Machinist Union Hierarchy Faces 15 Additional Federal Charges in Wake of Last Summer’s Caterpillar Strike
Union officials demand at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in strike fines from workers
Chicago, IL (April 17, 2013) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, 15 additional Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) workers have filed federal charges against a local Machinist union for violating their rights and levying retaliatory strike fines against them in the wake of last summer's union boss-instigated strike against Caterpillar.
The 15 workers join 24 other workers who filed similar charges late last month and two who filed charges late last year with free legal assistance from Foundation attorneys.
On May 1, 2012, International Association of Machinists (IAM) District Lodge 851 union bosses ordered all of the over 800 Joliet Caterpillar workers on strike. The 41 workers who have filed charges to date were among the over hundred workers who worked despite the IAM union boss demands.
Under federal law, workers who are not voluntary union members are exempt from the union hierarchy's constitution and bylaws and thus cannot be disciplined for continuing to work during a union boss-ordered strike. However, IAM Local 851 union bosses recently levied fines totaling hundreds of thousands to over a million dollars against the workers for continuing to work during the strike.
Some workers allege that they were never truly voluntary union members because IAM Lodge 851 union officials never informed them of their right to refrain from union membership. Some workers were even illegally told that union membership was mandatory as a condition of their employment when they tried to resign membership. Others have additional defenses.
Some workers allege that union officials gave them permission that it was acceptable to go back to work to continue to support their families. One worker alleges that union militants threatened him with violence if he returned to work. Two others allege union officials illegally charged them for union dues at times when they were briefly laid off from their jobs at Caterpillar.
"As more abused Caterpillar workers come forward, the pattern of rights abuses perpetrated by IAM union bosses becomes clearer," said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. "The ugly aftermath of the Caterpillar strike underscores the need for an Illinois Right to Work law. IAM union bosses have become so mad with their forced-dues power that it appears their standard operating procedure is simply to intimidate and otherwise violate the rights of Caterpillar workers who do not toe the union line."
Twenty-four states have Right to Work protections for workers. Public polling shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans and union members support the principle of voluntary unionism.