**Harrisburg, PA (June 6, 2007)** — A federal judge has enjoined a Teamsters union local, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and two Turnpike Commission officers from continuing to seize union dues from the paychecks of 20 Pennsylvania Turnpike employees who brought suit to vindicate their constitutional rights. The preliminary injunction also blocks enforcement of a longtime union policy that bars thousands of employees in Pennsylvania from resigning from formal union membership for up to three years.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is providing free legal aid to two groups of Turnpike employees from Harrisburg and Pittsburgh in their challenge to the unlawful collection of forced union dues. This injunction pertains to the Harrisburg lawsuit involving Teamsters union Local 77.
The employees filed the parallel lawsuits in March citing multiple violations of employees’ rights by Turnpike and Teamsters union Local 77 and Local 250 officials in confiscating forced dues from employees who, in the case of the Pittsburgh employees, who had resigned their formal union membership. In Pennsylvania, a compulsory unionism state, nonunion members can only be forced to pay for a union’s proven collective bargaining costs.
The Harrisburg lawsuit includes a potentially precedent-setting claim challenging the constitutionality of a clause in the 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 contract.
In granting the employees’ motion for a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner noted that, under the policy, “the only way plaintiffs can resign from the union is to leave their employment” and employees are subject to union discipline and must pay full dues despite their “disagreement with the union’s ideology or politics.” The judge found that the policy “may have a direct and deleterious impact on plaintiffs’ rights under the First Amendment,” and that union officials’ actions demonstrated a “real or immediate danger to their First Amendment rights.”
These so-called “maintenance of membership” clauses are common in the public sector in Pennsylvania and exist in several other states. Union officials use them to block employees from exercising their constitutional rights to refrain from formal union membership and cut off compulsory dues unrelated to monopoly bargaining.
“Union officials want to keep Pennsylvania’s public employees from exercising what limited rights they still possess to cut off payment of compulsory union dues,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Until employees in the Keystone State are protected by a Right to Work law making union dues payment strictly voluntary, such abuses will inevitably continue.”
The union hierarchy is violating the minimal procedural protections required by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1988 *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.