National Employee Rights Advocate Calls Upon Ohio Attorney General to Oppose Union Discrimination
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.
National Right to Work Foundation Adds New Attorney to Expert Legal Team
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.
Union Sued for Violating Lorain County Teacher’s Religious Freedom
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.
NLRB Orders Union to Respect Worker’s Right to Know How Confiscated Dues Are Spent
Richland, Wash. (February 19, 2003) — After International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 280 violated previous settlement agreements, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued an order requiring the union to stop forcing non-union employees of Fluor Daniel Hanford Inc. to pay full union-dues, including dues spent for politics.
The NLRB issued the decision in response to charges filed by attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation on behalf of Jeanne Olsen, an employee of Fluor Daniel Hanford. Since November 1996 union officials have violated Olsen’s rights by illegally seizing compulsory union dues from her without observing her due-process rights, including providing an audited statement of how forced dues are spent.
As a non-union member Olsen cannot be forced to fund non-bargaining activities, such as political activities. On October 25, 2001 Olsen, the NLRB’s general counsel and IUOE Local 280 union officials entered into an agreement in which the union agreed finally to follow the law. However, union officials ignored the agreement and continued illegally to seize dues from Olsen.
The full NLRB has now approved the agreement. If IUOE Local 280 does not obey the board’s order then the union will be prosecuted in federal court.
“What incredible arrogance. For years these union officials just thumbed their noses at the government’s prosecutors and the employees the union claims to represent,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This shows the lengths that union officials will go keep workers’ mandatory union dues flowing into their coffers.”
As part of the decision, the NLRB mandated the posting of a notice alerting employees of Fluor Daniel Hanford, Inc. of their right to refrain from formal union membership and payment of full union dues.
The actions of IUOE Local 280 officials violated Olsen’s rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision. Under Beck, a case that Foundation attorneys argued and won, workers may halt and reclaim forced union dues spent on politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
Union Faces Trial At Labor Agency For Threatening to Kill Dissident Workers
Orlando, Fla. (February 14, 2003) — The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 835 officials face federal prosecution for illegally threatening to “kill” or otherwise harm workers who participated in efforts to toss out the union and breaking a previous settlement agreement with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Local 835 officials operate an exclusive union hiring hall that provides workers for the trade show, convention, and exhibition service industry in the Orlando area.
After investigating the unfair labor practice charges filed by James Zitis and Clay Wayman – who obtained free legal representation from attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation – the NLRB investigators found that union officials had “threatened to kill employees” and “threatened employees with the loss of work opportunities and the loss of their homes and possessions” if they engaged in activity to decertify the union through an NLRB-supervised election.
In addition to naming IATSE Local 835, the NLRB complaint cites two of its top officials, Susan Wolfgang and Peter Merrifield, for their involvement in the harassment.
“The outrageous threats issued by these union officials show they have no respect for the law or employees’ well being,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
On May 16, 2002, IATSE union officials agreed to accept an NLRB settlement agreement of some of the employees’ charges, which required them to post a notice alerting workers that they only had to pay fees equal to the cost of running the hiring hall. Union officials have failed to live up to the NLRB settlement and continue forcing non-union members to pay fees as a condition of using the hiring hall’s referral process without explaining how the fee was calculated. The NLRB has set the hearing date for July 21, 2003 to examine the charges against IATSE Local 835.
Even though Florida has a highly popular and effective Right to Work law that frees nonunion employees from paying membership dues to an unwanted union, IATSE union officials use their monopoly bargaining privileges to set up exclusive hiring halls. In such halls, the union decides which employees to refer for work at conventions and trade shows, and the workers are forced to pay the union to be eligible for work.
Cleveland State University Employees Hit Union With Federal Civil Rights Suit
Cleveland, Ohio (February 13, 2003) — With the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, five Cleveland State University (CSU) employees today filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court against a union and university administrators in their official capacities for violating the workers’ First Amendment and due process rights by forcing them to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics.
The five non-union employees –Ronald Walker, Ed Burkhart, Thomas Ensley, Julius Gipson, and Joseph Sirna – filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union Local 4309 and CSU administrators.
“This is a clear case of union officials trying to bully employees into subsidizing objectionable union political activities,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Unfortunately, Ohioans do not have the protection of a Right to Work law, which would give employees a choice about whether a union hierarchy deserves their support.”
From February 2001 to July 2002, CWA union officials illegally seized an agency fee equal to full union dues from non-union employees without providing any explanation of how the agency fee is justified. In July 2002, when CWA officials sent a letter to non-union employees claiming that the agency fee was 75% of full union dues, they failed to provide the workers with an independent audit verifying Local 4309’s claims.
The actions of CWA union officials directly violate the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, which requires union officials 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 choose to refrain from union membership.
As part of their charges the workers demand an independent audit to verify the claims made by CWA officials and a return of all money that was illegally seized since February 2001, plus interest.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Union bosses routinely break the law to try and shake down workers to pay for their political activities,” stated Gleason.
