SEIU Union Lawyers File Desperate Federal Lawsuit to Block SFO Screeners’ Election to Rid Workplace of Forced Union Dues
San Francisco, CA (June 1, 2007) — National Right to Work Foundation attorneys have filed a motion to intervene to stop a desperate, last-ditch effort by union lawyers to block the federal labor board from conducting a secret-ballot election in which 900 airport security screeners at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) may choose to end the union’s ability to seize compulsory union dues.
With 900 screeners forced to pay roughly $400 each per year, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials stand to lose upwards of $360,000 annually in compulsory dues if the employees succeed, and Foundation attorneys will ask the court to throw out the SEIU lawsuit.
That lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, names the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 20 Director, as well as appointed Members of the NLRB in Washington, DC. The suit claims that these officials do not have the discretion to allow employees to exercise their statutory right to an election. The NLRB has final jurisdiction over such “deauthorization” elections, and a federal court has no legal authority to enjoin the election.
Led by Stephen Burke, a four-and-a-half year employee of Covenant Aviation Security at SFO, the screeners are upset that SEIU officials became their monopoly bargaining agent in the first place -- without a secret-ballot election, but rather through a coercive “card check” campaign -- and almost immediately ordered the security screeners to pay union dues or be fired from their jobs.
Under coercive “card check” unionization, rather than a vote in a government-supervised secret ballot election, union operatives may browbeat dissenting workers into signing cards later counted as “votes” favoring unionization. Since gaining monopoly bargaining power over the screeners, many have reported that the union hierarchy is unresponsive, and unwilling to do anything other than collect forced dues. Many screeners have reported that this dissatisfaction fostered the deauthorization effort.
Hundreds of SFO security screeners apparently object to the mandatory union dues requirement. Over 45 percent of Burke’s coworkers signed the deauthorization petition, far beyond the 30 percent necessary to trigger the NLRB supervised-election. If a majority of all employees in the bargaining unit vote in favor of deauthorization, union officials will be stripped of their special privilege to compel payment of dues.
"Without the ability to withhold union dues, SFO screeners have virtually no leverage to keep union officials from continuing to act in their own self-interest,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation, a charitable organization that is assisting the screeners in vindicating their rights. “This desperate lawsuit against the Members of the NLRB demonstrates how aggressively union officials guard their special legal privilege to shake down employees for union dues.”
SEIU officials had previously tried to block the employees from obtaining the deauthorization election by challenging signatures collected in opposition to the forced dues clause before it took effect. However, the NLRB in Washington, DC, recently rejected that challenge and ordered the election to proceed.