Pittsburgh, PA (September 26, 2008) – The United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of seven Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) employees against the Teamsters union and PTC for seizing forced union dues in violation of the employees’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
With free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Foundation, the seven Turnpike workers filed a federal lawsuit last year against Teamsters Local 250, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), and the PTC. Local 250 is the certified monopoly bargaining agent of Turnpike employees – every employee, like it or not, is forced to accept union representation and is required to pay dues or fees to the union to keep his or her job.
In the Foundation-won Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously established due process safeguards to ensure that employees are not compelled to subsidize union activities beyond what union officials can prove is spent on collective bargaining. Union expenditures such as organizing and political activism cannot be legally charged to workers who exercise their right to refrain from union membership. Before collecting an “agency fee” from a nonmember employee, a union must provide an adequate explanation for the basis of the fee, verified by an independent auditor, and an opportunity for the worker to challenge the amount of the fee before an impartial third party.
In its decision released on Thursday, the District Court found that Local 250 failed to provide an adequate basis for the forced union fee seized from the seven workers, from whom the PTC seized more than 92 percent of the dues formal union members paid. The court found that the local’s “procedures for chargeability audits are faulty and incomplete.” Specifically, Local 250 failed to break down the portion of the fees which went to the local’s national affiliates.
Particularly troubling are the court’s findings that the “independent auditor” relied solely on a personal conversation with a Local 250 union boss, “word of mouth” from IBT chiefs, and a quick look at the local’s year end balance sheets to verify the chargeability of the union’s expenses. Local union officials also failed to even obtain an audit of its expenses one year.
The court awarded nominal damages, restitution of the nonchargeable portions of the agency fees seized after the employees resigned in writing (plus interest), and attorneys’ fees. It will hold an evidentiary to determine the amount of the restitution. At the hearing, the court will also consider whether six of the employees may be entitled to restitution for an earlier period because union bosses failed to provide them adequate Hudson notices after they orally expressed their desire to resign from the union.
“Unfortunately, Pennsylvania does not have a Right to Work law,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “In the absence of such a protection, union bosses will continue to try to extract as much dues money as possible from dissenting workers.”
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, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.