Court Won’t Hear Challenge to State Law Allowing Union Officials to Pass Judgment on Religious Views
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that California professors may not challenge the new state law that allows state and union officials to determine the acceptability of religious beliefs when employees seek an exemption from the requirement to pay union dues.
The union initially sent a notice to 14,000 non-union professors that a religious accommodation could be obtained only if they were a member of an approved church – as stated in the statute.
But later, California Faculty Association (CFA) union lawyers filed a sworn declaration with the court that despite its previous statements to 14,000 professors, the CFA union does not apply the statute as actually written – or as advertised to this very day on the union’s web site. Based on that declaration filed with the court only, the court ruled that the professors do not have standing to challenge the law even if it violates employees’ freedom of association under the First Amendment.
“It is outrageous that union officials and state bureaucrats try to play God and decide which religions are approved and which are not,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “If someone has a sincere religious objection to supporting a union thought to be immoral, his or her rights should be respected.”
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed the class-action suit, Baird v. CFA, in February 2000 against the CFA union and the State of California on behalf of 14,000 non-union California State University (CSU) professors who must now pay $8.5 million annually in forced dues seized under a sweeping law signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999.
The lead plaintiff, Dr. Charles Baird, distinguished professor of economics at CSU Hayward and a practicing Roman Catholic, had filed an objection to supporting the CFA union since his religious views did not allow him to support an organization that promotes conflict and uses coercion to achieve its goals. But the union’s officials denied his objection.
Meanwhile, Professor Baird filed a charge at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in which the EEOC issued a decision finding cause to believe that the union had not properly accommodated Dr. Baird’s religious beliefs. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employees who have a sincere religious objection to supporting a union – regardless of church affiliation – may divert their compulsory union dues to a charity instead.
The plaintiffs are considering an appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
PALO ALTO, Calif. (March 11, 2002) — Ending a year-long union legal assault and harassment campaign against a nurse who refused to abandon her critically ill patients during a strike at Stanford Hospital, the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo, has dismissed a union-levied $2,500 fine.
The Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA) union levied the retaliatory $2,500 fine on nurse Barbara Williams when she would not walk off the job in a June 2000 strike. With the help of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, Williams beat the fine by arguing that it was arbitrarily assessed, and the union’s own bylaws did not allow it.
“Rather than punish Barbara Williams, she should have been rewarded as a hero and a credit to her profession,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “She had the courage to put her patients needs first rather than the union officials’ agenda.”
In addition to the protracted legal battle with the union, Williams has faced extensive harassment by union activists in the hospital since she refused to walk off the job.
Asked by a local newspaper why she worked during the strike, Williams answered, “I am a professional and I cannot abandon my patients. I think it is wrong, morally and ethically. I don’t want to be a part of any organization that promotes this.”
The case points up the growing trend of abuse in the health care industry that results from increasing unionization of nurses and other medical professionals.
Meanwhile, National Labor Relations Board investigators recently found that CRONA union officials had violated Barbara Williams’ Beck rights. Under Beck, a Supreme Court case that Foundation attorneys argued and won in 1988, workers who are not protected by a Right to Work law may resign from formal union membership and withhold the portion of forced union dues spent on politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
Washington, D.C. (March 11, 2002) – The National Right to Work Foundation blasted officials of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union for exploiting the war on terrorism for personal gain by shutting down key war production.
Directly from the union play book used during other periods of national crisis, the strike threatens to halt production of the F-22 jet fighter and C130-J military transport planes, which are being used by the military in Afghanistan as part of the war on terrorism. By ordering a strike, IAM union officials are attempting to force workers to put their allegiance to the union ahead of their employer and their country. In the past, workers who have decided to continue working have been the victims of hefty fines, harassment, and union violence.
The Foundation announced it will provide free legal aid to workers seeking to exercise their Right to Work.
“Big Labor’s actions are callous and opportunistic. True to form they are exploiting a national crisis to force acceptance of their excessive demands,” stated Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “This is a perfect example of why workers should be freed from government-backed forced unionism which gives union bosses a virtual stranglehold over workers’ jobs and America’s economy.”
