The Right To Employment Without Violating Your Conscience
Public-sector union money is used for ideological activities unrelated to workplace representation or other general union services. These activities include the controversial support of abortion and contraceptives for children, family planning clinics in schools, sexual orientation/gender identity policies, and open attacks on religious organizations. This support has taken the form of resolutions, programs, or expenditures from unions.
Many workers have sincere religious convictions that are violated by these causes. Fortunately, they are protected by federal law, which holds that the union cannot force any workers pay for activities that violate his or her religious beliefs.
Workers can become “religious objectors” through a simple process, which means they are no longer members of the union and 100 percent of their dues are redirected to a charity of their choice.
The law protects the rights of workers
In 28 states employees have the “right to work” and union payment is not required. Those who object to the union may simply quit and make their own decisions about how to use their money. However, they are still forced to be part of a bargaining unit and have forfeited the ability to speak for themselves, negotiate their own terms of employment or hire someone else as an advocate. For the workers who decline to join, the unions will continue to negotiate their contracts along with remaining obligated to aid with grievances, discipline and contract enforcement.
In the 22 forced-fee states, workers must pay mandatory agency fees as a condition of employment. Workers who have personal religious objections to union activities are protected by federal law which spells out the right to an accommodation.
Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act states that employers cannot discriminate against one’s sincerely held religious beliefs as a condition of employment. Employers and unions must accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.
The Civil Rights Act defines religion as “all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief.” Title VII treats religion very broadly, stating that religion consists of formal theistic beliefs and attitudes, but also personal beliefs relating to moral and ethical convictions.
Sometimes the union will suggest that only those who belong to a specific church which prohibits union membership (such as Seventh Day Adventists, Mennonites, and perhaps the Jehovah’s Witnesses), but legal interpretations acknowledge that personally held religious beliefs are sufficient grounds for accommodation.
These religious convictions must be “sincerely held.” Sincerity of the belief is up to employers and unions to decide upon, but is normally not questioned.
Having one’s belief accommodated in a union workplace could mean workers either simply stop union payments or they send funds equivalent to dues to a charity instead of paying union dues. This arrangement shows that the interest of the employee is not financial, but truly faith-based.
Steps to take to seek a religious accommodation
Step 1: The employee should determine the elements of union activities, positions or expenditures violating their religious beliefs.
Step 2: The employee needs to notify the union and employer about their religious beliefs through a written objection, which clearly states the nature of their beliefs, how they conflict with the work requirements, requesting an accommodation of those beliefs, along with reasonable accommodation suggestions to resolve the conflict.
Since the sincerity of the beliefs is to be evaluated by the union personnel for sincerity, the formulation of the letter seeking this accommodation needs to be personally generated. Topics, claims and background information which has distressed some people of faith are at the end of this document. The letter should reflect only those concerns which are faith-based, and should only include the truly held beliefs.
If designating a charity to receive the funds is the accommodation, prepare a list of two or three charities which would be acceptable and provide their contact information. In the best form of accommodation, the donation to the charity is made directly by deduction from the employees’ paycheck.
Freedom Foundation experts will review draft religious objection accommodation letters for those who want to be sure their request is complete. Send to Legal@freedomfoundation.com.
Step 3: Once the request has been acknowledged, it is important to cooperate in working out a solution without the employee compromising on the matters of religious conviction.
If the union and employer will not accommodate the employee’s religious beliefs, a complaint may be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days, but commonly calling the union’s bluff is enough.
Please contact Legal@freedomfoundation.com for guidance or additional questions regarding the exercise of this right.
Union tenants as justification for religious objection
People of faith, particularly the Christian faith, may find some of the foundational tenants of the union ideology contrary to the tenants of their faith.
Dishonoring the employer. Often the operational practices of the union as it pursues the organizational objectives are malicious toward the employer. The whisper campaigns, badmouthing, exaggerated negativity toward management could violate several foundations of faith. Respect, honesty, kindness are virtues that people of faith are to demonstrate. Facilitating a smear campaign against the people who are managers or funding an organization which has as its operating procedure to take these actions could violate faith.
Some who follow Christian biblical beliefs could even hold that they have a duty to obey and respect those who have charge over a work arrangement, and the entire union movement presumes a “resist and demand” approach to this relationship.
Keeping one’s word and honoring a contract. Most employees have an individual contract and a collective bargaining agreement. In many cases this contract specifies terms of work, the schedule and even an obligation to not strike or inhibit the work responsibilities. However, most union bylaws contain obligations to cooperate in union strikes, disruptions or other actions. Keeping one’s word is a fundamental moral precept of faith, and accepting an obligation to violate an understanding or a contract would be contrary to most people’s faith.
