Public Employee Union Officials Sued for Forcing Employees to Stay in Union Ranks

Union bosses’ illegal scheme violates employees’ constitutional rights

Harrisburg, PA (February 9, 2009) – Three Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA) employees filed a federal suit challenging two Pennsylvania laws that unconstitutionally prohibit workers from leaving union ranks.

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, providing CATA employees Brenda Hall, Karen Ilgen, and Martha Hoy with free legal aid, filed the suit today in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Union officials rebuffed the employees’ repeated requests to resign from formal union membership in the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local affiliate 1203B and District Council 83 unions.

Local 1203B and District Council 83 union officials are using the Pennsylvania Public Employee Forced Unionism Law and the Public Employee Relations Act as justification to compel the employees into continuing formal union membership and require the CATA illegally to extract full union dues from the employees.

As well as challenging the state law, the employees are suing for their right to retroactively object to formal union membership and obtain refunds. The employees are backed by decades of case law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Click here to read the rest of the Foundation's press release.

Snakepit of Corruption: SEIU Union Bosses' Scandals Pile Up

Last year, Freedom@Work reported on the allegations of corruption against Tyrone Freeman, former boss of the largest Service Employees International Union (SEIU) affiliate in California. Freeman spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars of rank-and-file workers' forced union dues on his wife's and mother's companies and on a luxurious fat-cat lifestyle. The Los Angeles Times later reported Freeman's SEIU affiliate "charity" failed to spend a single cent on its charitable mission in two of the four years it has been in existence.

Today, the Los Angeles Times reports another SEIU union official corruption scandal, this time executive vice president of the SEIU's Illinois-Indiana health care affiliate and national SEIU union board member Byron Hobbs.

Hobbs is accused of billing the union for $9,000 for personal expenses. The LA Times continues its report by putting the latest scandal in context:

...[former Freeman Chief-of-Staff] Rickman Jackson, was removed as head of the SEIU's largest Michigan local, because he allegedly received improper lease payments for his Bell Gardens house.

Annelle Grajeda, president of both a second L.A. local and the SEIU's state council, has been on leave since August, when the union began investigating whether she had improperly used her influence to keep her ex-boyfriend on the county payroll...

Last month, the union imposed a trusteeship on an Oakland-based local and fired its officers, accusing them of misusing dues money to wage a political battle against SEIU President Andy Stern.

And of course, who can forget that it was a SEIU union boss who was engaged in pay-to-play talks with former [and corrupt] Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich -- to allegedly buy Obama's then-vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Unfortunately, the people most hurt by union boss corruption are the rank-and-file workers, especially in forced unionism states. Right to work laws allow workers to hold union officials more accountable because workers can cut off union dues if they don’t like union officials' so-called “representation,” politics, corruption, or fat-cat lifestyles.

The Coercive Nature of American Labor Law

The Future of Freedom Foundation's "Freedom Daily" published an article titled "The Authoritarianism of American Labor Law" by George C. Leef, author of Free Choice for Workers: A History of the Right to Work Movement.

In it, Leef points out federal labor law, including the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), heavily favors union officials at the expense of workplace freedom and the individual rights of employees. Leef continues by pointing out the dangers to liberty the "Card Check" Forced Organizing schemes pose to workers' rights:

The secret-ballot elections under the NLRA at least have the virtue of shielding individual workers from reprisals for going “the wrong way.” Union officials have found what they regard as a better method of determining whether a majority want their services. It’s called the “card check” system. If a majority of workers sign a card saying that they want a union to represent them, then that should suffice for the NLRB to declare the union to be the exclusive bargaining representative, without resort to an election. Naturally, it’s easier for union organizers to get signatures on cards — using tactics that can include misrepresentation and harassment — than to get workers to vote for them in an election after the airing of arguments for and against the union.

Under the NLRA, however, employers have the right to insist on a secret-ballot election no matter how many cards might be signed. The Employee Free Choice Act would take that away and require the NLRB to certify unions simply on the basis of signed cards.

