The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, January/February 2021 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.
Flight Attendant Sues Transport Union for Religious Discrimination
Please stow your religious objections: TWU union bosses forced Allegiant Air flight attendant Annlee Post to fund the union in violation of her religious beliefs and federal law.
KNOXVILLE, TN – Allegiant Air flight attendant Annlee Post filed a federal lawsuit in November against Transport Workers Union of America Local 577 (TWU) because the union refused to accommodate her religious beliefs. She received free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Post is a Christian, and she objects to funding the TWU on religious grounds. As recognized in the 2015 EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Supreme Court decision, Post is not required to satisfy any special requirements to merit religious accommodation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To exercise her rights, Post sent two letters to union officials making them aware of her objection and asking that her dues payments be redirected to charity.
EEOC Issues “Right to Sue” Letter to Union Objector
When TWU officials refused this request, she filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the union.
The EEOC was unable to resolve Post’s charge, but it issued a “Right to Sue” letter in August 2020, allowing her to file a federal lawsuit against the union to protect her rights. Post then filed a complaint in federal court alleging TWU officials illegally discriminated against her by refusing to accommodate her and threatening to revoke her bidding privileges.
Bidding privileges control a flight attendant’s ability to schedule trips, work, vacations and days off. Post asked the court for an order stopping TWU officials from requiring her and other employees to pay union fees that violate their sincere religious beliefs.
Post’s lawsuit also alleges that union officials violated the United States Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments, which require union officials to follow specific procedures to demand forced dues payments. The union did not follow those procedures here.
Union officials did not provide a notice of how the forced-fee amount was calculated and an audit of the union’s financial records. Nor did they give a notice of the procedure to challenge the fee amount.
Federal Law Prevents Union Threats to Workplace Privileges
Even though she lives in Tennessee, which has enacted Right to Work protections so workers who object to union membership can freely abstain from funding union activities for any reason, Post is subject to the Railway Labor Act (RLA) because she works for an airline.
The RLA overrides state Right to Work laws and allows union officials to compel union fees, but only “as a condition of continued employment.” The RLA does not permit forced-dues payments based on any other condition — such as bidding privileges. Post’s Foundation staff attorneys argue that TWU’s monopoly bargaining agreement with Allegiant is invalid because it requires dues payments to maintain bidding privileges, whereas payment “as a condition of continued employment” is the only legal forced unionism agreement under the RLA.
“Annlee Post and others like her should not have to choose between privileges at work and their religious beliefs,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “TWU bosses knew about Ms. Post’s objections, but refused to accommodate them as longstanding federal law requires. They instead threatened to take away her bidding privileges, simply because she would not fund their organization in violation of her religious faith.
“This case is a reminder of why no worker should be forced to fund a union with which he or she disagrees, no matter whether their objection is religious or for any other reason,” Semmens said.