ORLANDO, Fla. (October 30, 2001) – After a federal agency ruled in his favor, a Lockheed Martin employee today filed suit against International Association of Machinists (IAM) union officials, who threatened to have him fired from his job for exercising his right to refrain from supporting the union on religious grounds.
With the help of National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, Robert Beers, who works in astronautics operations at Lockheed Martin’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station facility, filed the civil rights lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida against IAM Local 610.
“Machinists union bosses are arrogantly refusing to halt their harassment of this sincere conscientious objector,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Beers’ sincerely held religious beliefs prevented him from supporting the union’s militant ideological agenda, particularly its support for abortion and homosexuality, which he believes are forbidden by the Bible. He asserted his right as a religious objector under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to refrain from union activities and withhold the payment of union dues, offering instead to send his union dues to a mutually agreed-upon charity.
Union officials refused his request and wrote Beers they would have him fired from his job.
Beers filed religious discrimination charges against the union in the fall of 2000 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC found in his favor and attempted to persuade the union’s officials to agree to a settlement. However, IAM Local 610’s lawyers thumbed their noses at the EEOC offer and continued to oppose Beers’ religious objection, forcing him to file suit in federal court.
Even though Florida has a Right to Work law allowing employees to cut off dues payments to unwanted unions, Cape Canaveral is considered a “federal enclave” subject to provisions in federal labor law granting union officials the power to collect union dues from non-religious objectors as a job condition.
Foundation attorneys are seeking a permanent injunction forcing IAM Local 610 officials to honor Beers’ religious objection and inform all bargaining unit employees of their right to divert forced union dues to a charity if their religious convictions prevent them from supporting the union. Beers is also asking for the return of illegally seized union dues, punitive and compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees.
Springfield, Va. (October 16, 2001) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced today that it has hired William L. Messenger, a labor and employment attorney and a graduate of the George Washington University School of Law.
“Bill Messenger brings to our legal aid organization a real commitment to helping employees fight back against the evils of compulsory unionism,” said Ray LaJeunesse, Legal Director of the National Right to Work Foundation.
As a staff attorney, Messenger will help build on the Foundation’s successful litigation record on behalf of union-abused workers. The Foundation is currently assisting nearly 200,000 employees throughout the country.
Messenger has previously served as a law clerk for the National Association of Manufacturers and the Federal Election Commission’s Office of General Counsel. He has also been active in the Republican Party. He ran as a candidate for the Athens, Ohio, city council in 1995.
Messenger holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Ohio University.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (October 3, 2001) – Two Los Angeles International Airport janitors yesterday won a monetary settlement against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877 in a federal case pending against the union as a result of its systematic refusal to honor the workers’ right to object to union membership and forced dues.
With the help of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, the airport employees, Lidia Acevedo and Amarilis Barrientos-Sosa, forced SEIU Local 1877 officials to settle a pair of federal unfair labor practice charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against SEIU Local 1877 in March 2001. The NLRB complaint alleged that union officials were guilty of coercing nonmember workers into paying full membership dues.
“These courageous janitors stood up to union bosses’ illegal shake-down tactics,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Foundation.
According to the settlement agreement, union officials must refund membership dues unlawfully deducted from the workers’ paychecks after they resigned their union memberships. Union officials must also post notices, in English and Spanish, informing all LAX janitors of their right to object to union membership and the payment of full dues.
Under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision, union objectors may halt and reclaim all union dues spent on politics and other activities unrelated to the union’s proven collective bargaining costs.
Foundation attorneys hope to soon force a settlement in another set of cases on behalf of Los Angeles janitors harassed by SEIU Local 1877 officials. During its so-called “Justice for Janitors” strike last year, the union hierarchy fined sixteen janitors up to $500 each for exercising their right to continue working during the strike.
Cleveland, Ohio (October 2, 2001) – An Ohio court of appeals has upheld an Ohio law limiting costly and discriminatory union-only contracts, called project labor agreements (PLAs), on state-funded construction projects. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys filed a “Friend of the Court” brief in the case defending the law.
The Eighth District of the Ohio Court of Appeals ruled in Ohio State Building and Construction Trade Department v. Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners that Ohio’s HB 101, the Open Contracting Act, does not violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The court’s decision overturned a lower court’s ruling striking down the law passed by the legislature in 1999.
