Free Choice Has High Price for Anti Union Workers

By Ben Anderson | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

(CNS) - The nation's largest labor federation is conducting a week-long celebration to laud its record of defending individual employees against powerful corporations, but one union watchdog group says the unions themselves are behind a campaign of intimidation and coercion.

The AFL-CIO's "7 Days in June" is an effort to "restore the balance needed to protect the right of workers to make a free choice to join a union," according to the organization's press release. But the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation suggests union membership is anything but a free choice. And in the case of three employees, who chose not to join a labor union, "free choice" came at a price.

"The AFL-CIO's propaganda refers to 'a campaign of coercion, firings and harassment' to stop workers from being allowed to decide whether to join a union," NRTW said in a printed statement. The union watchdog group highlighted the cases of three individual's it claims became victims of union corruption.

Twenty-one year-old Army veteran Burton Ayres, the group said, was fired by Johnson Controls, Inc. "at the demand of union officials for not paying for the unions' political activities. Now without a full-time job, he recently received a letter from union officials suggesting that making payments into the union's political action committee assures 'job security.' "

"On June 24 working women and men in communities coast to coast began an appeal to employers to respect the futures of our communities, our jobs and our lives," says an AFL-CIO web site. But it's not clear whether the organized labor organization plans to celebrate the life of one parcel post delivery employee who chose not to participate in a union strike against his employer.

Another case of union coercion is that of United Parcel Service deliveryman Rod Carter who chose to cross picket lines and work throughout a labor strike against the company. According to NRTW, "Teamster thugs - shouting racial epithets - drew him from the safety of his UPS truck, beat him senseless, and stabbed him multiple times in the back for supporting his family by working during the strike."

NRTW suggests that Teamsters union officials have attempted to make hundreds of UPS workers "pay through the nose for resigning from the union and continuing to do their jobs during the nationwide strike. Until Foundation attorneys filed over one hundred lawsuits around the country against the Teamsters union, some UPS workers were socked with fines as high as $10,000 for exercising their rights."

NRTW vice president Stefan Gleason said, "Workers across the country such as these are standing up to what Big Labor considers to be the only 'choice' for workers have when it comes to union membership: Either pay dues to a union they do not support - or forfeit their jobs."

"Ninety-one percent of employers, when faced with employees who want to join together in a union, force employees to attend closed-door meetings to hear anti-union propaganda; 80 percent require immediate supervisors to attend training sessions on how to attack unions; and 79 percent have supervisors deliver anti-union messages to workers they oversee," said the AFL-CIO, citing research conducted by the Commission on the Future or Worker Management Relations.

The study also cites that "Eighty percent hire outside consultants to run anti-union campaigns, often based on mass psychology and distorting the law. "One in four employers fire workers who are active in union campaigns - in all, it's estimated that at least 10,000 workers are fired each year for exercising the freedom to join a union."

But according to NRTW, National Public Radio producer Maureen Hanley experienced similar retribution after she sued the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists when they allegedly fired her for not joining. AFTRA union officials, according to NRTW, told Hanley, "you will never work again."