Curtis Coates, an employee of metal corporation Catalus, just hit a Communications Workers of America (CWA) union local with federal charges for seizing dues money from his paycheck illegally, plus money for CWA’s political action committee (PAC). He is receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Foundation attorneys filed Coates’ charges at Region 6 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Pittsburgh. Coates’ charges come as NLRB General Counsel and former CWA attorney Jennifer Abruzzo has expressed support for a number of policies giving union officials greater power to sweep workers into dues-paying union ranks, even without a vote. Foundation attorneys also requested last year that Abruzzo recuse herself from a case involving an Oregon ABC cameraman who accused another CWA local of demanding illegal dues from him, including dues for politics.
CWA Union Bosses Siphoned Political Contributions, Dues from Worker – and Forced Him to Remain Shop Steward
Coates sent a message to CWA union officials on October 20, 2021, declaring that he was resigning from his position as shop steward and terminating his union membership. The charge says a union official rebuffed both of Coates’ requests the next day, insisting that he had to remain both a union member and a shop steward.
In December 2021 and January and February of 2022, Coates followed up with union officials several times via email and mail. He asked when union officials would cease taking dues money from his wages, what process he had to follow to revoke his dues deduction authorization, and that contributions to the union’s PAC immediately stop being taken from his paycheck.
“To date, the Union has not responded…and dues and contributions continue to be deducted from his wages,” the charge reads.
Pennsylvania lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, so unions can legally force them to pay union fees just to keep their jobs even if they choose not to become union members. However, under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in CWA v. Beck, won by Foundation attorneys, this is limited to only the part of union dues that union officials claim goes toward a union’s core “representational” functions. Additionally, under federal election law, union officials can never force workers to contribute to a union’s PAC.
In contrast, in states with Right to Work protections, union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.
Coates’ charge asserts that CWA union officials, by refusing his repeated requests to resign his union membership, violated his rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA recognizes workers’ right to “refrain from any or all” union activities.
Coates seeks the return of all money the union took from his paycheck in violation of his rights, and for PAC contributions to cease.
Foundation President: NLRB GC – a Former CWA Union Official – Should Not Get Involved in Case
“CWA officials are brazenly ignoring Mr. Coates’ right to refrain from union activates, so they can continue seizing his money not only for unwanted union activities but also for the increasingly radical politics of DC-based CWA operatives,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The union bosses’ arrogant attitude toward independent-minded workers is mirrored perfectly by NLRB GC Jennifer Abruzzo, who up until recently was also a top, DC-based CWA lawyer and has a track record of stacking the deck against workers who don’t toe the union line.”
“The obvious violations of federal law described in Mr. Coates’ case should make this a quick victory for him. Any meddling in this case by Abruzzo for her former employer will be met with a swift response from Foundation attorneys,” Mix added.