**Lexington, KY (June 22, 2006)** – Seven nonunion Lexington fire fighters filed a federal civil rights lawsuit today to stop International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 526 union officials from violating the First Amendment by illegally confiscating forced union dues from their paychecks without due process.
The suit, filed by the fire fighters in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, also names Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac, and other top city officials, for signing and enforcing an agreement with the union that resulted in the unconstitutional acts.
The firefighters are asking the court to enjoin IAFF officials from seizing forced dues from any nonunion employee “represented” by Local 526 until they provide the legally required notice and procedures. The suit also seeks restitution for the nonunion firefighters, including refunds of all forced dues seized since the collective bargaining agreement went into effect in June 2005.
This civil rights suit comes on the heels of a similar federal civil rights suit by nonunion fire fighters in Cincinnati. There, a judge – citing the likelihood of the nonunion fire fighters’ legal success – recently issued a temporary restraining order halting the illegal dues seizures by IAFF union officials.
“IAFF union officials are trampling the basic constitutional rights of the very firefighters whose interests they claim to represent,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “These cases demonstrate the need for Right to Work protections in Kentucky, Ohio, and other forced-unionism states that would make union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary.”
The workers allege that IAFF Local 526 union officials seized the forced union dues without first providing the financial disclosure and procedures required by long-standing U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
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 independent 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, such as union political activities.
The suit also challenges an illegal “indemnification clause” in the contract in which the IAFF union Local 526 agrees to bear any expense or liability that the city faces resulting from its deduction of forced dues. Such clauses are designed to encourage city officials to ignore the constitutional rights of nonunion employees and to aid union officials in collecting such illegal forced dues. Some courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals with jurisdiction over Kentucky, have stuck these agreements down as void against public policy.
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 more than 250 cases nationwide per year.