Teachers Hit WEA Union with Statewide Class-Action Suit to Reclaim $200,000 in Dues Seized for Politics
SEATTLE, Wash. (March 19, 2001) — National Right to Work Foundation attorneys are filing a class-action lawsuit against the Washington Education Association (WEA) union seeking to reclaim money illegally seized from the paychecks of more than 4,200 teachers to advance the union’s political agenda.
Foundation attorneys filed the class-action lawsuit, Davenport v. WEA, in the Superior Court of the State of Washington in and for the County of Thurston on behalf of teachers who are not union members (but who must still pay agency fees) after WEA union officials illegally seized fees without authorization in violation of Washington’s so-called “paycheck protection” law (Initiative 134).
Since the non-member teachers had not exercised their right to reclaim about $175 (per teacher per year) under a recent Foundation-won court settlement against the WEA union, they are only entitled to reclaim about $10 (per year over five years) attributed to “political activities” under the narrow definition in the mis-named “paycheck protection” law.
The suit asks that about $200,000 in illegally seized fees be returned to the teachers.
“Because flimsy ‘paycheck protection’ laws like this one are so fatally flawed, teachers relying on the law have received little protection of their rights not to fund union electioneering and the like,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason. “However, the Foundation took the case anyway because we always do everything possible under the law to help victims of forced unionism abuse.”
Initiative 134 was intended to prevent union officials from spending government workers’ money for politics without prior authorization. After passage of that law, union officials easily sidestepped the law’s narrow and toothless requirements. Last September, Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) determined that WEA union officials had not secured authorization from nonmembers for the forced union dues spent on the tiny fraction of union political activity actually regulated by the law. Washington’s Attorney General now seeks unspecified sanctions against the WEA union, but is seeking absolutely no damages for the teachers whose rights were violated.
Foundation attorneys have already won a settlement for Washington teachers in Leer v. WEA. Under Leer, about 300 teachers annually reclaim more than $175 each in forced union dues that had been seized by WEA union officials for politics, lobbying, organizing, and other non-bargaining activities. Unlike the flawed Initiative 134, Leer attacked the very basis of forced union dues on constitutional grounds.
However, most non-member teachers have not yet exercised their rights under Leer and have thus been paying nearly full dues to the WEA labor union – even money that the PDC found required affirmative authorization. The more than 4,200 teachers in Davenport were never asked for authorization, so they are seeking a full rebate, plus interest, of the amount that was seized illegally from their paychecks. Teachers are also seeking an injunction prohibiting WEA officials from seizing forced union dues used for influencing elections and supporting political committees without affirmative consent from non-member teachers.
Janesville, Wis. (March 9, 2001) — Responding to charges filed by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that local Teamsters union officials violated the rights of Janesville Products employees by threatening to have them fired, and in one case even arrested, for trying to reclaim illegally seized forced union dues.
A full refund of the illegally seized money from approximately 75 workers could exceed $10,000.
The Regional Director of the NLRB based in Milwaukee issued a formal complaint in response to unfair labor practice charges filed last December on behalf of 14 employees against Teamsters union Local 579. Foundation attorneys filed the charges after union officials demanded that the employees pay almost full union dues without any authorization to collect forced dues under the collective bargaining agreement.
“Teamsters officials must now answer for their systematic shakedown of these employees,” said Foundation Director of Legal Information Randy Wanke. “They weren’t legally entitled to dock these employees’ wages, but they did it anyway.”
The employees filed earlier charges against union officials last October for using a portion of their forced dues for politics. Upon further investigation into that case, Foundation attorneys discovered that the collective bargaining agreement at Janesville Products did not authorize any forced union dues at all from certain employees. Under the agreement, employees who were not members of the union when the agreement went into effect on July 1, 2000, were “grandfathered” out of the forced unionism provision.
