Indianapolis, IN (September 16, 2009) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, three bus drivers have forced union officials to halt their unfair labor practices after union officials rebuffed the workers’ attempts to opt out of union membership and forced them to pay fees spent for union electioneering and other objectionable activities.
In the Foundation-won Communication Workers of America v. Beck (1988) decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that union officials can lawfully compel nonmembers to pay union dues as a job condition, but not the part of dues spent for activities like political activism, lobbying, and member-only events. However, these limited rights have been difficult to enforce, which adds further strength to the case for a state Right to Work law to end the abusive practice of forcing workers to pay dues or be fired.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3826 union bosses failed to provide First Student school bus drivers with a notification of their rights under Beck. In March and April 2008, Barry and Connie Hickman sent two letters each to AFSCME Council 62, the regional body which handles the local’s objection policy, objecting to paying for non-bargaining costs they cannot be required to support financially. Thomas Spencer II sent a similar objection letter in May.
But in September, AFSCME union officials deducted forced dues from the paychecks of the Hickmans, Spencer, and other similarly situated employees, even though the employees never authorized dues deduction. Two months later, union bosses threatened that the employees would be fired by First Student if they did not join the union and sign dues deduction authorization cards.
In mid-January, AFSCME union brass finally provided the Hickmans with a notice of the union’s objection policy but informed them that they would need to send new objection letters by January 31, even though they had already each formally objected twice in the last year. Union officials never provided Spencer with such a notice at all and deducted full union dues from his paycheck without his consent.
The settlement requires union officials to post notices informing employees of their right to refrain from formal, full dues-paying membership. Spencer will be reimbursed for the union fees that union officials now admit funded non-chargeable activities.
AFSCME union officials will also provide the employees with an audited breakdown of chargeable expenses, and the workers will have the opportunity to challenge the amount of the reduced fees they will still be forced to pay. To date, 22 states have passed Right to Work protections that ensure employees are not forced to pay any union dues as a condition of employment, but Indiana remains a forced unionism state.
“Only a Right to Work law in Indiana will protect workers from power-hungry union bosses who trick, mislead, and threaten employees to pay union dues to fund their agenda,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “No worker should be forced to associate with a union as a condition of getting or keeping a job.”
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.