The "Beck" Decision, and How it Affects You

As you know, many Americans have to pay a tax just to keep their jobs. This predicament affects millions of American workers every year. No matter how hard they work, they cannot escape this fate -- one condoned under present federal law, and strongly backed by the Clinton administration. At issue is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), first passed in 1935, which granted union officials an unheralded package of coercive powers and privileges that eat away the rights of American workers.

Foremost among these powers is "compulsory unionism," or the power to force independent workers to join a union before being hired. Forcing American workers to join a union against their will represents an infringement on an individual's right to work under conditions that they see fit. Under the present system, an elite group of Union bosses wields dictatorial power, often pursuing policies with which the vast majority of the rank and file disagree.

In 1994, nearly 40 percent of all Union members correctly recognized that the United States was on the wrong track. In response, they voted for Republican candidates. To date, the AFL-CIO has continued to send 98 percent of its campaign contributions to Democrats, bankrolled such liberal groups as the Rainbow Coalition and the Democratic Socialists of America, and is now increasing compulsory dues to raise $35 million for big government candidates in the 1996 elections. It would appear that the 40 percent who clearly prefer a different set of policy choices are effectively silenced by the out-of-touch union bosses who promote their own lavish lifestyles in Washington, DC.

Nevertheless, there is hope. In 1988, after battling through twelve years of red tape and legal appeals, a telephone lineman named Harry Beck took his case to the Supreme Court. His request was simple: that the court reaffirm his right to keep his hard earned wages, rather than have them confiscated by union officials and spent to promote a political agenda with which he did not agree. Consequently, the Supreme Court ruled in Beck v. Communication Workers of America that unions could not force workers to pay dues to support political causes and matters unrelated to the normal union duties of collective bargaining and union representation. The court ruled that political contributions must be voluntary. In Mr. Beck's case, the union spent 79 percent of his money for purposes other than ‘normal union duties.' Steve Havas, another union member, sued and got $8,877.48 back in dues that he had paid for years.

Unfortunately, this decision was ignored by the Democratically controlled Congresses of the ‘80s. Advancing the agenda of organized labor, President Clinton decided that workers should not be informed of this right. On February 1, 1995, President Clinton rescinded an Executive Order from President Bush requiring all federal contractors to post notices in the workplace informing workers of their rights under the Beck decision. The problem is that the law requires no one to tell the workers that their contributions to political causes are supposed to be voluntary. Thus, union leaders can continue to dock money from workers' paychecks for their own political use. Only when a union member objects does the union stop collecting , and even then it is only from that single member.

Clearly, this is not right. Every American who supports our nation's free and democratic heritage should speak out and oppose this sneaky, blatant abuse of our political process. During the revolutionary war, impression into service was a common tactic used by the British navy. Forcing an individual to fight on a side for which they feel no allegiance was a losing tactic then, and it remains so today. Its time to give American workers the power to fight compulsory unionism, and uphold the spirit of the Beck decision.


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