Michael P. Tremoglie May. 17, 2012, 6:17am
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Legal Newsline) - A Newport News, Va., Verizon employee has settled with Verizon, the Communications Workers of America labor union and the union Local 2205 for labor law violations following last year's strike.
The employee, Monika Cassell, filed a lawsuit in February in U.S. District Court after the company and union refused to recognize her right to not pay union dues.
Cassell and several other Verizon employees resigned from the union last year because they were upset by CWA union officials' strike order and were unwilling to walk off their jobs. They revoked their dues deduction authorizations - documents used by union officials to automatically collect dues from employees' paychecks - while the union did not have a contract at their workplaces.
Virginia's Right-to-Work law permits workers to refrain from joining or paying money to a union. Federal labor law says employees can revoke their dues deduction authorizations once a contract ends. However, according to the complaint, Verizon continued to collect full union dues from Cassell and several of her coworkers despite their attempts to opt out. They alleged this was done at the behest of CWA union officials,
According to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which provided free legal assistance to Cassell, Verizon and the union agreed to a contract that retroactively applies to the time no contract was in effect. The worker's lawsuit also challenged 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.
The settlement requires Verizon and union officials to return all union dues and fees collected, with interest, to Cassell. The settlement also requires CWA Local 2205 union officials to acknowledge the revocation of all workers' dues deduction authorizations during the strike and in similar situations in the future for all workers in the bargaining unit, affecting Verizon workers in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland and West Virginia.
"It is indefensible that workers who exercised their right to resign their union membership and continued to work to support their families had to resort to a federal lawsuit after their rights were blatantly violated by their employer and union officials," said Mark Mix, President of NRWF.
"While Foundation attorneys have won a full capitulation from Verizon and CWA union officials in this case, CWA union officials continue to use illegal dues deduction authorizations that prevent workers from exercising their statutory right to refrain from full union dues payments when a union contract is no longer in effect."