Furthermore, the [so-called Employee Free Choice Act] EFCA would ratchet up the coercion regarding contract negotiations. The current law is bad enough in compelling “good faith” bargaining, but the proposed new law would allow government officials to arbitrate the terms of the initial union contract. That is to say, if management and the union can’t arrive at a mutually agreeable labor contract, the federal government will impose one. That additional dollop of federal coercion is said by supporters to be necessary to effectuate the workers’ “right to bargain.” In a free society, though, there is no “right to bargain” with people who don’t want to bargain with you, and a fortiori there is no right to have the government dictate the terms of that “bargaining.”

Union officials were licking their chops at the prospect of using the EFCA to dragoon thousands of new workers into their ranks, but the bill has died in Congress. It will be resurrected in the future and we will again hear supporters making claims of why we need its new coercive features. We will also hear opponents arguing that we should stick with the good old status quo. What I think we really need is a discussion about the proper approach to labor law in a free society.

To read the rest of the article and Leef's proposal for ending the compulsion currently entrenched in American labor law, click here.

News Release

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees With Right to Work Foundation: Unions Have No Right to Payroll Deduction

More effective alternative would have been stopping government payroll deduction for all union dues

Washington, DC (February 24, 2009) – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 6-3 in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association that states may prohibit union officials from using payroll deduction to divert government workers’ money into union coffers.

In overturning a Ninth Circuit appeals court decision and upholding an Idaho law banning payroll deduction for union political dues from state and local government employees, the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, agreed with arguments made by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys. The lower court had blocked the state from requiring local government bodies to comply with the state law.

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys – joining with the Sutherland Institute, Utah Taxpayers Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business – successfully argued in their amicus brief (pdf) that unions, in fact, have no constitutional right to use government resources to deduct dues from workers’ paychecks.

“The Supreme Court's decision makes clear what should be obvious, that union officials have no constitutional right to use government resources to line their pockets,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. "It is bad public policy for government bodies essentially to act as bagmen for union political monies.”

“But there was a much more effective way to address this problem. The Idaho legislature should simply have banned all union payroll deductions, not just those for narrowly defined political activities,” continued Gleason. “Unfortunately, the definition of politics covered by such laws is so narrow that union bosses are essentially able to continue business as usual.”

The majority opinion also relied on the unanimous Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court Davenport v. WEA victory. In Davenport, Foundation attorneys represented a group of nonunion Washington State teachers.

The three dissenting Justices in Ysursa were troubled by the appearance that the Idaho law targeted only union political speech rather than having a broader objective. Legal experts agree that laws which ban payroll deduction across the board – rather than just monies for certain political speech – would therefore be less vulnerable to legal attack and would better serve the public policy purposes underpinning such laws.

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.

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees With Right to Work Foundation: Unions Have No Right to Payroll Deduction

News Release

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees With Right to Work Foundation: Unions Have No Right to Payroll Deduction

More effective alternative would have been stopping government payroll deduction for all union dues

Washington, DC (February 24, 2009) — The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 6-3 in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association that states may prohibit union officials from using payroll deduction to divert government workers’ money into union coffers.

In overturning a Ninth Circuit appeals court decision and upholding an Idaho law banning payroll deduction for union political dues from state and local government employees, the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, agreed with arguments made by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys. The lower court had blocked the state from requiring local government bodies to comply with the state law.

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys – joining with the Sutherland Institute, Utah Taxpayers Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business – successfully argued in their amicus brief (pdf) that unions, in fact, have no constitutional right to use government resources to deduct dues from workers’ paychecks.

“The Supreme Court's decision makes clear what should be obvious, that union officials have no constitutional right to use government resources to line their pockets,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. "It is bad public policy for government bodies essentially to act as bagmen for union political monies.”

(Continue reading this news release...)

News Release

Truck Drivers and Dockworkers Fight Back Against Teamster Union Intimidation

Employees seek to throw out union after union bosses’ ugly campaign of harassment and coercion

Seattle, Washington (March 5, 2009) – Employees from nine collective bargaining units of Oak Harbor Freight Lines, Inc. have filed decertification petitions seeking elections to oust the Teamster union as the workers’ monopoly bargaining agent.

With help from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the employees – drivers and dockworkers – filed the decertification petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking secret ballot elections to determine whether the workforce wants to retain the Teamster union as their monopoly bargaining agent.

