Government Union Officials Sic Collection Agency on Unsuspecting Public Defender for Illegal Forced Dues
Worker unaware of union officials’ so-called representation; case shows need for state Right to Work law
Albuquerque, NM (June 26, 2012) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a public defender from the Alamogordo office of the New Mexico Public Defender Department has filed a charge against a local union for wrongfully charging her with failure to pay union dues for the past five years.
Nancy Fleming filed the charge with the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board against American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) New Mexico Council 18 union for illegally trying to confiscate forced union dues payments from her paycheck without notifying her that she was in the union’s monopoly bargaining unit and refusing to follow federal disclosure requirements.
Fleming was unaware that AFSCME Council 18 union officials' claimed to "represent" her and was never asked if she wanted to be a member or pay union dues or fees to the union. However, Fleming began to receive notices earlier this year from a collection agency stating that the union reported her delinquent in paying union dues or fees dating back to 2006.
Because New Mexico does not have Right to Work protections making union affiliation completely voluntary, workers who refrain from formal union membership may still be forced to pay part of union dues to keep their jobs. However, federal case law requires union officials to inform nonmember workers of where their union dues are being spent.
In New Mexico, union officials often report workers who do not make union dues payments to a collection agency, opening the door for unsuspecting workers to find themselves being harassed by a collection agency for payment of union dues when they did not even know their workplace was unionized.
"AFSCME union bosses are charging an unsuspecting worker for 'representation' she did not even know existed until a collection agency harassed her for delinquent payments," said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work. "Thanks to biased federal and state laws, union officials are the only private individuals who can claim to 'represent' someone and then demand payment from them – but union officials must at least inform workers of their rights before they do so."
“To prevent these types of forced unionism abuses in the future, New Mexico desperately needs to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary,” added Mix.
Twenty-three states have Right to Work protections for workers. Recent public polling shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans and 80 percent of union members support the Right to Work principle of voluntary unionism.