22 ago 2002

Statement of Stefan Gleason

Posted in News Releases

Today’s guilty plea by top union auditor Frank Massey, partner at Thomas Havey, LLP, is merely a small step down the road toward rooting out union corruption. Havey is widely recognized nationwide as the unions’ audit firm of choice — every union audit and disclosure prepared by the audit firm is now suspect.

Union officials have long lived limousine, all-expense-paid lifestyles. Unfortunately, rank-and-file workers are forced by federal law to foot the bill with their mandatory union dues. But when union officials and their auditors falsify the minimal information that they must disclose, employees are left completely in the dark about how their hard-earned money is spent.

But the answer does not simply lie in stricter audit and disclosure requirements. The answer is to eliminate the numerous union special privileges granted by federal law in the first place. It is those privileges and legal immunities that make union officials feel infallible, and the resulting culture of arrogance leads to rampant corruption.

While there are many, the greatest of these privileges is the federally authorized power to collect compulsory union dues. Nearly 8 million Americans are forced to pay more than $5 billion in compulsory dues as a condition of employment.

“Compulsory unionism and corruption go hand in hand.” So said Senator John McClellan (D-AR), who chaired the Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field (generally referred to simply as the “McClellan Committee”) and held extensive hearings on union corruption in 1959. The upshot of these hearings was the passage of the Landrum-Griffin Act that among other things, requires unions to annually disclose certain financial information the information that Thomas Havey, LLP and Frank Massey have apparently helped unions avoid disclosing.

It’s time to end compulsory unionism. Only then will workers have the power to withdraw their support and hold the union hierarchy accountable.

19 ago 2002

Appellate Court Rules Public Employers Have Duty to Protect Workers From Union Abuse

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Albuquerque, N.M. (August 19, 2002) –The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled public employers and unions may not conspire to violate the First Amendment rights of employees. Specifically, the court ruled that public employers have a duty to ensure that employees are not compelled to support union political activities with their mandatory union dues.

The ruling came in Wessel v. Albuquerque, a case brought by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys on behalf of city government employees against the city of Albuquerque and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Local 624, after the city deducted union dues used for activities unrelated to collective bargaining, including support of union politics, and without proper procedural protections.

Like most agreements around the country, the collective bargaining agreement included an indemnification clause whereby the union promises the city that it would pay all legal costs in defending a suit filed by employees whose constitutional rights were violated. These agreements remove the incentive for the employer to ensure the union is not mistreating workers.

“Union officials should not be allowed to bribe employers to do their dirty work by promising to reimburse all legal costs that arise out of violating employees’ First Amendment rights,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This ruling is a small step toward curtailing the power of union officials to shake down workers for political contributions.”

The case was originally filed in January 2000 by Rory Wessel of Albuquerque, and 13 other city employees, after the city of Albuquerque heeded the demands of union officials of AFSCME Local 624 to withhold compulsory union dues from employees’ paychecks without legislative authorization and without observing constitutional due process requirements.

The court ruled that indemnification agreements violate First Amendment protections as articulated in the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson. Under Hudson, union officials must provide independently audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures before seizing any forced union dues from employees who have chosen to refrain from union membership.

15 ago 2002

Steelworker Hits Union with Unfair Labor Practice Charges

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Buffalo, N.Y. (August 15, 2002) — With the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an employee of the Lancaster Steel Service Company filed charges against steelworkers union officials for failing to notify him, and the entire workforce, of their right to refrain from formal union membership.

The charges also allege that union officials are illegally forcing these employees to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics.

The employee, David Powers, has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) Local 222-1 and parent United Steel Workers International (USWI).

“This is a clear case of union bosses lying to the workers they claim to represent,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “No one should be forced to pay compulsory dues to a union, especially when its officials egregiously abuse that federally granted special privilege.”

Union officials never notified Powers, and the other employees of their rights. As part of his complaint Powers wants the union to return all of the money that is being illegally seized and used for activities unrelated to collective bargaining.

“Because New Yorkers are not protected by a Right to Work law, union bosses will continue to have the power to shake down and coerce workers to support their pet political causes and other activities,” said Gleason.

USWA and USWI union officials’ actions violated the workers’ rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision. Under Beck, a case that Foundation attorneys argued and won, workers who are not protected by a Right to Work law may resign from formal union membership and halt and reclaim the portion of forced union dues spent on politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.

13 ago 2002

Union Pension Plan Insiders Face Federal Charges For Cheating Union Workers

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Washington, DC (August 13, 2002) — A national employee rights advocate today filed federal charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the Union Labor Life Insurance Company (ULLICO) for secretly contributing to labor unions through their top officials at the expense of rank-and-file union members and compulsory fee payers.

With assets totaling over $4 billion today, ULLICO was established in 1925 and today invests funds from unions, labor pension funds, and individual stockholders. ULLICO, whose directors are almost exclusively presidents and other officials of major unions, is already the target of a federal grand jury investigation in Washington, DC, which is investigating possible criminal activity.

