26 Turnpike Employees Hit Teamsters Union with Two Civil Rights Lawsuits for Illegal Union Dues Seizures
**Pittsburgh/Harrisburg, PA (March 22, 2007)** — A group of 26 Pennsylvania Turnpike employees have filed two federal lawsuits against two Teamsters union locals, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and two Turnpike Commission officers for illegally seizing union dues from the employees’ paychecks in violation of their constitutional rights.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is giving the employees free legal aid to file the lawsuits. 19 employees filed the first suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, and seven employees filed the second suit the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh. The Harrisburg suit names Teamsters Union Local 77 and the Pittsburgh lawsuit names Teamsters Union Local 250 for their respective roles in the illegal dues seizures.
The 19 Turnpike employees in the Harrisburg suit are also filing a potentially precedent-setting claim challenging the constitutionality of a clause in the Teamster union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement that prohibits employees from resigning their formal union membership, except during a narrow 15-day window prior to the expiration of a three-year long collective bargaining contract. These so-called “maintenance of membership” clauses are common in the public sector in Pennsylvania. They are intended to block employees from exercising their constitutional rights to refrain from formal union membership, and to cut off funding for objectionable union activities.
Both lawsuits cite multiple violations of employees’ rights by Turnpike and Teamsters union officials in confiscating forced dues from employees who had resigned their formal union membership. The union hierarchy did not follow the minimal procedural protections required by the Supreme Court in the 1986 *Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson* decision. In the Foundation-won *Hudson* case, the High Court ruled that before collecting any forced dues, union officials must provide an audited disclosure of the union’s expenses and give employees an opportunity to object to paying forced union dues spent for certain activities.
Such audits are intended to ensure that nonunion public employees can cut off their funding of union activities unrelated to collective bargaining such as union politics, organizing, and union-only activities. Until employees receive a proper Hudson notice disclosing such expenditures, it is illegal for union officials to collect any forced dues from nonunion employees.
“In their lust for forced dues revenues, Teamsters union officials are trampling upon the rights of the very employees they claim to represent,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “These cases demonstrate two common types of abuse that occur because Pennsylvanian employees do not have the protection of a Right to Work law making the payment of union dues strictly voluntary.”