Project 21 News: July 1996

African-American Group Says Workers Need Protection from Unions, Too; House To Vote on "Worker Right to Know Act" July 18

Contact: Arturo Silva at (202) 507-6398 or

Saying that workers need protection from powerful, authoritarian labor unions as much as they do from employers, members of the African-American leadership group Project 21 are applauding an effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to give employees more power in their dealings with unions.

Project 21 has published Briefing Points on the initiative, which includes a "Worker Right to Know Act," sponsored by Rep. Harris Fawell (R-IL). Hearings have been held on the legislation, which was introduced today, July 17 and will be voted on in the full House as part of campaign finance reform legislation on Thursday, July 18.

"Obviously, someone needs to protect the rights of millions of union workers who object to the way [AFL-CIO President] Mr. Sweeney and his liberal union boss buddies are spending the money they steal from working men and women," says Project 21 member Mark Lampkin. Lampkin, who is also General Counsel to the U.S. House Republican Conference, adds: "While over 40% of union workers support conservative policies, unions take 99% of union dues to support liberal policies. The elite leadership of the AFL-CIO is more interested in big spending, income redistribution, gay rights and abortion on demand than they are the moral, ideological and ethical concerns of the rank and file union members."

The Worker Right to Know Act would strengthen the 1988 Supreme Court Beck decision allowing workers to object to the use of their union dues for anything but collective bargaining. In May, the House Employer/Employee Relations Subcommittee held hearings on the legislation.

"Over the years, millions of employees subsidized, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, union activities wholly unrelated to employees' wages or terms and conditions of employment," says Project 21 member Peter Kirsanow, Chief Labor Counsel for Cleveland, Ohio from 1984 to 1990. "The Worker Right to Know Act corrects the repugnant union practice of forcing employees to financially support political positions and arguments to which the employees are personally opposed."

Project 21 was recently referred to by the liberal Nation magazine as "the organization most responsible for confusing the media about the clout of conservatives inside the black community..." For the Briefing Points mentioned above, or an interview, contact Arturo Silva at (202) 507-6398 or at


Briefing Points on the Worker Right to Know Act

Sponsored by Rep. Harris Fawell (R-IL)

Updated 7/17/96

What Worker Right to Know Act does: It strengthens the U.S. Supreme Court's 1986 Beck decision establishing that workers who are forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment may not be required to pay dues beyond those necessary for collective bargaining.

Despite Beck, many employees don't know of their rights. Below are current problems many union workers face, and the solutions offered by the Worker Right to Know Act.

Problem: Despite Beck, current labor law still seems to permit unions and employers to agree to make union membership and payment of full union dues a condition of employment.

Solution: Clarifies that employees may only be required to pay collective bargaining dues -- and may not be required to either join the union or pay full membership dues -- as a condition of employment. Furthermore, employers are required to individually notify employees of their rights to join a union and their rights under Beck.

Problem: Burden is on employee to object to non-collective bargaining dues and, if no objection is made, he or she may be liable for full dues.

Solution: Employees must be given notice of their rights regarding union membership and dues payments. Unions are required to get a signed written agreement from an employee before the union may accept or demand the payment of any dues not related to collective bargaining, to renew such agreements annually, and to provide employees a ratio (certified by an independent auditor) of the dues related to collective bargaining and any other dues.

Problem: Employee must rely on union to determine what dues are for collective bargaining, allowing unions to dictate the amount of dues to be paid once the employee affirms his or her rights under Beck.

Solution: Legislation requires unions to report expenditures by function classification in sufficient detail to enable workers to determine whether such expenditures were related to collective bargaining and gives all employees paying dues to a union greater access to the union's financial records.

-by Arturo Silva, Project 21 (202) 507-6398

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