Despite that clear provision, Teamsters union Local 579 officials demanded that the non-members pay union dues or forfeit their jobs. The NLRB’s complaint states that a union official even went as far as threatening one of the employees with a “police complaint and possible arrest” for demanding that the union stop seizing forced dues from his paycheck.
The NLRB has given Teamsters union Local 579 officials until March 20 to respond to the complaint. Foundation attorneys intend to ensure that any resolution results in full protection for all qualifying employees at the plant, including full rebates of all dues illegally seized.
PALMDALE, Calif. (March 5, 2001) — A Lockheed Martin employee today filed federal charges against an international labor union after union officials illegally seized forced union dues from his paycheck to fund union political activities.
With the help of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, the aeronautics factory employee, Mark Thomley, filed federal unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union, its District 725 affiliate, and its Palmdale-based Local 727-P affiliate.
“Mark Thomley and his coworkers are being forced to fork over their hard-earned money for political activities they don’t support,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Foundation, a charitable organization that provides free legal aid to victims of compulsory unionism abuse.
The charges state that union officials devised a “rebate” scheme under which they seize fees used for politics and other nonchargeable expenditures from nonmembers’ paychecks. Union bureaucrats do not return the money – which (the charges state) “should never have been taken in the first place” – until several months later.
Union officials’ actions violate the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decision in Communications Workers v. Beck, which held that workers may withhold any forced union dues used for all activities unrelated to collective bargaining. In addition, union officials are violating NLRB rulings (in California Saw and Knife Works and other cases) requiring unions to provide objecting nonmembers with an “advance reduction” of their dues.
Foundation attorneys are demanding that the IAM union halt its practice of collecting full union dues from nonmembers and immediately return all money illegally confiscated from workers under the union’s “rebate” scheme.
Washington, D.C. (February 16, 2001) — A national employee rights spokesman today declared that President George W. Bush’s imminent executive order regarding forced union dues is “only a small, symbolic first step toward curbing compulsory unionism abuse” and warned that far more must be done before employee rights are truly protected.
The Associated Press wire reported this afternoon that President Bush may sign the order as early as tomorrow.
“President Bush’s imminent executive order would only be a small and largely symbolic first step toward curbing compulsory unionism abuse. However, unless the NLRB is actually willing to enforce the law, union officials will continue to shake employees down for political contributions with virtual impunity,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys originally won Communications Workers v. Beck at the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988 on behalf of telephone lineman Harry Beck, thereby establishing that objecting employees may reclaim all forced union dues not used for collective bargaining activities, like politics.
The executive order only affects a small segment of the 12 million American employees compelled to pay union dues as a condition of employment, as it just requires federal contractors to inform workers of their Beck rights by posting workplace notices. Bush’s father issued a similar executive order in April of 1992 that was immediately revoked at the request of union officials as President Clinton took office in 1993. Additionally, the Clinton National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) stonewalled the enforcement of these precious employee protections, often leaving many cases languishing within the bureaucracy for six or more years.
Experts estimate that during the year 2000 elections, union officials spent approximately $800 million on soft money and in-kind political activities, nearly all of it paid for out of union dues collected from employees as a condition of employment. Gleason pointed out that even with full enforcement, the Beck precedent is not a cure-all. Nevertheless, the Foundation’s free legal aid program has ensured that hundreds of thousands of employees are getting substantial dues reductions.
Gleason noted that the best solution is to attack compulsory unionism abuse at its root, not to fashion new regulatory schemes and government bureaucracies to regulate its ill effects. (Many are watching President Bush to see whether he will make good on his pledge to advocate the National Right to Work Act in Congress, a measure that would repeal federal authorization of compulsory unionism, thereby restoring employees’ freedom to choose whether to join or support a union.)
Ultimately, another Foundation case may lead the U.S. Supreme Court to declare monopoly bargaining itself unconstitutional or to go beyond the Beck approach and declare forced dues entirely unconstitutional. (The latter of these two goals could be achieved by a pending Foundation case, Belhumeur v. Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission, now on petition for a writ of certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court.)
