Tampa, FL (June 4, 2009) – Today, National Right to Work Foundation attorneys announced they have reached a settlement for a Verizon Communications employee who was discriminated against by the company and union bosses because she exercised her right to refrain from union membership.
Angela Leitzel works as a field technician for Verizon in Tampa, Florida. Because Florida is one of 22 Right to Work states, Leitzel may not be compelled to pay any union dues, although she must accept unwanted “representation” of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 824 union bosses.
In February, Verizon assembled a team of Florida-based technicians, including Leitzel, for a work assignment in California out of a facility “represented” by Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 9588 and affiliates CWA International and CWA District 9. On February 17, Verizon removed Leitzel from the project, and a company representative informed her that she could not work on the project, because she was not a member of IBEW Local 824.
On March 9, Leitzel was again barred from another team going to California to perform work for Verizon. The company informed her that CWA officials would not permit her to work at the California facility because she was not a member of IBEW Local 824.
With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, Leitzel filed unfair labor practice charges against Verizon and the unions. Federal labor law forbids employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of non-membership in a union. Moreover, CWA officials committed unfair labor practices by encouraging Verizon to discriminate against her and failing to inform her of her rights in California, which has no Right to Work law, to refrain from union membership and pay reduced fees, rights established in the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court precedent CWA v. Beck (1988).
The NLRB Regional Director in Tampa agreed with the charges and threatened to issue a complaint against the unions and the company, so they sought to settle the case to avoid a costly and embarrassing legal battle. The settlement guarantees Leitzel full compensation for lost income related to her removal from work, and the company and unions agreed to cease all illegal discrimination on account of union affiliation. A notice to be posted at Verizon workplaces in Tampa and Bradenton, Florida, and in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, and San Fernando, California, will inform other Verizon employees that such union discrimination is illegal.
“California should take a lesson from Florida: no employee should ever be forced to join or pay fees to an unwanted union,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “The only way to eliminate collusion between Big Business and Big Labor to discriminate against independent-minded employees is to eliminate forced unionism altogether.”
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.