Union bosses unlawfully blocked musicians from attending rehearsals, sabotaged work opportunities
Los Angeles, California (October 27, 2008) – Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court against the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Locals 7, 47, and 581 unions on behalf of seven nonmember musicians whose careers were seriously damaged by union militants.
Filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the suit alleges that union officials conspired to blacklist musicians in retaliation for resigning from formal union membership. Union officials are accused of violating their “duty of fair representation” by refusing nonmember musicians access to a rehearsal hall, hindering their efforts to find employment, and enshrining certain discriminatory policies in contracts with several local symphonies.
Under the Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent Communication Workers v. Beck, workers have the right to resign from formal, full dues-paying union membership. Because California has no Right to Work law making dues payment strictly voluntary, employees in a union-controlled bargaining unit can still be obligated to pay certain dues for union activities related to collective bargaining. However, employees who exercise their right to resign from formal union membership cannot be discriminated against by union officials or employers. Every Foundation plaintiff has met its forced-dues obligation to the union’s local affiliates.
Nevertheless, AFM union operatives attempted to blacklist dissenters who resigned their union membership by informing prospective employers that they were “not in good standing” and therefore ineligible for work. As a result, several orchestras and producers declined to hire nonunion musicians.
Furthermore, union officials included a discriminatory clause in contracts with local orchestras explicitly forbidding the employment of nonunion workers. Union officials from one local also prevented nonunion employees from accessing a rehearsal hall used by several employers. Foundation attorneys are seeking financial restitution for the plaintiffs as well as a court injunction preventing future discriminatory practices.
“Ugly union discrimination and intimidation of this nature is a widespread practice in the entertainment industry,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “We expect the union will face a substantial and embarrassing defeat as a result of this lawsuit.”