Somerset, Ky. (February 3, 2003) – After union officials negotiated a contract that eliminated key employee benefits, employees of Charter Communications obtained a deauthorization election and voted to prohibit the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union Local 369 from forcing workers to pay union dues as a job condition.
Led by Sarah Lewis, an employee of Charter Communications, the workers voted in an election supervised by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officials. Lewis first sought the deauthorization election after union officials announced the contract they negotiated had eliminated workers’ benefits, including matching funds in the 401(k) program, sick leave, and leave for family funerals. Lewis learned of her rights, and received free legal assistance, from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Despite an intense propaganda campaign waged by union officials seeking to scare employees and to demonize Lewis and her employer, 75 percent of the 60 eligible employees voted to strip the union hierarchy of its special privilege to compel payment of union dues.
“The employees of Charter Communications can now force the union hierarchy to be accountable to the interests of rank-and-file workers,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Since workers in Kentucky do not enjoy the protections of a Right to Work law, a deauthorization election is the only way they can break the grip of compulsory unionism.”
In order to hold the deauthorization election, Lewis needed to have over 30 percent of her coworkers sign a petition requesting the election. Once that occurred, Lewis had to obtain “yes” votes from an absolute majority of workers in the bargaining unit. The requirement for an absolute majority, set by the National Labor Relations Act, is more difficult for employees to achieve than the standard for certifying a union, which requires only a majority of those voting.