Va. Verizon employee files union complaint

Michael P. Tremoglie Feb. 28, 2012, 1:38pm

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Legal Newsline) -- A Verizon employee has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the company and a union violated her rights as a worker.

Monika Cassell, who works for Verizon in Newport News, filed the lawsuit against Verizon and Communication Workers of America, Local 2205. In it, she claims the company and union is refusing to honor her right to refrain from paying union dues.

Last October, the CWA called a strike against Verizon. Disgruntled by the CWA union officials' strike order and unwilling to participate in the action, Cassell and several other Verizon employees resigned from the union and revoked their dues deduction authorizations. These are documents used by union officials to automatically collect dues from employees' paychecks.

During the strike since there was no contract in effect, Cassell a handful of other Verizon workers withdrew their dues authorization. The law permits workers to withdraw their union dues authorization on two occasions. One is the anniversary of the contract. The other is when the contract is not in effect -- as was the case during the strike.

Virginia's right-to-work law states that no worker can be required to join or pay money to a union. Federal labor law states that employees can revoke their dues deduction authorizations once a contract ends.

However, Verizon and the CWA tried to make the dues retroactive after the strike settled. They continue to confiscate full union dues from Cassell and several of her coworkers despite their attempts to opt out.

Cassell's lawsuit also challenges the CWA union's dues deduction authorizations because those authorizations do not allow employees to revoke them when no contract is in effect, as federal law requires. Instead, Verizon and union officials are forcing employees to pay full union dues for at least another year.

"Verizon is bowing to pressure from CWA officials and choosing to single out and punish those workers who chose to stay on their jobs during last year's destructive and acrimonious strike," said Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a workers advocacy nonprofit organization in Virginia. "It is indefensible that workers who exercised their right to resign their union membership and continued to work to support their families are now having their rights blatantly violated by their employer and union officials."

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