The Communications Workers of Am. and Verizon Communications face a federal prosecution for allegedly illegally seizing some $150,000 in forced union dues from employees following a 2000 strike. Agreeing with arguments presented by Nat'l Right to Work Legal Def. Found. attorneys, the Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. issued the federal complaint after employees Kenneth Olszewski and Nancy Simms of Md. filed unfair labor practice charges on behalf of thousands of employees in 2000.
They filed the charges after Verizon helped CWA bosses collect dues for a one month period (Sept. 2000) following the strike in which no collective bargaining contract was in place. When no such forced-fee agreement is in effect, bosses can't compel the payment of any dues from employees who exercise their right not to join a union.
On May 10, the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Educ. & the Workforce Committee held a hearing on workers' rights not to become union members and not to pay dues for unions' nonrepresentational activities and to investigate how union bosses abuse such rights under the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision Communications Workers of Am. v. Beck. Beck held that employees covered by a union security clause in a collective bargaining agreement who choose not to become union members and object to having their dues spent on political and other nonrepresentational activities only can be charged agency fees for union activities related to collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment.
"Based on the evidence I have seen, I am convinced that some union locals do, in fact, regularly trample on the rights of individuals in far excess of the scope of their permissible authority," Subcommittee Chairman Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) said. "Too many workers seem to get the run-around when they try to exercise their rights."
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held May 17 that unions may not include organizing costs in determining the agency fees nonmembers must pay under a union-security clause in a collective bargaining contract. Reversing a 1999 decision by the Nat'l Labor Relations Bd., the court found that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled in a case under the Railway Labor Act (Ellis v. Bhd. of Ry., Airline, & S.S. Clerks, 466 U.S. 435 (1984)) that a union cannot charge nonmembers for the union's organizing activity outside of the bargaining unit. The case arose from objections filed with United Food & Commercial Workers Locals 7, 951, & 1036 by nonmember agency-fee payers in bargaining units in Cal., Col., & Mich. covered by bargaining agreements containing a union-security clause.
The Communications Workers of America's offer of a free trip to Chicago so employees of Comcast Cablevision could attend a union meeting on cable industry issues unduly influenced the outcome of a representation election among the 50 eligible workers, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals court ruled Nov. 14, reversing the Nat’l Labor Relations Bd. Refusing to enforce an NLRB order certifying CWA Local 4100 as the bargaining agent of Comcast's employees in Taylor, Mich., the court held that CWA's offer of $50 worth of transportation and one night's lodging so employees could attend a two-hour union meeting on cable industry issues unduly influenced the 31-17 vote in favor of union representation.
“Providing transportation and one night's lodging so that the employees could have a free weekend in Chicago in conjunction with the two-hour union meeting was sufficiently valuable to influence the vote without relation to the merits of the election," wrote Judge Ronald Lee Gilman.
An attempt by two striking unionists to reportedly sabotage Verizon Communications backfired when one mistakenly cut into a power line he thought was a phone line in Baldwin, N.Y. As 13,200 volts of electricity surged through Joseph Hertzel's body Aug. 17 and threw him to the ground, his shirt caught fire and one of the blades on his tree-pruning sheers melted. His girlfriend, Joanne Pender, was also injured by the explosion.
"They picked the wrong cable," said Nassau Detective Robert Winter. "They cut the main feeder for ... electricity for that area."
The two members of Communications Workers of Am. Local 1108 were charged with felony tampering and criminal mischief and were arraigned on Aug.18 in the hospital. Hertzel was ordered held on $1,500 bail and Pender on $750.
Nassau police said 20 similar acts of sabotage were been reported during the Verizon strike. For example, another striking unionist was arrested Aug. 17 for allegedly trying to run a Bell Atlantic van off the Long Island Expressway while driving his 2000 Lexus. [Newsday 8/18-19/00]
Thousands of New Yorkers have lost their telephone service in early Aug., as vandals slashed telephone cables in what police are investigating as possible acts of sabotage in support of a strike of the Communications Workers of Am. and the Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers. The waves of vandalism come amid negotiations between Verizon Communications and the two unions that represent employees who are on strike in a 13-state region from Maine to Virginia. Verizon is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest for vandalism.
There were reports of at least 455 incidents (233 of which were in N.Y.) -- most of which involved property damage such as severed telephone cables, burnt trucks, slashed tires -- or harassment of Verizon managers. "There have also been a couple cases of building keys broken off in the locks, or Super glue in the locks," said John Johnson, a Verizon spokesman in Boston. "One manager received a telephoned death threat."
N.Y. Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) vowed to arrest the vandals: "I have to remind them that it's a crime, and if we do catch them ...they're going to go to jail."
Gary Josephson, president of Communications Workers of Am. Local 4501 at Ohio State Univ., was suspended recently amid allegations of mismanagement of union funds. Union member Joe Baringhaus filed a complaint against Josephson July 7 after questions of the local's bookkeeping were raised at a local meeting. Seth Rosen, spokesperson for CWA's district headquarters in Cleveland, said that it received a request for an audit of the local and that an outside auditor will be sent.
Josephson believes members have unfairly blamed him for difficulties during a recent strike against OSU. Recently, anonymous phone calls have been reportedly made to a local newspaper attacking Josephson's management of union funds. Josephson said these callers "obviously have political motives to approach the press. They're trying to impugn my character."
Corrupt unions have showered Democratic Party committees with soft money. The Am. Fed'n of State, County & Mun. Employees (AFSCME) has led the way -- not only among corrupt unions, but it also led among all soft money givers. This election cycle, AFSCME has already contributed $1.5 million in soft money.
Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters Local 166 in Riverside, Cal., failed to provide employees covered by a union security clause with adequate information for them to decide whether to decline union membership and object to the amount of agency fees charged to nonmembers, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 22. Overruling a Mar. 1999 Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. decision, the federal appeals court found inadequate the local's provision to objectors of a one-page list of 19 general categories of expenditures identifying the amount and percentage of each category chargeable to nonmembers. The court also ruled that Local 166 must explain how the portion of money paid to its affiliates that was charged to nonmembers was spent.
Additionally, the court decided that the local must inform new employees and nonmembers who pay full dues about the precise lower amount they would be entitled to pay if they exercised their rights under Communications Workers of America v. Beck and objected to paying for expenditures unrelated to representational activities.
The ex-secretary-treasurer of the Communications Workers of Am. Local 14749 in Grand Forks, N.D., Steven C. Rude, pled guilty Jun. 2 to embezzling about $18,000 from union coffers. The boss was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and 50 hours of community service. The embezzlement occurred from 1991 to 1995. He allegedly made full restitution. Rude could have been sentenced to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. [Grand Forks Herald 6/4/99]
Akron Boss Charged with $8,000 Embezzlement Ex-business agent and secretary-treasurer of the Int'l Alliance Theatrical Stage Employees & Moving Picture Operators Local 912 in Akron, Margaret Smith, was charged Jul. 28 of embezzling over $8,000 from union coffers. She was charged with one count of union embezzlement and one count of falsification of union records. The U.S. Atty.'s Office in Cleveland said the boss wrote 21 checks to herself, totaling $8,612 from May 1994 to Jun. 1996. Smith has also allegedly forged the name of another union boss as co-signer on the checks. If convicted, she faces six years in prison and a $350,000 fine. [Akron Beacon Journal 7/29/99]