Right to Work attorneys challenge union officials’ violation of worker’s civil rights
Washington, DC (December 15, 2009) – With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, a western Michigan auto worker is asking the U.S. Supreme Court today to review a United Auto Workers (UAW) union policy intended to stymie workers’ religious objections to the union bosses’ agenda.
Jeffrey Reed, a resident of Bridgman, Michigan, assembles vehicles for AM General. Because his workplace is unionized, he works under a monopoly bargaining agreement which forces him either to join the UAW or pay compulsory union fees to it in order to keep his job. However, Reed, a devout Catholic, believes financially supporting the UAW union violates his sincerely-held religious beliefs due to the union hierarchy’s support for special rights for homosexuals and abortion-on-demand.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, union officials may not force any employee to financially support a union if doing so violates the worker’s sincerely-held religious beliefs. The statute requires union officials to attempt to accommodate the worker – most often by redirecting the mandatory union fees to a mutually agreed upon charity – to avoid the conflict between an employee’s faith and a requirement to pay fees to a union he or she believes to be immoral.
However, because Reed is refraining from full dues paying union membership based on his faith, UAW union bosses forced him to pay a $100 premium and continue to pay 22 percent more than the amount workers who object on non-religious grounds must pay. Both full UAW members and secular objectors are allowed to pay an amount less than full dues if they wish to cut off the use of their union dues for political activities.
In 2006, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined UAW officials violated federal law and issued Reed a “right to sue” letter, but the union hierarchy still refused to grant him a proper accommodation. Foundation litigators then filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and later appealed an unfavorable trial court decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Foundation attorneys filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to overturn the lower courts’ decisions which require Reed to be discharged or disciplined before he can challenge the UAW’s practice of forcing religious objectors to pay more than the forced dues paid by nonmembers who refrain from union membership for purely secular reasons. Foundation attorneys also point out in their brief that the nation’s federal circuit courts are equally divided on the issue.
“By maintaining a discriminatory policy, the UAW hierarchy appears to have little regard for those who have deep moral objections to the union and its objectionable activities,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Employees should not have to take legal action for union officials to respect their fundamental right to religious freedom.”