Adversarial. The union narrative regarding the nature of the world is that conflict is essential. Management is bad and oppressive, and all evidence of this perception is highlighted and exaggerated. Meanwhile, the union narrative casts employees as adversaries to management, and suggests they are fighting a noble cause to prevent their own exploitation and oppression. The union actions are all intended to further this belief and to fight this epic battle forever.
Many faiths do not describe the world in this way, and they expect the faithful to behave according to different fundamental assumptions. Christianity describes all people as flawed, but worthy of love. Christians are challenged to love their enemies and to reflect God’s love to all people without judging some as unworthy. Buddhism reflects a similar principle of peace toward all including enemies. Joining a combative cause could easily be counter to one’s conscience.
Work actions or strikes. The fundamental leverage of the union movement is a government-authorized power to damage the operations of the enterprise whether business or government. While some kinds of public employees are not permitted the one tool of a “strike,” the power to compel an employer to take actions or make expenditures is still central to the union.
Damaging the affairs of others, even if facilitated by government- enforced laws can be offensive to those of faith who abhor the use of force. Especially offensive to people of faith could be the withholding of services to those who are vulnerable or without other options such as children in schools and those served by government. Facilitating and funding an organization taking these actions could be a violation of one’s faith.
Greed. Ironically, unions exist to fight greed but also to satisfy greed. In the union dogma the avarice of the employer is clearly called out as an injustice to be stopped, but the objectives of the union movement are the self-interest of the employee.
Often the union pursuit of gain for those in the union is at the expense of the interests of others. In the public sector, especially, the interests of employees might impact the availability of services to the community and the quality of those services. Workload changes, costs or diminished accountability all advance the employee’s interests while taking away from the interests of those served.
Many faiths eschew greed without discriminating between personal greed and that of others. Funding actions and an organization which eternally seeks self-interested gain could certainly be contrary to any faith which disapproves of greed. Any faith which asks that the interests of others be considered of equal importance—or elevated beyond one’s own interests—would be diametrically opposed to the very purpose of labor unions.
Union expenditures and agenda which could violate one’s faith
Unions have the ability to spend dues money on anything, and they tend to be dominated by people who are strident in the various causes of the Left. Many of the objectives of these movements are contrary to common religious belief systems, and sometimes they are aggressively opposed to people and organizations of faith.
Those considering their union’s agenda and expenditures should do their own research, but a few examples for some of the major unions are provided below.
Since union operators are not required to disclose spending to members, information about how dues are spent is incomplete. Some information is reported to the government, however.
As a nonprofit, the IRS requires unions’ 990 tax return to be a public document, and these can be found online at sites like this.
Unions which represent private sector employees are obligated to report financial information to the U.S. Dept. of Labor in an annual LM-2 report which can be found here.
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
- $350,000 to Planned Parenthood Votes 2017 AFT LM-2
- “AFT President Randi Weingarten Condemns Creation of New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in US Health and Human Services Department” AFT News Release, January 18, 2018.
- AFT Resolution: Stand With Planned Parenthood
- AFT Resolution LGBTQ Students
- AFT’s national headquarters files a 990 tax return showing expenditures to causes under the EIN of 36-0725240. View here.
- AFT’s national headquarters files a form LM-2 showing expenditures to causes under the file number 000-012. View here.
American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
- $100,000 to Progressive Congress 2017 AFSME LM-2
- $20,000 to the National Women’s Law Center Action Fund 2017 AFSME LM-2
- $10,000 to Pride At Work 2017 AFSME LM-2
- $5,100 to the Southern Poverty Law Center 2017 AFSME LM-2
- $575,000 to Progress Now- AFSCME 2016 IRS 990
- ” Top US public employee union AFSCME gave $65M in 2014” Fox News, April 5, 2015.
- “American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME),” InfluenceWatch.org
- AFSCME’s national headquarters files a 990 tax return showing expenditures to causes under the EIN of 53-0237789. View here.
- AFSCME’s national headquarters files a form LM-2 showing expenditures to causes under the file number 000-289. View here.
National Education Association (NEA)
- $185,772 to Democracy Alliance 2017 NEA LM-2
- $500,000 to Main Street Advocacy Fund 2017 NEA LM-2
- $10,000 National Center for Transgender Equality 2017 NEA LM-2
- NEA position on abortion, school-based family planning, abortion funding (Resolution I-17)
- NEA position children’s access to health, psychological and birth control (Resolution C-25)
- NEA funding to the pro-abortion National Organization for Women (NOW) (NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, 1998 Annual Report, Pg. 19)
- NEA on the Leadership Council of the Pro-Choice Public Education Project (PEP) (Pro Choice Public Education Project, 2003.)
- NEA affiliate in New Hampshire sued for abortion coverage insurance (National Education Association of Rhode Island v. Garrahy, 779 F.2d 790 (1st Cir. 1986))
- Pro-life teachers have protested the NEA conventions in 2014 and 2015.