DEFERIET, N.Y. (February 12, 2001) — A paper mill worker today filed federal charges against a local industrial union for refusing to recognize his legal right to quit the union and stop paying union dues for politics.
The Deferiet Paper Company employee, Wayne Dimock, turned to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal help after officials at a local affiliate of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical & Energy (PACE) international union refused to acknowledge his objection to union membership. Union officials also threatened to gouge the worker with fines and force his firing from his job unless he became a full member of the union or paid full union dues.
“PACE union officials are systematically violating the civil rights of Wayne Dimock and his co-workers,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a charitable organization that provides free legal aid to victims of compulsory unionism abuse.
The federal charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board against PACE Local 45, state that union officials violated the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision, which holds that workers may resign their union memberships and withhold any union dues used for politics and other non-representational activities.
The politically active PACE union has failed to provide Dimock with an independent audit of its expenditures, in violation of disclosure requirements established in the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson.
Union officials are now threatening numerous other workers at Deferiet Paper Company with fines and discharge for exercising their rights to refrain from union membership and the payment of full union dues.
Foundation attorneys are demanding that any illegally seized forced union dues be returned to these workers.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation today released an analysis revealing that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill is a “Trojan Horse,” containing crafty language designed specifically to gut the U.S. Supreme Court Beck decision.
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys won the U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers of America v. Beck decision in 1988, allowing employees to halt and reclaim all forced union dues not used for collective bargaining activity, like politics.
The legal analysis, written by one of the Foundation attorneys who won the Supreme Court’s Beck decision, demonstrates that the McCain-Feingold legislation would:
- Hand the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) exclusive jurisdiction to enforce Beck — stripping the federal courts of their jurisdiction to do the same. (The NLRB has consistently dragged its heels with regard to Beck enforcement.)
- Overrule 40 years of the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of federal labor laws by sanctioning the use, now prohibited, of compulsory dues for a broad range of political and ideological purposes.
- Repudiate the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1961 decision in Machinists v. Street that no political and ideological activities may be subsidized with compulsory union dues.
- Gut the U.S. Supreme Court Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson decision requiring union officials to provide nonmembers with an independent audit of union expenditures before seizing any forced dues. Under McCain-Feingold, union officials would no longer be required to provide full disclosure.
Fresno, Calif. (January 9, 2001) — Four Bakersfield teachers today filed a federal lawsuit to strike down the California Teachers Association (CTA) union’s statewide policy of seizing forced union dues from teachers’ paychecks that are funneled into questionable and undisclosed union activities, including politics.
The teachers charge that the CTA union’s policy illegally directs local affiliates statewide to seize union dues without first providing an independently audited financial disclosure.
The teachers filed the lawsuit, Lakin v. CTA, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California against the CTA union, its Kern High Faculty Association union affiliate, and Kern High School District (for enforcing the illegal collection of dues).
“CTA union officials devised this statewide scheme to force California’s teachers to fund their massive political operation,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is providing free legal aid to the teachers.
Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as articulated in the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, union officials must first provide independently audited disclosure of their books and prove that forced union dues are not spent on non-bargaining activities like politics.
Using CTA union procedures, hundreds of CTA-affiliated local unions are intentionally circumventing the constitutional requirements for disclosure by claiming that the percentage of the local union activities tied to collective bargaining could be arbitrarily “presumed” to be equivalent to the percentage reported on the CTA union’s financial disclosure.
Under two previous Foundation-won federal court rulings, Sheffield v. CTA and Foster v. CTA, there is absolutely no debate that this “local presumption” scheme is unconstitutional. However, the state’s largest union continues to use it. In this lawsuit, Foundation attorneys seek to have the CTA union’s statewide “local presumption” procedures declared unconstitutional; enjoin the CTA union from directing local affiliates to use those procedures; and enjoin the Kern High Faculty Association union from seizing union dues using those procedures.
