News Release

Voluntary Emergency Responders Challenge Forced Unionism Scheme

Union bosses demand firefighters join union or be fired

Harford, MD (May 22, 2013) – Three Harford County emergency responders have filed charges against a local union for violating their rights and illegally demanding that they join the union.

With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, the first responders filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Beginning in November 2012, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 4847 union became the exclusive bargaining representative of the emergency responders at Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Foundation. Between November and April, the union hierarchy never informed the workers of any financial obligations they would have to meet to keep working for the County Foundation.

Then, on April 1, 2013, IAFF Local 4847 union officials demanded the workers join the union and pay full union dues. Under federal law, no worker can be forced to formally join a union. However, because Maryland is not a Right to Work state, workers can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

IAFF Local 4847 union officials never informed the workers of their right to refrain from full-dues-paying union membership as upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Right to Work Foundation-won Communications Workers v. Beck case. Under Beck, nonmember workers cannot be legally compelled to pay union dues used for union politics and member-only events.

Additionally, the IAFF union officials refused to provide the workers with the amount of union dues or fees nonmember workers must pay as a condition of their employment or a reasonable opportunity to refrain from full dues payments. On May 13, IAFF union officials demanded that the Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Foundation terminate the three workers and others for failing to pay union dues.

"IAFF union bosses have long opposed volunteer firefighting and these illegal demands are just another example," said Patrick Semmens, Vice President for Public Information of the National Right to Work Foundation. "Maryland desperately needs a Right to Work law making union membership and dues-payments completely voluntary to prevent this type of union boss abuse in the future."

Twenty-four states have Right to Work protections for employees. Public polling shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans and union members support the Right to Work principle of voluntary unionism.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

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