News Release

CWA Union Forced to Return $38,000 in Illegally Seized Union Dues from Cleveland State University Employees

Cleveland, Ohio (November 24, 2003) — A civil rights lawsuit affecting 223 Cleveland State University (CSU) employees came to a close this week, as a local union has been forced to mail refunds totaling $38,755 in previously seized union dues.

The U.S. District Court-approved settlement ends a two-year-long standoff in the case brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys for university employees alleging that the union had illegally deducted forced dues from the paychecks of nonunion workers. These illegal deductions made it possible for the union to spend nonmembers’ funds on politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.

“CWA union officials simply wanted nonmembers to shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Their actions serve as clear examples of the greed and corruption that flow from compulsory unionism.”

Led by five non-union maintenance workers – Ronald Walker, Ed Burkhart, Thomas Ensley, Julius Gipson, and Joseph Sirna – the workers filed suit in February in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union Local 4309 and CSU administrators.

The workers alleged union officials and University administrators violated their First Amendment and due process rights by forcing them to pay full dues as a condition of employment.

From February 2001 to July 2002, CWA union officials illegally seized a so-called “agency fee” equal to full union dues from non-union employees without providing any explanation of how the agency fee is justified. In July 2002, when CWA officials belatedly sent a letter to non-union employees claiming that the agency fee was 75% of full union dues, they failed to provide the workers with an independent audit verifying Local 4309’s claims.

The actions of CWA union officials directly violate the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, which requires union officials to provide objecting employees an advance reduction of forced union dues used for politics and other non-bargaining activities. Under Hudson, union officials must also provide audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures made from forced union dues seized from employees who choose to refrain from full union membership.

The settlement forces the union to return to each union-abused employee an average of $178.80 in back union dues and interest.

“No one should be forced to pay dues to an unwanted union, especially when union officials abuse that government-granted special privilege,” stated Gleason.

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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