ALGOMA, Wis. (May 14, 2001) — Nine Olsonite Corporation employees today filed federal charges against the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners union Local 1521 for refusing to honor their written objections to financially supporting the union.
The charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) state that Local 1521 officials illegally seized full union dues from the objecting nonmembers and arbitrarily rejected their objection letters because of a technicality.
“These independent-minded employees don’t want their hard-earned dollars going into the union’s militant political and organizing campaigns,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a charitable organization that is providing free legal aid to the employees.
Olsonite, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of toilet seats, signed a collective bargaining agreement with the union requiring all employees to pay the union a so-called agency fee – even when the employees have no desire to associate with the union.
But under numerous federal statutes and U.S. Supreme Court precedents, including the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck decision, union officials cannot compel workers to become formal union members or pay full dues. Under Beck, objecting nonmembers may halt and reclaim all forced union dues used for activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as political action.
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys are demanding that the NLRB enforce the Beck decision by striking down the Carpenters union’s unlawful practices of seizing political money from nonmembers and refusing their objections.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (May 8, 2001) — The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California has ruled that the California State Employees Association (CSEA) union must return approximately $3 million in forced union dues illegally seized from the paychecks of more than 37,000 employees throughout the state.
“This ruling sends a clear message to Big Labor in California that they can no longer violate the rights of employees with impunity,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.
In its ruling, the District Court found that CSEA union officials illegally seized forced union dues from employees without providing a proper independently audited financial disclosure of union expenditures as required by the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson decision.
“Fearing that employees will learn how their dues are spent, union officials go to great lengths to hide the true extent of their political spending,” said Gleason.
The court ruled that CSEA union officials must return to all nonmembers 20 percent, plus interest, of all forced dues seized in the 1999 “fee-payer year.” (Union officials seized approximately $1.1 million per month from 37,000 employees over 13 months.)
The District Court’s ruling came in response to a class-action lawsuit filed by Christine Cummings of Sacramento and seven other state employees. The lawsuit was filed in November 1999, with the assistance of National Right to Work Foundation attorneys on behalf of all state government workers in State Bargaining Units 1, 3, 4, 11, 14, 15, 17, 20, and 21 who have declined to join the union or who have joined since the union began enforcing its “forced-share fee” contract, which was signed by Governor Davis on October 10, 1999.
Washington, DC (April 30, 2001) — The United States Supreme Court today rejected an attempt by International Association of Machinists (IAM) union lawyers to gut Virginia’s highly popular Right to Work law, a measure that prohibits forced unionism.
The ruling today ensures a broader application of Virginia’s Right to Work law as well as the payment of $135,000 in damages to the union-abused employee.
“IAM union lawyers so despise employee freedom and Virginia’s Right to Work law, they took their crusade all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason.
The High Court rejected IAM union lawyers’ petition for writ of certiorari, refusing to review a Foundation-won Virginia Supreme Court ruling in favor of Frederick Pusey who was fired for refusing to support the IAM union. IAM union officials had forced the firing of Pusey claiming that Virginia’s Right to Work law somehow did not apply to workers on NASA’s Wallops Island facility.
In some cases, federal property clearly is under exclusive federal jurisdiction, which precludes the application of state Right to Work laws. But in the Pusey case, union lawyers’ claim of federal enclave jurisdiction was based on a 1940 grant of federal jurisdiction to build and operate an air base to defend Norfolk’s naval facility during World War II.
Notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. Navy had abandoned the airfield and left the area in 1959, the union lawyers argued that it remained an exclusive federal enclave. After Foundation attorneys sued both the IAM union and Pusey’s employer, Accomack County Circuit Court Judge Glen Tyler rejected the union argument as “not credible,” finding that any claim to exclusive federal jurisdiction had long since lapsed. In December 1999, a jury ordered the union to pay Pusey $135,000 in damages and back pay. Last year, by refusing to hear an appeal from union lawyers to throw out the lower court’s ruling, the state’s highest court upheld the damage award to Pusey. Union lawyers almost immediately appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Washington, D.C. (April 30, 2001) — As Big Labor today holds nationwide campaign-style political rallies criticizing President George W. Bush’s first 100 days in office, National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason reminded Americans of the illegitimacy of Big Labor political power.
“Big Labor’s political clout is fueled by union bosses’ inordinate ability to seize forced union dues from millions of hardworking Americans as a condition of employment,” said Gleason. “Union officials are pushing a political agenda that’s out of step with the working men and women forced to foot the bill.”
To highlight this point, Gleason noted that while Big Labor has devoted the vast majority of its political resources in the last 100 days to bashing the new president, almost 40 percent of union members voted for President Bush in the last election.
Meanwhile, a recent Zogby poll shows that more than 55 percent of union members favor the Bush tax cut plan.
