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.)
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, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.