Pensacola, Fla. (December 12, 2003) - With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, an employee at the Naval Air Station has today asked the federal government to prosecute a large international union for requiring employees to object annually if they do not want union officials to spend their compulsory union dues for political activities.
Robert Prime, an employee of Vertex Aerospace, LLC, filed the unfair labor practice charges against the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union, as well as District Lodge 75 and Local Lodge 2777, at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Prime alleges that union officials have violated his rights by refusing to honor his request to be a “continuing objector,” instead forcing him to renew every single year his objection to funding union political activities.
A United States District Court ruling in 2000 struck down the IAM union’s nationwide policy requiring annual objections from employees seeking a rebate of dues spent for activities unrelated to collective bargaining, but the ruling technically only applied to employees covered by the Railway Labor Act. In another case, a U.S. Court of Appeals also ruled earlier against the union’s policy
“Union officials use these annual objection schemes to hamstring and demoralize employees so that their forced-dues money continues to flow into union political coffers,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the Foundation. “This arrogant union hierarchy has repeatedly violated the rights of nonmembers, and is attempting to make an example of Robert Prime in order to keep other rank-and-file workers in line.”
In January, Prime filed a related round of unfair labor practice charges against IAM union officials for illegally collecting full union dues from him as a nonmember. This recidivist union settled the charges by paying retroactive refunds to Prime and many other employees.
The union requirement that employees object year after year – rather than once – has dramatically hampered the effect of the well-known Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Communications Workers v. Beck decision. That decision established that employees cannot be compelled to pay for costs unrelated to collective bargaining, such as union political activity.
Prime’s situation is somewhat unique, as Florida has a highly popular Right to Work law that bans compulsory unionism. However, because Vertex Aerospace employees work on federal property under exclusive federal jurisdiction, the state’s Right to Work law does not protect them.