- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2001

The National Labor Relations Board is taking phone giant Verizon Communications Inc. and its main union, the Communication Workers of America, to court for illegally seizing union dues after last summer's 18-day strike.
The complaint, to be heard by an administrative law judge in October, said the union took about $50 worth of dues from workers in the month after the strike, although there was no contract and some workers didn't want to join the CWA. It also blames Verizon for deducting those dues automatically from paychecks.
"After the Verizon strike last year, there was no contract, yet despite the fact, the union took dues from nonmembers," said Randy Wanke, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a Washington nonprofit organization that provides legal aid to opponents of compulsory unionism. The group is representing two Verizon workers in Maryland who are not union members.
In a unionized workplace, even nonmember workers can, under law, be required to pay dues, he explained.
"But in this instance, there was the strike, and for about a month after there was no contract," he said.
Mr. Wanke filed the charges with the National Labor Relations Board earlier this summer. Last week, the board agreed with the group and filed a complaint against the CWA and Verizon with the courts.
An administrative law judge is scheduled to hear arguments in Baltimore Oct. 22.
The CWA is disputing the complaint, arguing that the nonmember workers who paid dues in the month without a contract benefited from the bargaining that went on during the strike.
"They did pay the fees," said Candice Johnson, a spokeswoman for the union. "But we are disputing the complaint."
Verizon is taking a firmer stand.
"The union's position and the company's position are, I think, similar, but they are not the same," said John May, associate general counsel of labor and employment law with Verizon.
He said nonunion workers at the company sign agreements stating that Verizon can deduct dues from their pay even when there is no contract between the union and its members. The CWA has 740,000 communication and media workers nationwide.
The two employees who sought the complaint Kenneth Olszewski of Fallston and Nancy Simms of Phoenix have signed such agreements, Mr. May said.
"Those agreements are separate and independent obligations, totally apart from the contract," he said. "So they are only focusing on one half of the law and not recognizing the other half."
The right-to-work legal foundation estimates that about 3,000 nonunion workers paid $50 each for a month, amounting to $150,000 in illegally seized funds, Mr. Wanke said.
The CWA is disputing the amount, saying each worker pays dues equal to 1.7 percent of his yearly income, which depends on his position.
Mrs. Johnson also said the quoted number of workers "seems very high."

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