On September 22, 2008, Teamster union brass called a strike against Oak Harbor Freight. Teamster union operatives picketed Oak Harbor Freight’s clients with the goal of discouraging them from doing business with the company.  Teamster union bosses sought publicly to damage Oak Harbor Freight’s reputation and openly celebrated when clients refused to do further business with the company.

Teamster union bosses organized a subsequent campaign of intimidation and harassment of Oak Harbor Freight employees who continued to work during the strike. Teamster union partisans participated in ambulatory strikes, in which they stalked and picketed Oak Harbor Freight drivers on their daily routes.

“It’s particularly despicable to intimidate workers if they refuse to abandon their jobs in the midst of an economic crisis,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “All workers should be free to support their families, free from harassment by union bosses.”

The Oak Harbor Freight employees work at terminal sites in Auburn, Washington; Burlington (Mt. Vernon), Washington; Olympia, Washington; Pasco, Washington; Spokane, Washington; Wenatchee, Washington; Medford, Oregon; Salem, Oregon; and Boise, Idaho.

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.

Truck Drivers and Dockworkers Fight Back Against Teamster Union Intimidation

News Release

Truck Drivers and Dockworkers Fight Back Against Teamster Union Intimidation

Employees seek to throw out union after union bosses’ ugly campaign of harassment and coercion

Seattle, Washington (March 5, 2009) — Employees from nine collective bargaining units of Oak Harbor Freight Lines, Inc. have filed decertification petitions seeking elections to oust the Teamster union as the workers’ monopoly bargaining agent.

With help from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the employees – drivers and dockworkers – filed the decertification petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking secret ballot elections to determine whether the workforce wants to retain the Teamster union as their monopoly bargaining agent.

On September 22, 2008, Teamster union brass called a strike against Oak Harbor Freight. Teamster union operatives picketed Oak Harbor Freight’s clients with the goal of discouraging them from doing business with the company. Teamster union bosses sought publicly to damage Oak Harbor Freight’s reputation and openly celebrated when clients refused to do further business with the company.

Teamster union bosses organized a subsequent campaign of intimidation and harassment of Oak Harbor Freight employees who continued to work during the strike. Teamster union partisans participated in ambulatory strikes, in which they stalked and picketed Oak Harbor Freight drivers on their daily routes.

(Continue reading this news release...)

Speaking Out of School: Brave Union Boss Slams "Card Check" Forced Unionism

Last week, Big Labor's bought-and-paid-for politicians in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate introduced the Card Check Forced Unionism Bill. This Big Labor-endorsed compulsory unionism scheme is intended to give federal government bureaucrats the unprecedented power to impose wages and working conditions, including forced union dues, on employees and employers after workers are herded into union collectives without even a secret ballot election.

Neal Catlett, former union president at a Whirlpool plant in Arkansas, spoke out against Big Labor's card check coercion:

Catlett, now retired from Whirlpool, opposes card check. He told The City Wire that he has seen plenty of “nonsense” among Whirlpool leaders and union leaders to know that anything other than a secret ballot will lead to intimidation, coercion and corruption on all sides.

“I strongly support secret ballots. Period. It doesn’t matter at what level, whether it is voting for a union or the president or your congressman,” Catlett said. “Your ideas should be personal as to if you want a union or don’t want a union.”

Card check is a dangerous encroachment on workers' rights in the workplace and opens up the door for a flood of union intimidation and coercion to force more workers into forced-union-dues-paying ranks. Carlett, discrediting any claim that the legislation protects workers based on his own personal experience as a union president, hit the nail on the head when he stated:

“Doing away with the secret ballot is not good for the unions. It’s not good for any business... Open voting creates an atmosphere of intimidation. It creates an atmosphere where people will use your opinion against you. I’ve seen the threats and I’ve actually seen the physical conflict, if you know what I mean, come from the business side and from the union side,” Catlett said. “I just don’t see how any process that is not private will protect the worker.”

Frankly, we suggest Cartlett hire a bodyguard immediately.  We're not kidding.  Union retribution can be swift and ugly.


Terms of Web Site Use      Related Links: National Right to Work Committee | National Institute for Labor Relations Research

Copyright © 2010 National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
 National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, Inc.
8001 Braddock Road / Springfield, Virginia 22160
(703) 321-8510 | (800) 336-3600 / (703) 321-9613 fax - general (703) 321-9319 fax - legal department