A Pro-Freedom Ruling

Once again the legal-eagles at the National Right to Work have stuck a blow for freedom when an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) struck down a nationwide policy of a major international union that requires employees to object annually to prevent union officials from spending union dues for political activities. The policy is a pervasive tactic used by union officials to prevent dissenting employees from reclaiming forced-union dues used to promote political causes they oppose.

National Right to Work Foundation attorneys helped Robert Prime, an employee of L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace, LLC at the Naval Air Station, file unfair labor practice charges in December 2003 against the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union Local Lodge 2777. The charges alleged that union officials violated Prime’s rights by forcing him to renew his objection to funding union political advocacy every single year.

NLRB administrative law judge Michael A. Marcionese issued a ruling from the bench yesterday at the conclusion of a hearing in Pensacola. Marcionese found that the IAM policy was arbitrary, discriminatory, and bordered on being irrational. Although Foundation attorneys have asked for refunds for any objecting employee nationally within the last four years, the scope of the remedy will remain unclear for the next few weeks until the judge issues a supporting written ruling.

In November 2003, Prime filed an objection with IAM union officials to funding their political activities, as the Foundation-won Communications Workers of America v. Beck decision permits. The Beck decision recognized that workers have the right to refrain from formal union membership and cannot be forced to pay for activities unrelated to collective bargaining. However, when Prime asked union officials to honor his request as a “continuing objection,” IAM officials refused, claiming that Prime and his coworkers must object annually because they are not subject to the Railway Labor Act (RLA).

IAM union officials already accept “continuing objections” from railroad and airline employees covered by the RLA due to favorable rulings in prior Foundation cases. However, union officials arbitrarily refuse to abide by those rulings for employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

“America’s workers may have one fewer hoop to jump through to reclaim their forced dues used for politics,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

“However, this lengthy legal battle underscores why no one should be forced to pay dues to an unwanted union in the first place.”

Florida’s highly-popular Right to Work law, on the books since 1944, is one of 22 state laws that secure the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union.

However, because Vertex Aerospace employees work on federal property under “exclusive federal jurisdiction,” the state’s Right to Work law does not protect those workers from being forced to pay union dues to keep their jobs.