In April, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union ordered 36,000 Verizon employees to strike, despite the fact that Verizon offered a fair deal in order to avoid a slowdown in its operations.
At the time, I pointed out:
Hopefully, the union members are on board with the action taken by union bosses to strike because, unfortunately, they do not have a choice. Under federal labor law, union bosses decide whether or not to strike—very few union constitutions and bylaws allow members to vote on whether to strike. And even when members get to “vote,” it can be a voice vote in a union hall.
Moreover, if union members are against striking and would like to work they could be fined an exorbitant amount, up to $50,000. Workers must resign their membership to continue working if they wish to avoid union fines or discipline.
Unsurprisingly, some Verizon workers did not agree with the strike. Some wanted to keep working and taking home a paycheck. In a press release, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said they are representing seven Verizon employees who filed unfair labor practice charges against the CWA for “violating federal labor law after the employees exercised their right to resign their union memberships” during the union-ordered strike.
As stated above, under federal labor law, workers must resign their union membership to continue working during a strike to avoid union fines or discipline, which the seven Verizon workers that filed charges against CWA did.
Despite dropping their membership, the CWA decided to try the workers for violating the union’s constitution. The Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation reports:
The workers refused to attend the union’s vigilante court, protesting that it had no jurisdiction over them as non-members.
On September 15th, the union held a sham trial and fined the workers for exercising their federally protected rights. Soon after, each worker was informed by letter that they had been fined sums of between nine and thirteen thousand dollars.
Unfortunately, the CWA is known for punishing workers that do not blindly support the wishes of the CWA brass.
For example, in 2008, the CWA publicly posted the Social Security numbers of 33 AT&T employees who revoked their union membership. In 2010, a CWA Local in Connecticut signed up Patricia Pelletier for unwanted consumer products and magazine subscriptions. This cost Ms. Pelletier thousands of dollars and hours each day unsubscribing from the unwanted products. The CWA targeted her because she voted to decertify the union.
Hard working men and women should be able to work without fear of retribution from a union that is supposed to represent their interests. One way to curtail these instances of unions seeking retribution against workers is by passing the Employee Rights Act (ERA).
Among other provisions, the ERA requires a secret-ballot strike vote that requires a majority of members to vote in favor of striking. This would ensure strikes were supported by workers and not just the will of union bosses. It would also protect workers from intimidation and coercion who wish to decertify a union that no longer serves worker interests.
U.S. labor law needs to be recalibrated so that labor unions do not have the power to force workers to take action that is detrimental to their own interests. The ERA would go a long way toward giving workers more control over their labor, which is something everyone should agree with.