Trenton, NJ (July 15, 2003) — In order to protect the rights of non-union government workers to refrain from paying dues to an unwanted union, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed arguments on behalf of Hunterdon County workers attacking the constitutionality of a recently amended state law.
The amicus curiae, or “friend of the court” brief, was filed in Hunterdon County v. CWA, Local 1034 pending in the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division on behalf of Henry Wieczorek and other non-union Hunterdon County employees. The brief challenges the decision by the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) ordering the county to seize compulsory agency fees from all employees in the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 1034 bargaining unit.
Foundation attorneys argue there is no compelling state interest to justify PERC’s forcing Hunterdon County to collect compulsory dues from non-union members when county officials have already rejected the requirement during the collective bargaining process. In addition, Foundation attorneys charge that if counties are forced to collect the fees, it will strip away safeguards that protect workers from having compulsory agency fees used to support union politics or other activities not directly related to collective bargaining.
“CWA union bosses want to use the county government as their collection agency and strong-arm workers into subsidizing a union that they do not support,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union officials would rather have the power to compel payment of dues than have to earn employees’ voluntary support.”
Until recently, New Jersey’s county and municipal employees who had refrained from union membership could not be compelled to pay so-called “agency fees” unless local government officials had agreed to such a requirement through the collective bargaining process. However, a new statute signed by Governor McGreevey in 2002 gave union officials the power to utilize a new PERC procedure to force county governments to impose the requirement as a job condition.
Last December, in response to demands from CWA Local 1034, PERC ordered Hunterdon County to begin deducting agency fees from all non-union county government employees. Seeking to defend its employees freedom of association, Hunterdon County officials filed suit against the CWA union challenging the commission’s order. A ruling in favor of the county would strike down the McGreevey law.