Foundation Attorneys Win for Worker of Faith
ROANOKE, Va. -- With the help of Foundation attorneys, Fred Jones has won a total victory against union officials who persistently refused to recognize his rights as an employee of faith. In addition to immediately dropping their obstructionist tactics, the union bosses forked over $20,000 to compensate Jones for the religious discrimination he suffered at their hands.
"Legal cases don't get more one-sided than this," said Stefan Gleason, Vice President for the Foundation. "The union's decision to settle the case and pay $20,000 in compensation shows how indefensible its abuse of Jones' freedom of conscience was."
Workers of faith may keep consciences clear
Using Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Foundation attorneys have established that workers have a clear right to remove a conflict between union membership or payment of fees and sincerely held religious beliefs.
The case arose when Jones voiced his religious objections to the seizure of forced union fees by officials of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) union. As a deeply committed Christian trying to follow Biblical teachings, Jones was disturbed by the union's active promotion of abortion and its condoning of violence, among other things. He carefully read Bible passages such as Luke 3:14, in which Jesus says, "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."
When Jones wanted to have the fees paid instead to charity -- the legal accommodation for workers in Jones' situation -- OCAW officials illegally rebuffed his request.
Moreover, when Jones attempted to revoke his dues payroll check-off authorization, he was told he would be fired. When Jones advised officials at his employer, Alliant TechSystems, and the OCAW union of the conflict between his religious beliefs and the requirement that he continue to pay forced fees to the OCAW union, both summarily rejected his claims.
Jones then sought the help of Foundation attorneys, who filed charges on his behalf at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in February 1996. Attempts by the EEOC to reach an informal conciliation failed, prompting the agency to slap OCAW bosses and the employer with a civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Virginia. The federal agency files suit in less than one percent of all Title VII cases -- but this case was an important one.
Ordinarily, none of this would have been necessary under Virginia's highly popular, worker-protecting Right to Work law. In states with such laws, most workers in Jones' position may simply resign their union membership at any time and pay nothing to a union. But because Jones' work site, the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, is classified as an enclave of exclusive federal jurisdiction, Virginia's Right to Work law didn't protect Jones from the forced-dues demands.
Union brass intensify the legal hijinks
After dragging their feet for over a year and brushing off Jones' most sacred freedoms, union chiefs resorted to unusual, desperate, and even cruel tactics to foil federal enforcement actions.
In an effort to smear Jones as a pretender to his faith, union operatives sent an investigator to interrogate Jones' pastor and co-parishioners.
There was also the all-too-common threat of violence from a union official. Shortly after union bosses refused to recognize his legal right to obey his conscience, an International union official expressed "concern" about Jones' family being in harm's way. "With Big Labor's reputation for violence," said Gleason, "there was no mistaking the threat."
As the case moved closer to trial, the union lawyers subjected Fred Jones to a two-day-long deposition, with a video camera rolling. In scenes that eerily echoed the heretic trials of the Dark Ages, union lawyers asked him about possible "sinful" behavior before his religious conversion, among other deeply personal questions.
By manipulating their questions and later relying on answers taken out of context, union lawyers tried to paint Fred JonesŅan honest, hard-working man of deeply abiding conscienceŅas a racist, smut reader, and anti-Semite.
But this reprehensible tactic failed miserably as the judge handed down a clear verdict in favor of Jones. Even so, the union lawyers vowed to pursue a fruitless and time-consuming appeal.
Forced-dues money will go to charity
Now, realizing Foundation attorneys would fight them to the end, union bosses have finally accepted defeat, paid out $20,000 in damages, and agreed to forward Jones' dues, $30 monthly, to Joy Ranch, which cares for orphaned and troubled children. The union will also fork over four years' back dues totaling $1,366 to the charity.
"Union bosses could have avoided this costly, embarrassing litigation by simply obeying the law and respecting Jones' beliefs," said Gleason.