Big Labor’s campaign against President Bush is an extension of its role in the 2000 election campaign, in which it poured unprecedented amounts of workers’ forced-dues money into an intense “ground war” costing an estimated $800 million. And when the election came down to recounting Florida’s ballots, Big Labor sent an army of union militants into the state in an attempt to change the election’s outcome.
COLUMBUS, Ind. (April 26, 2001) — Three Cosco, Inc. employees filed federal charges today against a powerful local union for threatening to end their careers in apparent retaliation for exposing the union’s illegal scheme to collect forced union dues.
In a previous federal case which resulted in a settlement agreement, National Right to Work Foundation attorneys forced United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 1155 union officials to stop illegally seizing forced union dues from the workers who had been “grandfathered” out of doing so under the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
Foundation attorneys filed today’s unfair labor practice charges on behalf of Douglas Brown, Ronald Venable, and Kenneth Witt with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Local 1155 union officials for violating the terms of that settlement by demanding that the employees be fired for not paying forced union dues under a prior collective bargaining agreement, reaching back to 1996. Under the settlement, union officials were barred from demanding forced union dues prior to October, 2000.
“Union officials are out for revenge,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “They want to put these brave employees out on the street for exposing the union’s illegal scheme.”
The employees first filed federal charges in 1997 against Local 1155 officials, under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision, for using a portion of their forced dues for politics.
Upon further investigation into that case, Foundation attorneys discovered that the collective bargaining agreement at Cosco did not authorize the seizure of forced union dues at all between July 26, 1998 – October 20, 2000 from employees who were not members of the union. Union officials have since amended the collective bargaining agreement to force all nonmembers to pay union dues.
Foundation attorneys are seeking an immediate injunction prohibiting union officials from ordering Cosco management to fire these employees.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (April 24, 2001) — A cement factory worker today filed federal charges against a local affiliate of the powerful Teamsters union, seeking to force union officials to stop their illegal practice of funneling compulsory union dues into politics.
The Vulcan Materials Company cement factory employee, Gordon Merkley, sought legal help from National Right to Work Foundation attorneys after officials of Teamsters Local 87 threatened to have him fired from his job for refusing to support the union’s political campaigning and lobbying activities.
“Teamsters bosses harassed and threatened Gordon Merkley simply because he exercised his right not to fund the union’s political machine,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a charitable organization that provides free legal aid to victims of compulsory unionism abuse.
The federal charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board against Local 87, state that union officials violated the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision, which held that workers who resign their union memberships may withhold any union dues used for politics and other non-representational activities. As a nonmember of the union, Merkley can only be required to pay for union activities directly related to collective bargaining.
The charges also state that union officials provided inaccurate and unaudited financial records that unlawfully concealed the union’s actual spending practices and improperly categorized politics, public relations, and organizing expenditures as “chargeable.” Under the Foundation-won Supreme Court ruling in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, union officials must provide employees with an independent audit of their books so that employees can identify non-chargeable expenditures, such as politics.
Foundation attorneys are demanding that union officials immediately return any forced union dues illegally seized from employees.
Washington, D.C. (April 18, 2001) — President George W. Bush’s Beck executive order goes into effect today requiring federal contractors to post a workplace notice informing employees of their right to reclaim all forced union dues not used for collective bargaining activities, like politics.
The order informs objecting employees of their rights under the U.S. Supreme Court decision Communications Workers v. Beck. National Right to Work Foundation attorneys originally won Beck at the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988 on behalf of telephone lineman Harry Beck.
Signed on February 17, 2001, 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.
Noting that President Bush will be able to appoint three new members to the five-person NLRB, Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason urged him take a “real step forward” in Beck enforcement. “This order is only a small symbolic first step. The president must now appoint individuals to the NLRB who are willing to enforce the Beck decision.”
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 also 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.
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (April 17, 2001) — More than 1,500 state health and social service employees won court approval of a large settlement yesterday against a local affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union for illegally seizing forced union dues.
Under the terms of the settlement, won by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, officials of AFSCME Local 2620 must refund 75 percent of dues and fees illegally collected from the workers between July 1998 and September 1999, plus 100 percent of the dues and fees illegally collected during the first 12 days of March 2000, along with interest and attorneys’ fees. Based on the amount the union seized from the plaintiff class over a 15-month period, total refunds should exceed $350,000, which breaks down to an average of at least $233 for each employee.
“This is an important victory for workers against Big Labor’s California forced union dues empire,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “This shakedown of employees for political contributions is deplorable.”
The settlement comes as a result of a 1999 class-action lawsuit, Murray v. AFSCME Local 2620, filed by Foundation attorneys on behalf of Robert Murray, a 16-year veteran of the California State Department of Rehabilitation, and all other employees in State Bargaining Unit 19 who had declined to join the union since union officials began their unlawful dues-collection practices in July 1998.