Employees to get their day in court after union thugs waged bloody campaign of violence
WINCHESTER, Va. (July 31, 2000) — The Circuit Court of the City of Winchester rejected the arguments of United Auto Workers (UAW) union lawyers attempting to shield the union from its liability for authorizing, ratifying, and condoning a bloody campaign of violence against non-striking workers at Abex Friction Products in 1996.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, representing the terrorized employees, convinced the court that the union could not hide behind Virginia’s Worker’s Compensation Act to insulate it from liability. The four-week strike at the Winchester brake manufacturing plant left a massive trail of violence and vandalism in its wake.
In rejecting the union’s arguments, the court commented, “the workplace is not a jungle in which coemployees may prey upon weaker coemployees.”
As part of the violence campaign, union militants dumped a severed, bloody cow’s head on the hood of a worker’s car and another in a worker’s backyard. In addition to the claims against the union itself, the suit charges several union militants with civil conspiracy and other counts for making death threats, shooting out windows, sending obscene mail, acts of stalking, theft of property, and harassing workers on the job to coerce them into quitting their jobs.
“It’s outrageous that after several union thugs have been criminally convicted and lives have been ruined, the UAW’s lawyers are trying to wash their hands of the bloody terror they caused,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
Foundation attorneys introduced evidence to a Virginia special grand jury that ultimately found that union operatives met at the union hall to organize the violent crimes and distributed newsletters that directly encouraged acts of retaliation against non-striking workers. Additionally, the General District Court found several militants guilty of multiple counts of harassment and violence.
The civil suit will now head for trial on June 4, 2001. The employees seek compensatory and punitive damages from those union activists who perpetrated the terrorist acts as well as Local 149 and the UAW International union for having authorized, ratified, and condoned the acts of violence.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in nearly 500 cases nationwide. Its web address is www.nrtw.org.
Organized labor militancy on the rise throughout America
DETROIT, Mich. — In the wake of a campaign of terror waged against Abex Friction Product employees, a group of ten workers filed suit today against the United Auto Workers (UAW) union for targeting them with a massive campaign of violence, intimidation, and death threats.
As part of the violence campaign, union militants dumped a severed, bloody cow’s head on the hood of a worker’s car and another in a worker’s backyard.
The legal action filed in circuit court in Winchester, Virginia, names UAW Local 149 and the UAW international union as responsible for a brutal terror campaign against employees who worked during a four-week strike in Winchester.
The suit charges UAW union militants with making death threats, shooting out windows, sending obscene mail, and harassing workers on the job to coerce them into quitting their jobs.
“This case shows the rising militancy of organized labor across the country,” said Reed Larson, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is providing free legal representation to the victimized Abex employees. “The UAW gangsters who used bloody cows’ heads and shootings to intimidate these workers must answer for their actions.”
Earlier this year, Foundation attorneys introduced evidence to a special grand jury which ultimately found that union operatives met at the union hall to organize the violent crimes and distributed newsletters that directly encouraged acts of retaliation by union militants against non-striking workers. Additionally, the General District Court has already found several of the militants guilty of multiple counts of harassment and violence.
The union terror campaign targeted, among others, Shucheng Huang, a mother of four who continued to report to work during the UAW walkout. During the strike, union assailants vandalized her car with paint and smashed her windows. Union toughs also placed the severed, bloody head of a cow on the hood of her car.
After the strike was over, union militants shot out Mrs. Huang’s car window as she was driving onto the Abex parking lot. Winchester police arrested the culprits in connection with the attack.
When a newspaper printed pictures of both Mrs. Huang and the severed cow’s head on her car, UAW militants posted her picture on the bulletin boards at Abex under the caption “Wanted Dead or Alive.”
A few days later, Mrs. Huang received an anonymous letter. Enclosed was the photo of the cow’s head on her vehicle with her face superimposed over it.
