Cincinnati, Ohio (July 19, 2004) – Five Cincinnati firefighters today filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against an International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) union affiliate and top city officials for violations of the First Amendment by seizing compulsory union dues from the paychecks of scores of nonunion firefighters. Receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the firefighters charge that IAFF Local 48 union officials acted in concert with the City of Cincinnati and seized compulsory union dues from them without first providing an adequate independent audit of the union’s expenditures. The complaint also names Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken, among other top city officials, for signing and enforcing an agreement with the union that resulted in the unconstitutional acts. The firefighters filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio’s Western Division. They allege that IAFF Local 48 union officials intentionally seized the forced union dues without first providing the financial disclosure and procedures required by a long-standing U.S. Supreme Court ruling interpreting that the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution protect public employees from demands to pay for union political activity and other activities they may oppose. Like many similar agreements around the country, the Cincinnati monopoly bargaining agreement included an “indemnification clause” whereby the union promises to pay all legal costs a city may incur in defending a suit that results from illegal seizures of compulsory dues. These agreements remove the incentive for the employer to ensure the union is not mistreating workers. Some courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals with jurisdiction over Ohio, have stuck these agreements down as void as against public policy. “IAFF union officials simply want nonunion firefighters to shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union operatives should not be allowed essentially to bribe city officials to do their dirty work by promising to reimburse all legal costs that arise out of violating firefighters’ First Amendment rights.” The firefighters are asking the court to enjoin IAFF officials from seizing forced dues from any nonunion employee represented by Local 48 until they provide the legally required notice and procedures. The workers also seek class-action status for their case, and restitution for all firefighters represented by IAFF Local 48 in the form of a refund of all past forced dues collected since July 2002. If the court grants class-action status, a remedy in the case could force significant financial reimbursements to all past and present nonunion firefighters who were forced to pay such union fees-an amount estimated as high as $100,000. Under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decision Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, before collecting any forced dues, union officials must first provide an audited disclosure of the union’s expenses. Such audits are intended to ensure that forced union dues seized from nonunion public employees do not fund union activities unrelated to collective bargaining.