PacifiCorp Employees Reject Forced Union Dues
Employee election deauthorizes IBEW union local

July/August 1999 Issue

Portland, Ore. -- In a 129 to 52 vote, employees at the Portland-area Business Center of PacifiCorp -- a major power company in the Northwest -- stripped an electricians union's bosses of the power to get workers fired for refusing to financially support the union.

The victory for employee rights was only possible with crucial legal advice from Foundation attorneys given to employees Ed Casavant, Chuck Miller, and others. With that guidance, they filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) requesting that a deauthorization election be conducted.

"The union's officials presumed to know what was best for me and that I needed their help," said Miller. "A slim majority got them in here in the first place, with only a fraction of the employees casting votes. They took that as a mandate -- a fatal error on their part. It cost them right where it hurts them most, in the pocketbook"

The decisive vote halted the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 125's shrill and strident campaign that attempted to frighten employees into voting to preserve the union's compulsory power (enshrined in the collective bargaining agreement and federal law). The union had wielded that power to force workers to pay for union politics, lobbying, social activities, and other activities claimed to be related to ≥representing≤ the employees.

"This landslide victory shows that when employees are given the opportunity to decide whether union officials have power over them, they choose freedom," said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. "Local 125 officials were simply unable to justify why they should be entitled to strip employees of their jobs for choosing not to join the union or pay dues."

By deauthorizing the union, employees become free to decide for themselves whether to join or financially support the union. As in Right to Work states, the union would be forced to justify to individual employees why it deserves their support.

"As the 'petitioner representative,' I observed the votes being tallied," said Miller. "My excitement mounted as the 'yes' votes were being called. I was thinking, 'Well, there goes about $110,000 in annual forced union dues up in smoke.'"

At first the union bosses filed an appeal to overturn the election. But, apparently realizing that their arguments had absolutely no merit given the landslide vote against compulsory dues, they dropped their desperate appeal.

Union bosses throw tantrum

But rather than going through the "trouble" of earning the financial support of the employees, less than a week after the election, IBEW Local 125 officials decided to completely pull out of the Business Center and refused to continue in the role of monopoly bargaining representative.

"With the loss of their compulsory power, union bosses -- like spoiled brats -- decided to stomp away rather than play under the new rules voted for by the very employees they claim to represent," said Gleason. "Without the ability to coerce workers into the union, Local 125 officials would have been forced to earn the consent of every worker from whom they took a single cent. Rather than face that challenge, the union bosses simply closed up shop and moved on."


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