The federal unfair labor practice charges filed today by Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, allege that ULLICO directors used their positions to allow themselves to sell their personal portfolios of ULLICO stock at a dramatically higher price than they were worth, but would not allow larger shareholders – such as individual union pension funds set up for the benefit of union members and compulsory fee payers– to sell their stock during the same period. These transactions were kept secret for nearly two years until they came to light in April.

“The self-dealing of ULLICO officials reveals the corruption that results from the numerous special privileges conferred upon union officials by federal law,” said Gleason. “While union officials have been talking about corporate corruption, at firms like Enron they have been similarly exploiting rank-and-file workers.”

During the late 1990’s, ULLICO bought significant holdings in Global Crossing which skyrocketed in value. In late 1999, before ULLICO’s stock price was to be increased, ULLICO President Robert Georgine sent a confidential letter to ULLICO board members – virtually all of whom are union presidents – encouraging them to purchase up to 4,000 shares of stock at $53.94. Georgine knew the stock’s value would increase significantly at the next revaluation. Then, in May 2000, ULLICO’s board raised the price of company stock to $146 per share, knowing that the new price was well above its true value since Global Crossing’s stock value had been plummeting dramatically throughout 2000.

In November 2000, ULLICO’s board authorized a stock repurchase at the inflated price of $146 a share, which permitted directors to sell back their personal holdings. But they permitted larger stockholders only to sell back a small portion of their ULLICO stock. By allowing themselves to liquidate their personal holdings at an inflated price, ULLICO’s board of directors made significant profits to the direct detriment of others who had invested in ULLICO. In Spring 2001, the value of ULLICO stock was revalued at $74 a share, and only then were union pensions, which are set up for employees, free to sell their ULLICO stock.

Public reports indicate that among those who personally profited from these secret transactions were Douglas McCarron, President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Martin Maddaloni, President of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, and Morton Bahr, President of the Communications Workers of America.

8 ago 2002

Graduate Student Hits Michigan State University With Complaint for Violating Privacy Rights

Posted in News Releases

East Lansing, Mich. (August 8, 2002) — With the help of attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, teaching assistant Samuel Howerton today filed a complaint against Michigan State University (MSU) for illegally disclosing confidential information to union operatives. Howerton filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), after the University violated his rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Under FERPA, a student’s education record cannot be released to a third party without their written consent, and students can ask to have even their basic information kept confidential. The actions of MSU officials thereby violate the federal statute that has been on the books since 1974.

Over Howerton’s written objections, and despite repeated assurances to the contrary, the University handed over his confidential information (including his contact information) to the GEU. Howerton is also challenging the University’s policy to disclose to the union how much each teaching assistant is paid and what amount of forced union dues is deducted. Additionally, the disclosure of the amount of the stipend implicitly discloses education background and work history, since the amount of the stipend is directly based on those factors.

“University officials have been bending over backwards to help GEU officials impose themselves on dissenting teaching assistants,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “By failing to respect the rights of teaching assistants, MSU is making it easier for union officials to abuse students and threaten the principles of academic freedom.”

In violation of FERPA, the University and GEU agreed to have every teaching assistant sign dues deduction authorization/membership cards that effectively operate as a waiver of confidentiality. MSU officials never informed the students that they did not have to sign away their rights under FERPA to prevent third parties from gaining access to their private education records.

Howerton is asking the federal government to investigate MSU’s role in providing the GEU with confidential information. In addition, Howerton is asking to have any consent obtained from teaching assistants who were not informed of their rights to be declared invalid, the university to discontinue the dues deduction authorization/ membership program, and MSU officials to provide written notice to all graduate students as to what their rights are under FERPA.

7 ago 2002

Legal Action Forces Local Union to Respect Teacher’s Religious Freedom

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San Jacinto, Calif. (August 6, 2002) – In response to charges filed by attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, San Jacinto Education Association (SJEA) officials affiliated with the California Teacher Association (CTA) and the National Education Association (NEA) unions have dropped their demands against a local teacher whose sincere religious beliefs prevented him from joining and supporting the union.

“No one should be forced to support a union that they find morally offensive,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Without the protections of a Right to Work law, Californians will continue to suffer discrimination as a result of forced unionism.”

Last Fall, Rick Still learned that the SJEA and its affiliates were advocating policies he considered morally objectionable, including support for publicly funding of abortions and special rights for homosexuals. Rather than support an organization whose agenda compromised his Christian beliefs, Still asked SJEA officials to remove the conflict by allowing him to divert his compulsory dues to a mutually agreed upon charity.

When union officials refused his request, Still contacted attorneys at the National Right to Work Foundation, who helped him file unfair labor practice charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, union officials must accommodate sincere religious objectors by allowing employees to make charitable contributions in lieu of paying union fees.

Under legal pressure, the union hierarchy has now agreed to allow the San Jacinto Unified School District teacher to divert his forced dues to a local college scholarship fund, instead of funding the union.

‘“Unfortunately, this not an isolated incident. Teachers across the country, regardless of their faith, are being shaken down to pay for the NEA’s radical agenda,” said Gleason.

