San Francisco, Calif. (December 8, 2003) — Three local station engineers for Univision’s KDTV-Channel 14 have filed federal charges against a local union for failing to give them adequate notice of their right to pay less than full union dues and threatening to have them fired unless they pay a union initiation fee (amounting to three weeks’ pay) as well as several months of back dues.
Enjoying free legal assistance from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the employees, led by William Sanders, filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board based in San Francisco.
The charges fault officials from the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET) Union Local 51, and its national affiliate, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union for failing to give workers adequate notice of their right to pay reduced dues, not providing a legally mandated audit of union expenditures, and illegally attempting to collect full dues and the initiation fee from the nonmembers.
Though Sanders and his co-workers never joined the NABET union, and objected to paying for union political activity, they have received numerous letters threatening them with discharge if they do not pay an initiation fee, equal to three weeks’ pay, as well as full dues since a new contract provision was instituted.
“Union officials want professionals like William Sanders to simply shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This shows that union officials are more concerned with using workers as their personal ATMs than standing up for the interests of those whom they supposedly represent.”
By failing to give Sanders and his fellow workers adequate information about their right to pay reduced dues, NABET union officials violated worker protections recognized by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Communications Workers of America v. Beck, a case Foundation attorneys argued and won. Under Beck, workers have the option to refrain from formal union membership and may be forced only to pay an agency fee to cover the union’s proven collective bargaining costs.
Furthermore, under U.S. Supreme Court precedents, union officials must provide non-member workers an independent audit of union expenditures to ensure they are not funding activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as politics. Both NABET and CWA union officials never provided Sanders or his fellow workers with such an audit.
“No one should be forced to pay dues to an unwanted union just to get or keep their job,” stated Gleason. “This is especially true when union officials go out of their way to keep workers in the dark about their rights.”