Union officials demand hundreds thousands of dollars in strike fines from workers
Chicago, IL (January 17, 2013) – Two Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) workers have won a settlement from a local Machinist union after union brass illegally charged them full union dues and attempted to punish them for working during a highly-publicized strike against the company even though the workers were not union members.
The settlement stems from a federal unfair labor practice charge Daniel Eggleston and Steven Olsen filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional office in Chicago with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys against the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union and its local District Lodge 851 affiliate.
Eggleston and Olsen have refrained from union membership in the IAM union for years and are thus exempted from the union hierarchy's constitution and bylaws. On May 1, Machinists Local 851 union bosses ordered all of the over 800 Rockdale Caterpillar workers on strike. Eggleston and Olsen, along with over a hundred other workers, continued to work despite IAM union boss demands.
In response, IAM Local 851 union bosses demanded that Eggleston and Olsen, and scores of other workers, appear before a union tribunal to be disciplined for refusing to leave their jobs during the strike. However, under federal law, workers who are not union members cannot be disciplined for continuing to work during a union boss-ordered strike.
Moreover, despite the fact that Eggleston and Olsen exercised their right under Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court precedent upheld in Communication Workers v. Beck not to pay full union dues, Local 851 union officials continued to extract full dues from their paychecks and then forced them to jump through hoops to get back the money the union illegally took.
Because Illinois does not have a Right to Work law, workers who refrain from union membership can be forced to pay part of union dues and fees. However, the Court held in Beck that workers who refrain from union membership cannot be forced to pay for union activities unrelated to workplace bargaining, such as politics and ideological causes.
The union hierarchy was forced to settle Eggleston and Olsen's charge. The union officials dropped their attempts to punish the two workers for continuing to work during the strike and agreed to refund the amount of union dues illegally taken from the workers’ paychecks.
Foundation attorneys anticipate that charges will be filed for other Caterpillar workers at the facility in the coming weeks. Some other workers who contacted the Foundation for free legal aid were fined over $30,000 by the union.
"Militant IAM union bosses are trying to intimidate over a hundred Caterpillar workers who had the temerity to not toe the union line and instead provide for their families," said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work. "This case underscores the need for an Illinois Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary."