Lack of Right to Work law leads to ugly union abuse of workers
Indianapolis, IN (April 24, 2009) – With free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Foundation, three bus drivers have filed federal unfair labor practice charges against union bosses for an illegal scheme to bully nonmember employees into paying full union dues.
Barry Hickman, Connie Hickman, and Thomas Spencer II drive school buses for First Student, where they are forced to accept the “representation” of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3826. In March and April 2008, Barry and Connie Hickman sent two letters each to AFSCME Council 62, the regional body which handles the local’s objection policy, objecting to pay for non-bargaining costs they could not be required to financially support. Spencer sent a similar objection letter in May.
Because Indiana is not yet a Right to Work state, nonmembers may be fired from their jobs for refusal to pay compulsory fees to a union with which they want nothing to do. However, union officials may not lawfully compel nonmembers to pay for activities like political activism, lobbying, and member-only events.
AFSCME union bosses, however, did not acknowledge the objection letters and failed to provide the employees with a notification of their rights under the Foundation-won Beck v. Communication Workers of America. Under Beck, unions must also provide such employees with an audited breakdown of chargeable expenses.
In September, AFSCME union officials deducted full union dues from the paychecks of the Hickmans, Spencer, and other similarly situated employees, even though the employees never authorized dues deduction. Two months later, union bosses threatened that the employees would be fired by First Student if they did not join the union and sign dues deduction authorization cards.
In mid-January, AFSCME union brass finally provided the Hickmans with a notice of objection policy but informed them that they would need to send new objection letters by January 31, even though they had already each formally objected twice in the last year. Union officials never provided Spencer with such a notice at all.
In charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board, Foundation attorneys argue that AFSCME union chiefs violated their duty of fair representation under federal labor law by deducting full union dues without the employees’ consent, failing to provide Beck notices before deducting dues, and illegally threatening the employees for exercising their absolute right to refrain from formal union membership.
“Time and time again, union bosses trick, mislead, and threaten employees to pay union dues to fund their agenda,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Only a Right to Work law in Indiana will protect against these heavy-handed tactics.