Relying on landmark Knox Supreme Court decision, workers seek to roll back union boss power to collect forced dues
Dallas, TX (June 27, 2013) – Six airline workers have filed a federal class-action lawsuit that seeks to expand workers' right to refrain from paying union dues in light of last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Knox v. SEIU Local 1000.
Five American Eagle Airlines baggage handlers from Texas and a Southwest Airlines flight attendant from Maryland filed the lawsuit with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas.
The workers all are not members of the Transport Workers Union of America (TWUA). However, the workers must still accept the TWUA hierarchy as their monopoly bargaining representative even though they are prohibited from voting on the union's bargaining agreement or participating in union meetings. Additionally, federal labor law empowers union officials to extract union dues and fees from the workers as payment for their so-called "representation." If the workers refused to pay union dues or fees, they would be terminated from their jobs.
Last year, the Supreme Court suggested in its Foundation-won Knox v. SEIU ruling that it was ready to reassess whether union bosses' forced dues powers, which it called "something of an anomaly," violate workers' First Amendment rights. Responding to that suggestion, the workers' lawsuit seeks to eliminate forced unionism in America.
Alternatively, the airline workers seek to expand to all union forced fees allocated to politics and other non-bargaining activities Knox's ruling that a union may not exact special assessments or mid-year dues increases from nonmembers without their affirmative consent. Currently, nonmembers must pay full union dues – including the portion used for union politicking – unless they affirmatively object.
The workers are also challenging the TWUA union bosses' burdensome requirements that workers must annually opt out of paying full union dues. The suit also attacks the TWUA union's rebate scheme, under which full dues are taken from the paychecks of nonmember workers who pay the forced union fees by payroll deduction, giving the union officials a forced loan for up to four months that can be used for political activities.
"Union bosses have abused their extraordinary government-granted power to automatically compel workers to fund their political activities unless workers object – a power granted to no other private organization in our country – for far too long," said Mark Mix, president of National Right to Work. "The First Amendment right of workers who refrain from union membership to automatically refrain from paying union dues at all and especially for politics is long overdue."