With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Rochester General Motors employee Roger Clemons has successfully forced United Auto Workers (UAW) union bosses at his workplace to stop illegally funneling money from his paycheck into union politics. Clemons filed federal charges with Foundation aid in September 2021 against UAW Local 1097 and the UAW’s international hierarchy, asserting that union agents ignored his requests to opt-out of funding the union’s political agenda.
A Foundation-won settlement now forces UAW international and local officials to “make whole…Roger Clemons for all dues and fees” that were deducted from his paycheck in violation of the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Beck forbids union officials from forcing workers under their control to fund union politics and other union expenses unrelated to the union’s core bargaining functions.
Because New York State lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, union officials can still legally force workers to pay some union fees under threat of termination. In Right to Work states, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.
Clemons stated in his September 2021 charge against UAW Local 1097 officials that UAW officials had a history of flouting his Beck rights, failing to reduce his union dues even after he ended his union membership and became a “Beck objector” in October 2019. “Only after Mr. Clemons filed an [earlier] unfair labor practice charge…did the union comply with the requirements of the law,” the charge noted, detailing that union officials finally sent him rebate checks in June and July 2020 for excess dues they took from his paycheck.
However, UAW officials continued to create obstacles for Mr. Clemons’ Beck rights. The September 2021 charge also asserted that despite Clemons’ renewing his Beck objection in October 2020, he then did not receive “a single rebate check or a reduction in the dues deducted from his wages” for almost a year. UAW and GM officials both ignored multiple attempts at correspondence from him on this issue, the charge noted.
The charge contended that these actions violated Mr. Clemons’ rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which protects individual employees’ rights to abstain “from any or all of” union activities. General Motors, Clemons’ employer, was also charged for its role in enforcing the illegal dues deductions.
The settlement now forbids UAW officials from “accept[ing] dues or fees which have been deducted from the paycheck of Roger Clemons, or any other Beck objector, which are in excess of the amount we can lawfully charge to Beck objectors.” UAW officials also are required to return dues that they seized from Clemons in excess of the reduced Beck amount.
Union officials devote enormous sums to political activity. A report from the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) released in 2021 revealed that union officials’ own Department of Labor filings show around $2 billion in political spending during the 2020 cycle, primarily from dues-stocked union general treasuries. However, other estimates strongly suggest that actual union spending on political and lobbying activities topped $12 billion.
“Rank-and-file workers should know they have a right to refuse to fund union politics, especially with union political spending in 2020 having approached record numbers and midterm elections coming up,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Workers under UAW control, like Mr. Clemons, have special reason to be on guard, given the UAW’s perennial interest in politics and corruption at the very top levels of the UAW hierarchy, which has landed at least 10 former UAW honchos in jail primarily for misuse of worker funds.”
“No American worker should be forced to subsidize any union boss political advocacy and the National Right to Work Foundation is proud to assist workers seeking to exercise their right to cut off financial support for union politics they oppose,” added Mix.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.