News Release

Union Faces Trial At Labor Agency For Threatening to Kill Dissident Workers

Orlando, Fla. (February 14, 2003) — The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 835 officials face federal prosecution for illegally threatening to “kill” or otherwise harm workers who participated in efforts to toss out the union and breaking a previous settlement agreement with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Local 835 officials operate an exclusive union hiring hall that provides workers for the trade show, convention, and exhibition service industry in the Orlando area.

After investigating the unfair labor practice charges filed by James Zitis and Clay Wayman – who obtained free legal representation from attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation – the NLRB investigators found that union officials had “threatened to kill employees” and “threatened employees with the loss of work opportunities and the loss of their homes and possessions” if they engaged in activity to decertify the union through an NLRB-supervised election.

In addition to naming IATSE Local 835, the NLRB complaint cites two of its top officials, Susan Wolfgang and Peter Merrifield, for their involvement in the harassment.

“The outrageous threats issued by these union officials show they have no respect for the law or employees’ well being,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation.

On May 16, 2002, IATSE union officials agreed to accept an NLRB settlement agreement of some of the employees’ charges, which required them to post a notice alerting workers that they only had to pay fees equal to the cost of running the hiring hall. Union officials have failed to live up to the NLRB settlement and continue forcing non-union members to pay fees as a condition of using the hiring hall’s referral process without explaining how the fee was calculated. The NLRB has set the hearing date for July 21, 2003 to examine the charges against IATSE Local 835.

Even though Florida has a highly popular and effective Right to Work law that frees nonunion employees from paying membership dues to an unwanted union, IATSE union officials use their monopoly bargaining privileges to set up exclusive hiring halls. In such halls, the union decides which employees to refer for work at conventions and trade shows, and the workers are forced to pay the union to be eligible for work.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

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