NRTW Lawyers Win Again

The legal eagles of the National Right to Work Foundation have again successfully defended workers’ rights in court. A federal judge has agreed with National Right to Work Foundation attorneys and thrown out a desperate, last-ditch effort by union lawyers to prevent employees from voting in a government-supervised secret ballot election. Airport security screeners at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) will finally have the right to end the practice of forcing employees to pay union dues just to keep their jobs.

With 900 screeners forced to pay up to $800 each per year, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials stand to lose as much as $720,000 annually in compulsory dues if the employees succeed. The federal labor board has not yet set a date for the election.

The SEIU lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, named the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 20 Director, as well as appointed members of the NLRB in Washington, DC. The frivolous suit claimed that these officials somehow do not have the discretion to permit employees to exercise their statutory right to an election. SEIU lawyers filed the suit despite the fact that the NLRB has final jurisdiction over such “deauthorization” elections, and the federal court had no legal authority to enjoin the election.

Led by Stephen Burke, a four-and-a-half year employee of Covenant Aviation Security at SFO, the screeners are upset that SEIU officials became their monopoly bargaining agent in the first place – without a secret ballot election, but rather through a coercive “card check” campaign – and almost immediately ordered them to pay union dues or be fired from their jobs.

Under coercive “card check” unionization, unlike a government-supervised secret ballot election, union operatives may browbeat dissenting workers into signing cards later counted as “votes” favoring unionization. Since union officials gained monopoly bargaining power over them, many screeners have reported that the union hierarchy is unresponsive and unwilling to do anything other than collect forced dues. Many screeners have reported that this dissatisfaction fostered the deauthorization effort.

Hundreds of SFO security screeners apparently object to the mandatory union dues requirement. Over 45 percent of Burke’s coworkers signed the deauthorization petition, far beyond the 30 percent necessary to trigger the NLRB supervised election. If a majority of all employees in the bargaining unit vote in favor of deauthorization, union officials will be stripped of their special privilege to compel payment of dues.

“SEIU union officials have unsuccessfully thrown every roadblock possible in place to stonewall SFO screeners from exercising their free choice,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation, a charitable organization that is providing free legal assistance to the screeners. “Without the ability to withhold dues, employees have little leverage to hold union officials accountable for their actions.”

SEIU officials had previously tried to block the employees from obtaining the deauthorization election by challenging signatures collected in opposition to the forced-dues clause before it took effect. However, the NLRB in Washington, DC, recently rejected that challenge and ordered the election to proceed.