Union officials have a long history of using national crises to expand their power and influence. During the Second World War, Big Labor used strikes and work stoppages to impose forced unionism on hundred of thousands of workers. In the most notorious of these strikes, union officials were able to shut down vital iron mines and ultimately persuaded the federal government to mandate that all mining employees pay union dues as a condition of employment.
By the end of World War Two, over 78 percent of unionized employees were governed by contracts that required them to pay union dues as a condition of employment, an increase by a factor of four.
In addition to the threat of strikes, union operatives have used the terrorist attacks on September 11 to try and advance forced unionism on Capitol Hill. In the days following the attack, union lobbyists attempted to push a bill that would impose forced unionism on police and fire-fighters, but so far have been defeated in their efforts. Union officials have described the bill, which was passed out of Ted Kennedy’s Senate Labor Committee, without even a hearing, as “the largest expansion of labor (union) rights considered by Congress in decades.”
To schedule an interview with a Foundation spokesman contact Dan Cronin at 703-770-3317.
Washington, D.C. (February 28, 2002) – Fearing the White House may be buckling under pressure from union officials, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has delivered more than 57,000 grassroots petitions urging President Bush to appeal a U.S. District Court decision enjoining his executive order that requires federal contractors to inform employees of their right to withhold compulsory union dues spent for partisan politics.
“It is alarming the White House has not decided to fight to ensure that employees are able to exercise their political freedom,” stated Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Union officials are already spending millions of dollars in workers’ forced union dues on this fall’s congressional campaigns.”
Earlier this week, the AFL-CIO decided to hit America’s working families with another mandatory tax to pay for electioneering. This is the latest example of union operatives seizing compulsory dues to fund political activities, even as polls show that 62 percent of unionized employees object to this practice.
The deadline for the Bush Administration to appeal the court’s decision is March 4. The National Right to Work Foundation attorneys, who won the Supreme Court decision (Communications Workers v. Beck) that was the basis for the Executive Order 13201, filed as amicus curiae at the District Court level in defense of the Executive Order, and has promised to do so on appeal as well.
“Appealing the court’s decision is a fight on behalf of working people that the Bush Administration could win – if it has the courage to show up,” said Gleason.
Signed on February 17, 2001, Executive Order 13201 would affect a segment of the 12 million American employees compelled to pay union dues as a condition of employment, as it requires companies with federal contracts to inform workers of their rights under the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Communications Workers v. Beck.
In May 2001, a group of unions filed the case, known as UAW-Labor Employment and Training Corporation et al. v. Chao et al. Judge Henry H. Kennedy of the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia enjoined the implementation of the President’s directive on the grounds that the action was preempted by Congress – despite the fact that Bush’s Executive Order only seeks to enforce the Supreme Court’s interpretation of congressionally enacted law.
Washington, D.C. (February 27, 2002) – In response to the AFL-CIO’s decision at its New Orleans meeting this week to hit America’s working families with another mandatory tax to pay for electioneering, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced it intends to spend $1,000,000 to assist workers who object to paying for union political activities in 2002.
“According to polls, most rank-and-file workers object to Big Labor’s electioneering with their forced union dues,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “We intend to spend at least $1,000,000 to do everything possible through the courts and public information efforts to help workers reclaim their hard-earned money.”
Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Communications Workers v. Beck, a case won by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys in 1988, employees cannot be compelled to formally join a union or pay dues spent for politics or other activities unrelated to collective bargaining. Because of union officials’ routine and systematic non-compliance with the law, a vast majority of unionized employees still do not know they have these rights, polls show. In the past, workers who have sought to exercise these rights have been the victims of harassment and even violence.
“Backed by the purely voluntary financial support of tens of thousands of Americans, the National Right to Work Foundation does not have Big Labor’s resources. But we cannot allow union operatives to force America’s working people to serve as political ATM machines,” stated Gleason.
Though significant, the AFL-CIO’s political program is only the tip of the iceberg. The federation’s member unions collect a total of more than $10 billion in forced union dues annually, much of which is spent on politics.
In 2000, experts estimate that union political operatives spent $800 million, mostly taken from forced union dues, to support their handpicked candidates for public office. This money was used to support candidates and policies with which large numbers of union members disagree. For example, in 2000 more than 90 percent of Big Labor’s support went to Democrats, even though 40 percent of union households voted for George W. Bush. More recently union officials have ignored the majority of their members who support tax cuts and Social Security reform.
To schedule an interview with a Foundation spokesman contact Dan Cronin at 703-770-3317.
Court Allows 3,200 California Engineers to Challenge Union Funding of Ballot Initiatives and Politics
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (February 25, 2002) — By certifying a federal suit as a class action, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California has allowed 3,200 California state employees to challenge the money confiscated for politics and other activities by the Davis Administration and Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) union officials.
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed the class-action suit, Wagner v. PECG, in September 1999 on behalf of Richard Wagner, an investigator for the California Air Resources Board in the Sacramento area, and Kristin Schwall, a water quality engineer from San Diego. They filed the complaint on behalf of all non-member government workers under the PECG’s statewide memorandum of understanding (MOU) – also known as a collective bargaining agreement – who have been illegally forced to pay for union political activities.
On April 1, 1999, then newly elected Governor Gray Davis signed the MOU which forced all workers under the agreement to pay illegally high dues to PECG union officials.
“Governor Davis has done everything possible to payoff California’s union officials, at the expense of the working men and women of this state,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation, which is providing free legal aid to the California employees.
The PECG is one of California’s most politically active unions. Union bosses have seized union dues and used them to fund its ballot initiatives and other political activities. According to the union’s own records, it has been estimated that over one-third of PECG’s $3.2 million annual budget is used for political activities.
According to the constitutional protections construed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Foundation-won decisions of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education and Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, the union may not collect compulsory dues spent on activities unrelated to collective bargaining. Politics, lobbying, organizing, public relations, and other non-bargaining activities are explicitly non-chargeable to employees who have exercised their right to refrain from union membership.
The employees are asking the court to provide the abused workers with retroactive refunds, with interest, on all dues illegally collected since April 1, 1999.
Richmond, Va. (February 25, 2002) — On Tuesday, February 26, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit hears arguments challenging a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that gives unions the right to force non-union employees across America to wear union badges on their uniforms as a condition of employment.
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys brought the appeal for BellSouth Communications technicians Gary Lee and James Amburn of Charlotte, North Carolina, who were ordered to wear a Communications Workers of America (CWA) union logo patch in order to keep their jobs.
“No worker should be forced to be a walking billboard for a union he or she doesn’t support,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case shows the extreme bias of the NLRB in favor of union coercion and against employee free speech.”
In 1997, the NLRB’s General Counsel issued a complaint against the CWA and BellSouth for unfair labor practices. The complaint agreed with Foundation attorneys’ arguments that forcing non-members to wear the CWA union logo violates their right to refrain from union activity, and that the logo gave the false appearance that non-members belonged to or supported the union. (The employees exercised their right not to join the union under North Carolina’s highly popular Right to Work law.)
However, in a decision filled with tortured legal reasoning, late last year the NLRB in Washington, DC, ruled that BellSouth’s uniform policy requiring the patch was a “special circumstance,” which trumped the statutory right of workers to refrain from supporting the union.
If you are a nonmember paying agency fees to the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union, you may be entitled to demand a refund if you have paid “reinstatement fees” to the union.
The story is this: Anthony Lutz is a customer service agent employed by United Air Lines. He works under a union contract negotiated by the IAM union, but is not a member of the union and pays only reduced agency fees. For three months in the fall of 2001, Mr. Lutz took an unpaid medical leave of absence from United. After he returned from his leave of absence, an IAM union official twice threatened him with discharge unless he paid a “reinstatement fee” of more than $100 to the union. One demand letter from the union official specifically noted that if Mr. Lutz had been a full member of the IAM, he would not have had to pay this “reinstatement fee” as a condition of employment, because the union would have issued “unemployment stamps” to him. (That would have exempted him from paying this “reinstatement fee.”) But, since he was not a union member, Mr. Lutz was told that he could not participate in the “benefit” of unemployment stamps, and therefore had to “pay up” or be fired.
When Mr. Lutz informed the union officials that his lawyers at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation were preparing to file a federal court lawsuit against the IAM union, an official of IAM’s “Capital Air Lodge 1759” suddenly retracted her “reinstatement fee” demand. The retraction effectively conceded that Mr. Lutz legally could not be charged the fee.
Did this or something similar happen to you” If you have paid such “reinstatement fees” to the Machinists union under similar circumstances in the past, or are being threatened with having to pay such fees, please contact us so we can discuss with you your legal rights.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
8001 Braddock Rd.
Springfield, VA 22160
San Francisco, Calif. (February 14, 2002) – This morning the United States Ninth Circuit Court hears arguments in the challenge to a new state law that passes judgment on professors’ religious beliefs when they object to supporting a union.
The court will decide if the professors may challenge a California statute that forces all California State University (CSU) professors to pay union dues unless they are a member of a state- approved religion. State and union officials are given the power to pass judgment on the acceptability of the religious beliefs of CSU employees. In the complaint, the professors challenge the “religious objector” language because it violates their freedom of association protected by the First Amendment.
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys filed the class-action suit, Baird et al. v. CFA, in February 2000 against the California Faculty Association (CFA) union on behalf of 14,000 CSU professors who object to having more than $8.5 million in forced dues seized from their paychecks under a new compulsory unionism law. If the court rules in the professors’ favor, the case will be remanded to the federal court in Sacramento.
“It is outrageous that union officials and state bureaucrats get to play God and decide which religions are approved and which are not,” said Stefan Gleason Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “If someone has a sincere religious objection to supporting a union thought to be immoral, his or her rights should be respected.”
Pushed through to its passage by union lobbyists, California’s faculty forced-dues law requires that the 14,000 non-union professors must either quit their jobs or pay about $600 annually each to a union whose agenda they do not support.
“We hope the court will respect the First Amendment rights of California’s educators and overturn this offensive law,” stated Gleason.
The professors argue also that the new forced-unionism law discriminates against non-union higher education employees and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
The complaint also explains how the law violates the First Amendment rights of university employees, as established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Foundation-won case of Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, by explicitly authorizing union officials to seize compulsory dues for lobbying activities. In Lehnert, the Court ruled unequivocally that the “State constitutionally may not compel its employees to subsidize legislative lobbying.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 11, 2002) — The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Bush administration’s appeal of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia’s decision to strike down a pro-worker Executive Order. The President issued Executive Order 13202 to ban union-only contracts, or project labor agreements (PLAs), on federally funded construction projects.
In their “Friend of the Court” brief, filed jointly (pursuant to court rules) with Associated Builders and Contractors and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Foundation attorneys argue that President Bush acted within his constitutional authority by issuing the Executive Order banning union-only contracts.
“It is wrong for the federal government to support a scheme that bilks taxpayers out of millions of dollars and deprives employees of their basic right to choose whether or not to affiliate with a union,” said Foundation Vice President Stefan Gleason.
A PLA is a scheme which requires that all contractors, whether they are unionized or not, subject themselves and their employees to unionization in order to work on government-funded construction projects. PLAs usually require contractors to grant union officials monopoly bargaining privileges over all workers; use exclusive union hiring halls; force workers to pay dues as a condition of employment; and pay above-market prices resulting from wasteful work rules and featherbedding.
More than 80 percent of American contractors and their employees have refrained from unionization.
“PLAs are nothing more than a shakedown — union officials use them to demand taxpayer handouts and government-granted special privileges in exchange for not ordering strikes or causing other disruptions,” said Gleason.
Oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will be held on May 10, 2002.