Orlando, FL (June 10, 2003) — A three-year religious liberty battle and federal civil rights lawsuit between an individual employee and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local 610 has come to an end according to court records.
Robert Beers, an employee at Lockheed Martin’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station facility, faced threats by union officials that he would be fired from his job (and lose his health insurance while his teenage son was in cancer treatment) unless he paid fees to a union that he believed is deeply involved in activities that violate his sincerely held religious convictions.
After the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced its agreement that the union had violated federal law, National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed the federal suit on Beers’ behalf in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida against IAM Local 610.
“For years IAM union officials have been unfairly persecuting Robert Beers because he put his faith ahead of their radical agenda,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “No one should be forced to sacrifice their faith in order to keep their job.”
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 originally filed the religious discrimination charges against the union in the fall of 2000 with the 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.
When contacted, Beers reported that he has now been provided a religious accommodation by the union. That accommodation is that he is not required to support the union.
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.