Right to Work Foundation Defends Orchestra Workers

The actions of the American Federation of Musicians in California hit a sour note with seven nonmember musicians who were blacklisted by the union. They have filed a lawsuit in federal court with the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Film Music Magazine has the story:

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the suit alleges that union officials conspired to blacklist musicians in retaliation for resigning from formal union membership. Union officials are accused of violating their “duty of fair representation” by refusing nonmember musicians access to a rehearsal hall, hindering their efforts to find employment, and enshrining certain discriminatory policies in contracts with several local symphonies.

Under the Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent Communication Workers v. Beck, workers have the right to resign from formal, full dues-paying union membership. Because California has no Right to Work law making dues payment strictly voluntary, employees in a union-controlled bargaining unit can still be obligated to pay certain dues for union activities related to collective bargaining. However, employees who exercise their right to resign from formal union membership cannot be discriminated against by union officials or employers. The lawsuit contends that every plaintiff musician has met its forced-dues obligation to the union’s local affiliates.

The Foundation, in a press release describing the lawsuit, described the specific allegations claimed by the musicians:

* “AFM union employees attempted to blacklist dissenters who resigned their union membership by informing prospective employers that they were “not in good standing” and therefore ineligible for work. As a result, several orchestras and producers declined to hire nonunion musicians.”

* “AFM union officials included a discriminatory clause in contracts with local orchestras explicitly forbidding the employment of nonunion workers.”

* “Union officials from one local also prevented nonunion employees from accessing a rehearsal hall used by several employers.”

Foundation attorneys are seeking financial restitution for the plaintiffs as well as a court injunction preventing future discriminatory practices.

“Ugly union discrimination and intimidation of this nature is a widespread practice in the entertainment industry,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “We expect the union will face a substantial and embarrassing defeat as a result of this lawsuit.”