Legal Action Forces Plumbers Union to Refund Illegally Seized Funds
Cincinnati, OH (February 13, 2003) — Responding to charges filed by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has forced the Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Mechanical Equipment Service union Local 392 to return $4,500 that it illegally seized from employees of Fluor Daniel Fernald’s uranium plant in Hamilton.
Foundation attorneys originally filed the charges on behalf of seven company workers, led by Rick Wilson, after the union threatened to fire them for refusing to pay an illegal fee, which amounted to as much as $750 per worker. The Plumbers union must refund, with interest, the so-called “re-instatement fee” they illegally charged the workers as a condition of keeping their jobs.
“This type of shakedown is a common tactic used by Big Labor to keep workers’ money pouring into their forced-dues coffers,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.
In addition to refunding the illegal fee, the settlement also forces union officials to post a notice alerting employees of the Hamilton plant of their right to refrain from formal union membership and the payment of full union dues. Under law, an employee may resign from formal union membership, pay a reduced fee to cover only the union’s collective bargaining costs, and further challenge the veracity of the union’s calculations.
The case arose after Plumbers union officials 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 may halt and reclaim forced union dues spent on politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
Electrical Workers Vote to Free Themselves from Compulsory Union Dues
Somerset, Ky. (February 3, 2003) – After union officials negotiated a contract that eliminated key employee benefits, employees of Charter Communications obtained a deauthorization election and voted to prohibit the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union Local 369 from forcing workers to pay union dues as a job condition.
Led by Sarah Lewis, an employee of Charter Communications, the workers voted in an election supervised by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials. Lewis first sought the deauthorization election after union officials announced the contract they negotiated had eliminated workers’ benefits, including matching funds in the 401(k) program, sick leave, and leave for family funerals. Lewis learned of her rights, and received free legal assistance, from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Despite an intense propaganda campaign waged by union officials seeking to scare employees and to demonize Lewis and her employer, 75 percent of the 60 eligible employees voted to strip the union hierarchy of its special privilege to compel payment of union dues.
“The employees of Charter Communications can now force the union hierarchy to be accountable to the interests of rank-and-file workers,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Since workers in Kentucky do not enjoy the protections of a Right to Work law, a deauthorization election is the only way they can break the grip of compulsory unionism.”
In order to hold the deauthorization election, Lewis needed to have over 30 percent of her coworkers sign a petition requesting the election. Once that occurred, Lewis had to obtain “yes” votes from an absolute majority of workers in the bargaining unit. The requirement for an absolute majority, set by the National Labor Relations Act, is more difficult for employees to achieve than the standard for certifying a union, which requires only a majority of those voting.
Legal Action Forces Statewide Teacher Union To Respect Rights of Religious Teachers
Cincinnati, Ohio (January 30, 2003) – Facing religious discrimination charges and embarrassing media exposure, Ohio Education Association (OEA) union officials have agreed to honor the right of two Gallia County Public Schools teachers, Donna Barnes and Frances Phillips, to have their union dues re-directed to charity because the union’s social advocacy violates their religious convictions.
With free legal assistance from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Barnes originally filed religious discrimination charges against the OEA in 1999. A practicing Christian and member of the New Life Lutheran Church, Barnes objected to supporting the union because it advocates pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality positions.
As part of the agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Barnes’ forced union fees, those which non-members must pay to the union for costs related to collective bargaining, will be diverted to a mutually agreed charity.
“No one should be forced to support financially an agenda they find morally objectionable,” stated 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.”
In a related highly publicized ruling last summer, the EEOC found that the National Education Association (NEA) union, the OEA’s national affiliate, is systematically discriminating against religious objectors. An Ohio teacher, Dennis Robey, brought charges against the NEA and its local affiliates after they refused to honor his religious objection to supporting the union because it promotes pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality positions and constantly attempts to interfere with parental rights.
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 diverting the funds to a mutually acceptable charity.
Court Allows Hawaii Professors to Challenge Union’s Illegal Seizure of Dues for Politics
Honolulu, Hawaii (January 30, 2003) — By certifying a federal lawsuit as a class action, the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii has allowed 625 non-union members of the University of Hawaii to challenge the money confiscated for politics and other activities by University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) union officials.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys originally filed the civil rights lawsuit, Swanson v. UHPA, last September on behalf of Sandra Swanson, an instructor at Maui Community College.
Since August 2000, the UHPA and its national affiliate, the National Education Association (NEA), have demanded that all non-members pay an agency fee equal to the cost of full union dues. The union hierarchy never observed employees’ due process rights, including failing to provide an independent audit of the union’s books and records to ensure that objecting employees are not subsidizing non-collective bargaining activities.
“For years, Hawaii’s union officials have been trampling the rights of educators in order to seize union dues to be spent on politics,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as interpreted in the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, union officials must provide independently audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures made from forced union dues seized from teachers who have chosen to refrain from union membership.
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 only collect compulsory dues that are spent on collective bargaining activity. 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.
The NEA is one of the most politically active unions in the country. Every year, union officials 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.