Cleveland, Ohio (February 13, 2003) — With the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, five Cleveland State University (CSU) employees today filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court against a union and university administrators in their official capacities for violating the workers’ First Amendment and due process rights by forcing them to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics.
The five non-union employees –Ronald Walker, Ed Burkhart, Thomas Ensley, Julius Gipson, and Joseph Sirna – filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union Local 4309 and CSU administrators.
“This is a clear case of union officials trying to bully employees into subsidizing objectionable union political activities,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Unfortunately, Ohioans do not have the protection of a Right to Work law, which would give employees a choice about whether a union hierarchy deserves their support.”
From February 2001 to July 2002, CWA union officials illegally seized an agency fee equal to full union dues from non-union employees without providing any explanation of how the agency fee is justified. In July 2002, when CWA officials sent a letter to non-union employees claiming that the agency fee was 75% of full union dues, they failed to provide the workers with an independent audit verifying Local 4309’s claims.
The actions of CWA union officials directly violate the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, which requires union officials to provide objecting employees an advance reduction of forced union dues used for politics and other non-bargaining activities. Under Hudson, union officials must provide audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures made from forced union dues seized from employees who choose to refrain from union membership.
As part of their charges the workers demand an independent audit to verify the claims made by CWA officials and a return of all money that was illegally seized since February 2001, plus interest.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Union bosses routinely break the law to try and shake down workers to pay for their political activities,” stated Gleason.