“Seeking to enjoy freedom and the fruits of labor in America, Mrs. Huang and her family fled the tyranny of the communist regime in Vietnam and became hard-working American citizens,” said Larson. “It’s an embarrassment that this is what America offered in return.”
Other Abex employees who worked during the strike were targeted with slashed tires, theft of property, harassing phone calls, pornographic mail, and acts of stalking.
The civil suit filed today seeks compensatory and punitive damages from those union members actually involved in the terrorism as well as UAW Local 149 and the UAW international union (affiliates of the AFL-CIO union) for having authorized, ratified, and condoned the acts of violence.
“Earlier this month, AFL-CIO top dog John Sweeney vowed that Big Labor will be doing even more in 1997 than it did in 1996,” said Larson. “If that means more cows’ heads, more shot-out windows, and more death threats, then that prospect is absolutely terrifying — just ask workers like Mrs. Huang.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is representing thousands of employees in over 400 cases nationwide.
Arrests anticipated from UAW ranks
WINCHESTER, Va.—A specially-convened Virginia grand jury begins investigation today into bizarre violence after the severed head of a cow was dumped on a worker’s car during a recent United Auto Workers (UAW) union strike.
Attorneys with the Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation introduced testimony and photographic evidence to a standing grand jury last week, indicating that radical elements within the UAW engaged in a pattern of intimidation and terrorism against employees who worked during a four-week strike at Abex Friction Products in Winchester, Virginia.
After hearing the presentation by Foundation attorneys and testimony from one of the victims, the grand jury voted unanimously to ask Judge John E. Wetsel, Jr. to appoint a special grand jury. Judge Wetsel then impaneled a nine-member special grand jury to investigate harassment, intimidation and terrorist acts allegedly committed by union militants to coerce Abex employees who worked during the strike into quitting their jobs.
Judge Wetsel also asked the Commonwealth’s attorney to appoint a special counsel to assist the special grand jury, and directed Winchester police to assign an investigator.
Included in the evidence presented to the grand jury by Foundation attorneys were records of violence directed against Shucheng Huang, an Abex employee and mother of four who continued to do her
job during the UAW walkout. During the strike, unknown assailants vandalized her car with paint, and smashed her windows.Additionally, the severed head of a cow was dumped on the hood of her car.
After the strike was over, union militants fired a ball bearing at Mrs. Huang as she was driving onto the Abex parking lot. Winchester police have made an arrest in connection with the attack.
Local newspapers reported the incidents involving Mrs. Huang on June 28, and included photos of her and of the crime scene. Unknown persons then posted her picture the next day on bulletin boards throughout the Abex plant under the caption, “Wanted Dead or Alive.”
Also, a few days later, Mrs. Huang received an anonymous letter, with a photo of her face superimposed where the cow’s head had been on her vehicle.
Acts against other Abex employees who worked during the strike included slashed tires, theft of property, harassing phone calls, pornographic mail, and alleged cases of stalking.
Foundation attorneys also indicated that there was some evidence of involvement by the Ku Klux Klan. Klan paraphernalia was openly displayed inside the Abex plant by at least one employee.
After its investigation, the special grand jury will issue a report to Judge Wetsel, who can direct action to be taken against the perpetrators and planners of the violence, and thus bring the harassment to a halt.
Additional arrests are anticipated in this round of strike-related violence, and federal authorities may be called in.
“Once again, radical elements inside Big Labor have revealed their taste for violence when workers dare to assert their rights,” stated Rex Reed, executive vice president of the Foundation. “It is time for this ghoulish harassment to end.”
The National Institute for Labor Relations has recorded almost 10,000 media-reported incidents of union violence since 1975. Experts on labor- and strike-related violence estimate that unreported acts of harassment could swell that figure to 100,000 or more.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism. The Foundation is representing thousands of employees in nearly 400 cases nationwide, and can be reached at 1-800-336-3600.