“PLAs amount to extortion – union officials demand taxpayer handouts and government-granted special privileges in exchange for not ordering strikes or causing other disruptions,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This is a victory for Ohio taxpayers, workers, and job providers.”
Under union-only PLAs, union-friendly politicians award contracts on government-funded construction projects only to contractors who agree to force compulsory unionism on their employees. PLAs usually require contractors to grant union officials monopoly bargaining privileges over all workers; force their employees to pay union dues; use exclusive union hiring halls; and pay above-market prices resulting from wasteful work rules and featherbedding.
In a “Friend of the Court” brief, National Right to Work Foundation attorneys argued that HB 101 is not preempted by the NLRA because the Act protects the state’s right to decide whether or not to contract with unions. That argument was echoed in the court’s ruling.
Ohio’s state legislature passed HB 101 in 1999 after four union-only construction projects generated massive cost overruns. Union officials almost immediately challenged the new law in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, which issued an injunction stopping enforcement of the law. The appeals court ruling now clears the way for enforcement of the law.
Springfield, Va. (September 26, 2001) – Oklahoma became the nation’s 22nd Right to Work state yesterday after voters approved a constitutional amendment making it illegal for union officials to force workers to join a union or pay any union dues as a condition of employment.
“Oklahomans reaffirmed what a vast majority of the American people already believe – that no individual should be forced to pay union dues in order to keep his or her job,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason.
Gleason also vowed the National Right to Work Foundation’s vigilance in making sure that Oklahoma union officials do not violate Oklahoma workers’ rights under the new law. “Union bosses spent $8 million on television and radio ads trying to defeat this referendum. They are not going to take this loss laying down.”
While the National Right to Work Committee continues to build support within the U.S. Congress and several state legislatures for additional Right to Work laws, the Foundation will continue to advance the rights of employees through the nation’s courts.
Additional information on the rights of employees in Right to Work states is available at http://www.nrtw.org/a/a_prime.htm.
NEWPORT, Ky. (September 25, 2001) – A CVS cashier today filed federal charges against a local affiliate of the powerful United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union for illegally seizing forced union dues without divulging how the money was being spent.
With the assistance of National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, William Manning filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against UFCW Local 1099.
“Secretive union officials are deliberately preventing workers from learning how their forced union dues are being spent,” said Foundation Director of Legal Information Randy Wanke.
Manning resigned his union membership on June 29, 2001 after independently learning about his right to do so. Union officials had never informed Manning of his right, guaranteed by the landmark Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court CWA v. Beck decision, to become a nonmember and halt the collection of all union dues spent for politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
When Manning requested to review a copy of the union’s financial records so that he could distinguish the union’s proven collective bargaining costs from politics and other nonchargeable activities, union bureaucrats stonewalled, claiming that his request was “not relevant.”
“What I got back was a letter basically saying that it’s none of my business,” Manning said.
The charges state that union officials refused to provide an audited breakdown of union expenditures, an escrow of fees, and a procedure to challenge the union’s calculations. Under Beck and related Foundation-won precedents, unions must provide workers with full financial disclosure before seizing any forced dues.
Foundation attorneys are demanding that UFCW Local 1099 officials return all dues unlawfully collected from Manning, provide a complete and proper independent audit of their books, and notify all bargaining unit employees of their right to object to union membership and the payment of full dues.
Washington, D.C. (September 4, 2001) – As the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled to force objecting employees to wear union propaganda on their uniforms as a condition of employment, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation called the White House “asleep at the switch” for leaving the Clinton NLRB fully intact.
The NLRB made the ruling in a case brought by BellSouth Communications technicians Gary Lee and Jim Auburn of Charlotte, North Carolina, against the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The employees brought the charges after they were told that they must wear a union logo patch in order to keep their jobs.
“No worker should be forced to be a walking billboard for a union he or she doesn’t support,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case proves once and for all that the NLRB itself wears the union label.”
“After eight months, the Bush Administration has yet to rein in the NLRB. It looks like the White House is asleep at the switch,” added Gleason.
More than four years ago, the NLRB’s General Counsel issued a complaint against the union for unfair labor practices, agreeing with Foundation attorneys’ arguments that forcing nonmembers to wear the CWA union logo violates their right to refrain from union activity and that it gave the false appearance that they belonged to or supported the union. (The employees exercised their right not to join the union under North Carolina’s highly popular Right to Work law.)
