Responding to charges brought by Joshua Deuter, an employee of First Student Inc., the Nat’l Labor Relations Bd. decided June 5 to prosecute Int’l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 959 in Anchorage, Alaska, for illegally forcing employees to pay full union dues, including dues spent for politics, and threatening employees by saying that circulating a deauthorization petition was a criminal act. Benefiting from free legal help from the Nat’l Right to Work Legal Def. Fdn., Deuter filed unfair labor practice charges against the local in Feb. 2002. NLRB has set a trial date for Aug. 8.
In Dec. 2001, in an effort to prevent workers from signing a deauthorization petition (which calls for an NLRB-supervised election to throw out the mandatory dues clause from the collective bargaining agreement), a union shop steward threatened Deuter. According to NLRB’s complaint, Deuter and others were told that the petition was “illegal, a criminal act,” and that the union “could press internal charges against employees for circulating the petition.”
“In an effort to amass a political war chest, Teamsters officials are demanding that workers shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, NRTWLDF vice president. “Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Union bosses routinely break the law to try and shake down workers to pay for their political activities.”
Since Oct. 2001, IBT bosses have required employees to pay full union dues solely by deduction from their paychecks and have failed to inform employees of their rights not to join and not to pay full dues. The actions of Local 959 bosses violated employee rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court 1988 decision CWA v. Beck. Under Beck, workers who are not protected by a state right-to-work law may resign from formal union membership and halt and reclaim the portion of forced union dues spent on politics and other activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
IBT is one of the most politically active unions in the America. Every year, union officials seize millions of dollars in compulsory dues to support candidates and causes that many of their members find objectionable, according to NRTWLDF. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of rank-and-file union members object to having their dues spent for political activities. [NRTWLDF 6/5/02] According to Local 969’s most recent LM-2 on file with the Dep’t of Labor, the local’s president, Robert Thornton, received total disbursements of $82,675 from the local for the year ending Dec. 31, 2000, including gross salary (before taxes and other deductions) of $71,150. For the same period, Gerald Hood, the local’s secretary-treasurer received $134,159 in total disbursements, including $114,232 in gross salary. Likewise, local vice-president Kenneth Coleman, Jr., was paid $81,240 in total disbursements of which $62,078 was gross salary.