SACRAMENTO, Calif. (March 28, 2002) — With the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, two Sacramento city employees, Hewett Hesterman and Michele Rudek, have filed a federal suit against the city of Sacramento and the Western Council of Engineers (WCE) union for forcing the illegal firing of workers who refuse to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics.
Foundation attorneys also filed for a temporary restraining order against the city in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
“Hesterman and Rudek should not have their careers destroyed for opposing the union’s agenda,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “How can union officials claim to be on the side of workers when they thwart their ability to make a living?”
The situation arose last month, when WCE officials demanded that non-union employees pay an agency fee equal to full union dues or face termination from their jobs. In response, Hesterman and Rudek asked for a written account of how the union spends workers’ dues and asked for a reduction in the fee because they were not union members. In violation of the employees’ constitutional and due-process rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court, WCE officials rejected both of these requests and had Hesterman fired last Friday, March 22. Rudek has been notified she will be fired on April 4 if she refuses to pay the full agency fee.
Since the union officials have flagrantly violated the employees constitutional rights, Foundation attorneys are seeking a court order to reinstate Hesterman to his job and to prevent Rudek from being fired, in addition to having their dues demands reduced to an amount that covers only expenses that directly relate to collective bargaining. Hesterman is also demanding all back pay he would have earned had he not been illegally dismissed.
The actions of WCE officials directly violate the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson, which requires unions to provide objecting employees an advance reduction of forced union dues used for politics and other non-bargaining activities. Under Hudson, union officials must provide audited disclosure of their books and justify expenditures made from forced union dues seized from employees who have chosen to refrain from union membership.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 25, 2002) – In a stunning 11-0 reversal of its previous unanimous ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the new nationwide rule of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that union officials may force 7.8 million employees to pay for union organizing drives as a condition of employment.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation immediately announced it will appeal today’s ruling – authored by Judge Stephen Reinhardt (a former union attorney and former executive committee member of the Democratic National Committee) – to the U.S. Supreme Court. In recent years, the Ninth Circuit has been overturned by the High Court more frequently than any other federal appellate court.
“No worker should be forced to fund the recruitment of supporters to a private ideological cause,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This ruling is an outrageous affront to employee freedom and previous rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In its original 3-0 ruling issued early last year, the Ninth Circuit overturned the NLRB for abusing its discretion when it parted with Supreme Court precedent establishing that employees cannot be compelled to pay for union recruitment activity. Unless overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, today’s en banc ruling will compel 7.8 million American employees who work in compulsory union shops under the National Labor Relations Act to pay union organizing expenses or lose their jobs. Organizing expenses often exceed 20-30% of a union’s budget.
Many labor law experts agree that the Ninth Circuit’s decision directly violates previous rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. Under the Court’s 1988 ruling in Communications Workers v. Beck, a case brought by Foundation attorneys, employees may not be forced to pay for union political activities and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining, contract negotiation, or grievance adjustment. In the Foundation-won precedent Ellis v. Railway Clerks, the High Court determined that union organizing expenses were clearly unrelated to collective bargaining, and thus employees who are not members of a union could not be legally forced to financially support this activity.
In establishing the nationwide precedent, the Court of Appeals decided against grocery store employee Phillip Mulder and five other employees, who originally filed the case (with the help of Foundation attorneys) against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union.
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.
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.
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. (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.
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.
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.
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