In a decision filled with tortured legal reasoning issued late last week, the NLRB ruled that BellSouth’s uniform policy requiring the patch was a “special circumstance,” which trumped the right of workers to refrain from supporting the union. Foundation attorneys plan to appeal the NLRB’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The NLRB panel which issued the ruling consisted of three Democrat holdovers appointed by President Clinton who have consistently ruled against workers who object to supporting a union. President Bush currently has the ability to appoint four new members to the five-member NLRB, but so far, he has failed to submit any nominations whatsoever.
Washington, D.C. (August 31, 2001) – National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason will appear on a special C-SPAN TV program on Labor Day profiling the Foundation’s work.
C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” airs nationwide on Monday, September 3, at 8:45 am Eastern Time. Gleason will focus on the Right to Work movement’s proud legacy, recent examples of union tyranny from Foundation cases, and the future of Big Labor in America.
FLINT, Mich. (August 22, 2001) – A Brighton Interior Systems employee today filed class-action charges against the United Auto Workers (UAW) union after union officials illegally coerced hundreds of workers into joining the union.
Stephen Yokich, UAW International president, was among the union officials served.
With the assistance of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, Erik Daly, an employee at the Brighton auto parts factory, filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the UAW Local 599 union and the UAW International union.
“UAW bullies are forcing these workers to join the union under the threat of being fired from their jobs,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the National Right to Work Foundation.
In violation of the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decision Communications Workers v. Beck, UAW officials demanded that all employees formally join the union and pay full union dues as a condition of employment. Under Beck, union officials may not compel workers to pay for politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining activities. The UAW union, which admits that at least 21% of each member’s union dues goes toward politics and similar activities, issued an illegal ultimatum to Brighton employees telling them to sign membership cards or “join the unemployment line.”
The charges state that since UAW Local 599’s monopoly bargaining contract at Brighton went into effect in July 2001, the union has (with the support of its International union parent) “engaged in a campaign of misrepresentations, coercions, and omissions” such that “not a single employee in this bargaining unit can be considered to be a voluntary member.”
Not only are the union’s demands blatantly unlawful, but under numerous precedents, including Pattern Makers v. NLRB, unions must specifically inform employees of their right to refrain from formal, full dues-paying union membership before seizing any forced union dues.
Foundation attorneys are asking the NLRB to issue a formal complaint against the UAW Local 599 and UAW International unions and declare all union membership and dues deduction cards at Brighton to be null and void. The Foundation is also demanding that union officials provide retroactive refunds of all dues improperly collected and that they be prohibited from collecting any additional dues until they inform employees of their rights and halt their systematic violations of law.
Des Moines, Iowa (August 13, 2001) – Single mother Jean Green has filed a federal lawsuit against the Machinists union, which had her fired illegally last Mother’s Day for exercising her right not to join the union.
With the assistance of National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, Green, a United Airlines customer service clerk at Des Moines International Airport, filed the lawsuit against the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union, United Airlines, and IAM Local 141 in the United States District Court for the Central District of Iowa Central Division.
“Cold-hearted IAM union officials forced this single mother of three off the job and into the unemployment line on Mother’s Day,” said Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason.
In violation of the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decision Ellis v. Railway Clerks, IAM union officials repeatedly demanded that Green formally join the union and pay full union dues as a condition of employment. When Green balked at their repeated illegal demands, they instructed United Airlines officials to fire her.
On May 13, 2001, Mother’s Day, a United Airlines official called Green at home to tell her she was out of a job.
At no time did IAM officials inform Green of her rights under Ellis to abstain from union membership and pay reduced union dues. Under Ellis, employees cannot be forced to fund activities unrelated to bargaining, such as politics. (Iowa’s highly popular Right to Work law, which frees workers from being forced to pay any dues or fees to an unwanted union, does not protect airline and railroad employees.)
When Green applied for unemployment assistance, United officials challenged her claim, stating that she had been fired for “misconduct” — despite the fact that United officials twice recognized her outstanding workplace performance since she was hired in 1999.
Foundation attorneys are seeking compensatory damages in the amount of all lost wages and benefits, and for Green’s emotional distress, mental anguish, damage to reputation, humiliation, and embarrassment. They are also seeking punitive damages.