulsory unionism with public construction funds. Ohio’s intermediate appellate court used the Foundation’s arguments to uphold the law in its now reversed ruling. Foundation attorneys plan to file a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the Open Contracting Act, if Ohio’s attorney general appeals.
Springfield, Va. (February 25, 2003) — The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced today that it has hired Hilary Funk., a member of the Virginia State Bar and a magna cum laude graduate of Regent University School of Law.
“Hilary Funk brings to our legal aid organization a real commitment to helping employees fight back against the abuses of compulsory unionism,” said Ray LaJeunesse, Legal Director of the National Right to Work Foundation.
As a staff attorney, Funk will help build on the Foundation’s successful litigation record on behalf of union-abused workers. The Foundation is currently assisting thousands of workers in over 300 case around the country.
Prior to joining the Foundation Funk had served as a counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform. While attending law school, she also worked as a law clerk for the American Center for Law and Justice, and she participated in national and regional student moot court competitions. She received Regent University’s Most Outstanding Law Student Award, Class of 2001.
Funk holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Point Loma Nazarene University, where she received a perfect 4.0 grade point average. She originally hails from Elkville, Ill.
Cleveland, Ohio (February 20, 2003) – With the help of attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation, a teacher of deep religious conviction filed suit against the Lorain County Joint Vocational School Teachers Association (LCTA) for refusing to honor his religious objection to supporting the union financially.
Daniel Reed, a history teacher at the Lorain County Vocational School and a member of Camden Baptist Church, objects to supporting the LCTA local union and its affiliates because they actively promote pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality positions. Foundation attorneys filed the religious discrimination suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division.
“No one should be forced to support a union and social agenda that they find morally offensive,” said 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.”
On August 14, 2001, Reed asked LCTA officials to honor his protected rights as a religious objector. Since then, teacher union officials have refused to fully honor Reed’s request.
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 designating a mutually acceptable charity to accept the funds.
As part of the lawsuit, Reed wants the LCTA and its affiliates to accommodate his status as a religious objector and send all of the union fees that have been illegally confiscated since August 2001 to a mutually agreed upon charity. In addition, Reed is asking for the LCTA to notify all employees of the Lorain County Vocational School of their right to file a religious objection to joining or supporting the union.
The LCTA is an affiliate of the Ohio Education Association (OEA) and the National Education Association (NEA), two of the most powerful and politically active teacher unions in the country. Many teachers object to the unions’ support for abortion, special rights for homosexuals, and other objectionable social causes. In recent months, the OEA has faced multiple findings of discrimination by the EEOC.