One of the Democratic Party’s largest political contributors must pay a former employee who was fired from his job because he refused to donate to a union political action committee (PAC).
The Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) and Penn Line Service agreed to pay a West Virginia man $10,000, acknowledging that he was wrongfully terminated from his job after refusing to make the political donations.
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"Bulldozing someone into contributing to a union PAC that violates their sincerely-held beliefs is unconscionable," said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee. "No worker should ever be forced to pay union dues or fees for a cause in which they disagree."
Penn Line Service president Paul Mongell refused to comment on the settlement. LIUNA did not respond to requests for comment.
Jeff Richmond of Meadow Bridge, W.V., began working as a truck driver for Penn Line Service, a trucking and construction company, in July 2012. He never joined LIUNA, which represents other employees at the company, but that did not stop the union from deducting dues from his paycheck. The situation came to a head in October when Richmond refused to make "voluntary" contributions to three PACs associated with the union. He was fired from his job shortly afterward.
LIUNA has emerged as a major player in Democratic circles. It spent nearly $5 million on the 2012 election. The union’s political action committee gave nearly $1.4 million to congressional races that year; $184,000 went to Republicans, while Democrats received $1.2 million. The union did not give any money to Republicans running in Senate races.
Richmond challenged the forced dues program enacted by the union and the company before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after his firing with the help of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The NLRB issued a formal complaint against Penn Line Service and LIUNA but did not have a chance to rule on the matter before the settlement.
Richmond was not the only Penn Line Service employee to benefit from the settlement. The company and union agreed to reimburse an unnamed employee $600 for forced dues payments and political contributions he made in 2012.
Richmond was unable to comment on the case at press time.
Mix said the union’s actions are not surprising given the influence of organized labor in West Virginia. He urged lawmakers to change the pro-union atmosphere in the state to avoid future issues with compulsory union dues.
"West Virginia needs to pass a Right-to-Work law making union membership and dues payments completely voluntary," Mix said.