2 ago 2002

Court Upholds Teachers’ Right to Know How Union Spends Confiscated Dues

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San Francisco, Calif. (August 2, 2002) – The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that local affiliates of the California Teacher Association (CTA) must provide teachers with an independent verification of how they spend employees’ forced union dues.

With the help of attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the case was brought by San Jose teacher Kim Sheffield, and seven other California teachers, against the CTA and eight of its locals in March 2000. The Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed the U.S. District Court ruling that the locals cannot collect agency fees until they provide an independent verification of how their agency fees were calculated. Without an outside accountant’s verification, non-members cannot determine whether they are being forced to pay for union activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as the union’s political agenda.

“The court’s decision is a small step toward preventing teachers from getting ripped off by union officials,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “For too long, union bosses have gotten away with hiding their use of employees’ forced union dues to support their radical political agenda.”

Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as articulated 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 proven to be 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 CTA and its national affiliate the National Education Association (NEA), are two of the most politically active unions in the country. Every year, both organizations seize millions of dollars in compulsory dues to support candidates and causes that many of their members find objectionable. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of rank-and-file union members object to having their dues spent for political activities.

30 jul 2002

Statewide Union Must Allow Refund of $87,000 in Dues Illegally Seized From Teachers

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Boston, Mass. (July 30, 2002) — In a long running legal battle that twice made it all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission (MLRC) has ordered the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) and National Education Association (NEA) to release $87,000 in union fees that were illegally seized from 350 teachers across the commonwealth.

Under the Commission’s ruling – which ends the teachers’ 13 year case brought with the help of attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation – the MTA and NEA must release from escrow union fees that were illegally demanded from teachers from 1987 to 1992. If the teachers had not filed challenges, then the fees would have been used to pay for union politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining. Under Massachusetts law, if a teacher does not want to join the MTA they are still forced to pay a fee that covers collective bargaining activity, or be suspended or fired.

“The decade-long hassle the teachers received in fighting for their rights proves the great problem workers have stopping unions from using their money for politics,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Until Massachusetts’ workers have the protection of a Right to Work law they will continue to be harassed and ripped off by union bosses.”

The case began in 1989, when Springfield teacher Jim Belhumeur refused to join and support the NEA’s ideological activity. Teacher union officials had Belhumeur, a former Springfield representative for the American Federation of Teachers, suspended for refusing to pay full union dues. With the help of Foundation attorneys, Belhumeur was able to challenge the amount union officials demanded in agency fees without continuing to be suspended each year.

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, a 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.

25 jul 2002

Settlement Punishes Union for Misleading Workers and Illegally Seizing Dues for Politics

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Lancaster, Pa. (July 25, 2002) — The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) forced United Steelworkers of America (USWA) Local 1035 into a settlement of unfair labor practice charges brought by attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for Raymond Vojtowicz, an employee of Acme Markets Incorporated.

As part of the settlement, USWA Local 1035 must honor Vojtowicz’s resignation from the union and refund his dues and fees that were used for non-representational purposes. The union must also post a notice alerting employees of Acme Markets of their right to refrain from formal union membership and that they will reimburse all non-member employees for any dues seized for non-representational purposes since October 24, 2001.

“The greed and corruption of this USWA local’s officials is outrageous,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “They have been misleading and lying to the people they claim to protect, just to keep the money flowing into their political machine.”

Vojtowicz contacted the Foundation after USWA Local 1035 officials had threatened to take “disciplinary” action against him for participating in a deauthorization election in January 2002. The NLRB found that Vojtowicz could not be disciplined by the union because they never notified him of his right to refrain from union membership and pay a reduced fee that covers activities related only to collective bargaining.

USWA Local 1035 officials violated Vojtowicz’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.

25 jul 2002

Government Demands That Teamsters Union Return Dues Illegally Seized From Workers

Posted in News Releases

Buffalo, N.Y. (July 25, 2002) — Responding to federal labor charges filed by attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint to force Teamsters Local 449 to refund dues illegally collected from employees of Laidlaw Transit Services after they were expelled from union membership for voicing opposition to the union.

The case arose when four workers, Alfonso Ditillio, June Reinard, Jill Galluzzo, and Tim Stalker, filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB in April 2002. In October 2001, the employees exercised their right to resign from formal union membership and to pay a reduced fee to cover only the costs of collective bargaining. However, Teamsters officials illegally refused to accept their resignations and continued charging them full union dues.

In December 2001, Teamsters officials further harassed the workers by expelling them from the union for participating in a decertification election to remove the union from the workplace. Even after the expulsion, union officials continued to demand that the four workers pay full union dues.

“This is another classic example of the corruption and bully tactics that has earned the Teamsters such an embarrassing reputation,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “So long as New Yorkers labor under forced unionism, this kind of abuse will invariably continue.”

The NLRB seeks an order requiring Teamster official to refund all of the union dues collected from the workers since December 2001. Under law, if an employee is kicked out of a union for any reason other than failing to pay union dues he cannot be compelled to pay any dues whatsoever to the union — despite the existence of a forced unionism requirement in the collective bargaining agreement.