Indiana Local Wins Dues Case

U.S. Dist. Judge William C. Lee (N.D. Ind., Reagan) ruled against an employee finding that a union’s insistence that the employee provide “independent corroboration” that his religious beliefs precluded his funding or participating in the union did not violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Lee granted summary judgment to United Auto Workers Local 2209 in Fort Wayne, Ind., on the claim of employee John M. Bushouse that the local failed to accommodate his religious belief by allowing him to donate his union dues to a charity. Lee found that Bushouse did not adequately establish that he held sincere religious beliefs that conflicted with UAW’s requirement that he pay dues.

Bushouse works a Gen. Motors plan where UAW and GM’s the collective bargaining agreement contains a union security agreement forcing unionization on employees. From 1978-99, Bushouse was a member of the union who voiced no religious objections to paying dues. He said, however, that his membership troubled his conscience, and he became increasingly unable to reconcile his union membership with his evolving religious beliefs.  In 1998, he read a newspaper article mentioning the Nat’l Right to Work Legal Defense Fdn. He contacted NRTW, which provided him with forms he could use to resign from UAW. Bushouse submitted the forms to Local 2209, and the local union began treating him as a nonmember “Beck objector,” requiring him to pay the percentage of dues used by the union for collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance purposes. In 1999, NRTW informed Bushouse that the law allows individuals who hold sincere religious beliefs against union membership to pay the equivalent of dues to a charity rather than to a union. In Sept. 1999, Bushouse asked the local to grant him the charity option.

UAW requires individuals seeking the charity option to provide independent corroboration that he sincerely holds a religious conviction against joining or financially supporting a union. To distinguish sincere religious objectors from those with political or ideological objections to union membership, UAW asked Beck objectors to submit an application that identified the religious body or sect to which he or she belonged and requested that the member complete a “religious body or sect certificate” signed by a pastor or church elder attesting to that fact.  The requirement followed Section 19 of the Nat’l Labor Relations Act.

Bushouse objected to turning in the certificate, claiming that that he should be entitled to religious objector status under Title VII without submitting the certificate. UAW told Bushouse that he could instead provide “credible independent corroboration” that established that he held religious objections to financially contributing to the union.

Bushouse then filed with a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n claiming religious discrimination. He argued that the union was unlawfully refusing to grant his request for the charity option because he did not meet the Section 19 requirement that he be a member of a religious body that historically objected to unions. The local responded by informing him in December 1999, by letter, that it did not require a particular certificate or a particular theological pronouncement. Bushouse submitted a letter signed by two individuals in which he stated that his beliefs precluded him from joining the union. The union rejected the letter, pointing out that the two individuals who signed on to the letter did not attest that they had any personal knowledge of Bushouse’s religious beliefs.

In Aug. 2000, Bushouse sued, claiming violations of Title VII and that Section 19 of the NLRA was unconstitutional. Subsequently, Bushouse submitted to the union an affidavit signed by a pastor of a nondenominational church who certified that Bushouse held sincere religious beliefs precluding him from joining or financially supporting a union. The union accepted the certification and began providing the charity option in Apr. 2001.

Barry Macey of Macey, Macey, & Swanson in Indianapolis represented the union. Michael J. Cork of Burton & Cork in Indianapolis represented Bushouse. [BNA 10/15/01]

San Francisco Boss to Plead Guilty for Bank Robbery
Rick L. Davis, president of the Nat’l Air Traffic Controllers Ass’n’s San Fran. Local is expected to enter a guilty plea for bank robbery on Oct. 26 before U.S. Dist. Judge D. Lowell Jensen (N.D. Cal., Reagan). He was indicted Aug. 16 in a string of bank holdups that authorities said he blamed on financial problems. Davis was named in a nine-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Oakland that said he netted $40,000 during a 10-month spree in Fremont, Union City, and Concord. Police dubbed him the “Robust Robber” because of his stocky build. [S.F. Chron. 10/17/01]