Fort Benning, Ga. (August 6, 2003) — With the help of attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, five workers at Fort Benning today filed federal charges against local union officials for illegally forcing them to pay full union dues as a job condition.
Led by Tom Jarvis, an employee of federal contractor Shaw Infrastructure, the workers filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the Federal Employees Metal Trades Council, six local union affiliates, and the Laborers International Union of North America. The unions’ officials illegally threatened to get Jarvis and his co-workers fired for refusing to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
“In an effort to stuff their coffers, union officials are demanding that employees simply shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Their abusive actions show why the vast majority of Georgia workers are fortunate to work under the protection of a Right to Work Law.”
Citing a so-called “union security clause” in a new contract between Shaw Infrastructure and the conglomerate of unions, union officials notified employees at the Fort Benning facility that they would be fired if they failed to sign dues check-off cards requiring them to pay full dues while forfeiting their right to resign from formal union membership. However, the workers never received timely notice of their right to refrain from full membership and pay only reduced fees that do not include the unions’ political and ideological activities.
The union officials’ threats violate worker protections recognized under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision. Under Beck and subsequent rulings, union officials must specifically inform employees of their right to refrain from formal union membership and from paying costs other than those directly related to collective bargaining.
The Fort Benning controversy is somewhat unique in Georgia, because the state has a highly popular Right to Work law that bans compulsory unionism. However, because Fort Benning’s employees work on federal property under exclusive federal jurisdiction, the state’s Right to Work law does not protect them. Under these circumstances, the only way to prohibit compulsory union dues is to obtain and win an NLRB-supervised “deauthorization election,” a difficult process that the employees have already begun.
“Because union officials are hostile to the concept of voluntary unionism, they constantly seek ways to maneuver around important Right to Work laws,” stated Gleason.