The politically active AFSCME union was ranked by the Center for Responsive Politics as the second largest overall soft-money contributor in the 2000 election cycle. But under Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court precedents, unions may not seize any forced dues from nonmembers for politics or other non-bargaining activities.
Union officials violated the rights of employees guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by failing to provide them with notice of their right to object to paying forced fees for the union’s political activities and by failing to reveal how those fees were being spent. Under the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, union officials must provide independently audited disclosure of their books and justify the lawfulness of their expenditures before seizing any forced union dues from employees.
MIAMI, Fla. (April 12, 2001) — National Right to Work Foundation attorneys have forced Teamsters Local 769 to pay a monetary settlement for its direct involvement in a bloody attack on Rod Carter during the 1997 nationwide Teamsters strike against United Parcel Service (UPS).
Carter, a UPS driver who suffered severe injuries for choosing to work during the strike in order to feed his family, settled the racketeering and civil conspiracy case pending in Florida’s Circuit Court for Dade County against Local 769 for an undisclosed amount of money. (As part of the settlement, Carter and his attorneys are barred from revealing specific details of the agreement.)
“Rod and his family are very pleased with the settlement and feel that the union has finally been forced to pay a price for its involvement in the bloody assault,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a charitable organization that provides free legal aid to victims of compulsory unionism abuse.
Carter, a linebacker for the 1989 University of Miami Hurricanes and former 10th round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys, continued to work during the strike in order to support his family, despite the objections of union officials.
After Rod Carter appeared on the evening news to explain why he did not support the strike, he received a threatening phone call at his home. Phone records proved that the phone call was placed from the house of the Teamsters Local 769 president Anthony Cannestro, Sr.
The next day, a group of union militants tracked Carter down on his delivery route, drew him out of his UPS truck, and severely beat and stabbed him. After the bloody attack but before any arrests, at least one assailant was returned to the picket line to continue participating in strike activities. Union officials later used union funds to bail out the assailants and helped to line up legal representation (as had been promised in advance of the violation).
Carter filed a lawsuit against the Teamsters Local 769 union for encouraging and condoning the violence. The lawsuit charged the attackers and union officials with civil conspiracy, assault and battery, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium. And the suit charged the Local 769 with racketeering.
“The settlement in this case should send a message to union officials across America – violence does not pay,” said Gleason.
Teachers Hit WEA Union with Statewide Class-Action Suit to Reclaim $200,000 in Dues Seized for Politics
SEATTLE, Wash. (March 19, 2001) — National Right to Work Foundation attorneys are filing a class-action lawsuit against the Washington Education Association (WEA) union seeking to reclaim money illegally seized from the paychecks of more than 4,200 teachers to advance the union’s political agenda.
Foundation attorneys filed the class-action lawsuit, Davenport v. WEA, in the Superior Court of the State of Washington in and for the County of Thurston on behalf of teachers who are not union members (but who must still pay agency fees) after WEA union officials illegally seized fees without authorization in violation of Washington’s so-called “paycheck protection” law (Initiative 134).
Since the non-member teachers had not exercised their right to reclaim about $175 (per teacher per year) under a recent Foundation-won court settlement against the WEA union, they are only entitled to reclaim about $10 (per year over five years) attributed to “political activities” under the narrow definition in the mis-named “paycheck protection” law.
The suit asks that about $200,000 in illegally seized fees be returned to the teachers.
“Because flimsy ‘paycheck protection’ laws like this one are so fatally flawed, teachers relying on the law have received little protection of their rights not to fund union electioneering and the like,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason. “However, the Foundation took the case anyway because we always do everything possible under the law to help victims of forced unionism abuse.”
Initiative 134 was intended to prevent union officials from spending government workers’ money for politics without prior authorization. After passage of that law, union officials easily sidestepped the law’s narrow and toothless requirements. Last September, Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) determined that WEA union officials had not secured authorization from nonmembers for the forced union dues spent on the tiny fraction of union political activity actually regulated by the law. Washington’s Attorney General now seeks unspecified sanctions against the WEA union, but is seeking absolutely no damages for the teachers whose rights were violated.
Foundation attorneys have already won a settlement for Washington teachers in Leer v. WEA. Under Leer, about 300 teachers annually reclaim more than $175 each in forced union dues that had been seized by WEA union officials for politics, lobbying, organizing, and other non-bargaining activities. Unlike the flawed Initiative 134, Leer attacked the very basis of forced union dues on constitutional grounds.
However, most non-member teachers have not yet exercised their rights under Leer and have thus been paying nearly full dues to the WEA labor union – even money that the PDC found required affirmative authorization. The more than 4,200 teachers in Davenport were never asked for authorization, so they are seeking a full rebate, plus interest, of the amount that was seized illegally from their paychecks. Teachers are also seeking an injunction prohibiting WEA officials from seizing forced union dues used for influencing elections and supporting political committees without affirmative consent from non-member teachers.