ORLANDO, Fla. (October 30, 2001) – After a federal agency ruled in his favor, a Lockheed Martin employee today filed suit against International Association of Machinists (IAM) union officials, who threatened to have him fired from his job for exercising his right to refrain from supporting the union on religious grounds.
With the help of National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, Robert Beers, who works in astronautics operations at Lockheed Martin’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station facility, filed the civil rights lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida against IAM Local 610.
“Machinists union bosses are arrogantly refusing to halt their harassment of this sincere conscientious objector,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Beers’ sincerely held religious beliefs prevented him from supporting the union’s militant ideological agenda, particularly its support for abortion and homosexuality, which he believes are forbidden by the Bible. He asserted his right as a religious objector under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to refrain from union activities and withhold the payment of union dues, offering instead to send his union dues to a mutually agreed-upon charity.
Union officials refused his request and wrote Beers they would have him fired from his job.
Beers filed religious discrimination charges against the union in the fall of 2000 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC found in his favor and attempted to persuade the union’s officials to agree to a settlement. However, IAM Local 610’s lawyers thumbed their noses at the EEOC offer and continued to oppose Beers’ religious objection, forcing him to file suit in federal court.
Even though Florida has a Right to Work law allowing employees to cut off dues payments to unwanted unions, Cape Canaveral is considered a “federal enclave” subject to provisions in federal labor law granting union officials the power to collect union dues from non-religious objectors as a job condition.
Foundation attorneys are seeking a permanent injunction forcing IAM Local 610 officials to honor Beers’ religious objection and inform all bargaining unit employees of their right to divert forced union dues to a charity if their religious convictions prevent them from supporting the union. Beers is also asking for the return of illegally seized union dues, punitive and compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees.
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.