- NEA role in the “Abortion Rights March” in 2004.
- NEA role in the Feminist Majority Conference in 2008.
- NEA and other advocates produce Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth.
- NEA president regarding video for students It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School.
- NEA’s Strengthening the Learning Environment: A School Employees Guide to Gay and Lesbian Issues
- NEA training (GroundSpark Annual Report, 2008)
- NEA guide on restroom policy Schools in Transition
- NEA Representative Assembly, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Caucus 2015 reports pg. 12
- NEA Representative Assembly, Search for the term “Religious” to see the work to oppose free expression, search “LGBTQ” to see the work of the NEA, 2016 reports
- NEA’s summary of some efforts here.
- 2014-15 NEA resolutions include:
- NEA position parent rights & home education (Resolution B-83)
- NEA position sex education, gender expression & homophobia (Resolution B-52)
- NEA position confidential health services and birth control for children (Resolution C-25)
- NEA position earlier education (Resolution B-1)
- NEA position sexual orientation counseling for students (Resolution C- 30)
- NEA position school text selection (Resolution E-4).
- NEA vs homeschoolers (World Net Daily report)
- NEA opposing school options for parents (World Magazine)
- Many faiths require that parents maintain primary responsibility for educating their children about certain issues. (Examples: Proverbs 22:6 Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
- NEA union is inherently adversarial (Robert Chase NEA president)
- NEA opposes some religious affiliated groups (Resolution C-20)
- NEA concerns about religious groups (Education Reporter)
- NEA funds People for the American Way (Grading the NEA)
- NEA funded “What is Left After Right” (Susanne Clark)
- NEA advises against schools referring to religious counselors (Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation)
- NEA working on fighting religious freedom laws (New Business Item A)
- NEA working to get educators to be social justice agents (Director Stocks speech)
- NEA to promote teaching social justice (New Business Item 10)
- NEA social justice in the classroom (Affecting student thinking)
- NEA social justice warrior training (NEA Leadership Development)
- NEA social justice curriculum (NEA EnCompass)
- NEA broader social justice advocacy (Ed Justice campaign)
- Glanzer, Perry and Travis Pardo, “Grading the NEA,” Focus on the Family, 2000.
- “Teachers are Unknowingly Funding Planned Parenthood,” Christian Educators Association International, August 22, 2016
- “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” National Education Association.
- NEA’s national headquarters files a form LM-2 showing expenditures to causes under the file number 000-342. View here.
- NEA’s national headquarters files a 990 tax return showing expenditures to causes under the EIN of 53-0115260. View here.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
- $33,251,868 on ideological activities, politics and lobbying, including:
- $20,000 to Planned Parenthood, 2017 SEIU LM-2
- $6,000 Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, 2017 SEIU LM-2
- Henry, Mary Kay, “SEIU President Henry: ۬Hobby Lobby Rulings Could Harm Not Only Women Workers, ۬But All Working People,” June 30, 2014.
- Ludwig, Hayden and Michael Watson, “Inside the SEIU: Funding the Left,” Capital Research Center, October 24, 2017.
- Abel, Jonathan, “Are Your Union Dues Funding Planned Parenthood?” Family Policy Institute of Washington, September 5, 2015.
- SEIU’s national headquarters files a 990 tax return showing expenditures to causes under the EIN of 36-0852885. View here.
- SEIU’s national headquarters files a form LM-2 showing expenditures to causes under the file number 000-137. View here.
Multiple unions including some of those listed above
- Ertelt, Steven, “Unions Give $1.1 Billion to Planned Parenthood and Pro-Abortion Democrats,” LifeNews.com, 2018.
- Greer, Stan, “Can a Faithful Catholic Today Belong, in Good Conscience, to Any Large, U.S.-Based Union?” National Institute for Labor Relations Research, April 29, 2013.
- McMorris, Bill, “Unions Send Dues Money to Planned Parenthood,” August 3, 2015.
- “How Labor Unions Finance Their Political Agenda, 2010-2016,” Center for Union Facts
- Baird, Charles W., Professor of Economics at California State University, “Regarding My Religious Beliefs Concerning Unions,” 2001.
- Carpenter, Dick; Charlene Harr; Travis Pardo, “Education’s Iron Triangle: Uncovering the Values and Beliefs of the NEA, AFT, and PTA,” 2002.
- Church State Council, “Exemption from Labor Union Membership,” Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
- Freedom Foundation, “When Values Collide: Teachers, Unions and the Charity Option.”
- Fischer, Mark L. and Hunter, Robert P. “Religious Unionism and Compulsory Unionism: A Worker’s Guide to Using Union Dues for Charity,” 2000.
- Free to Teach, “How to File a Religious Objection to Union Membership.”
- Heys, Rev. John, “Labor Union Membership in the Light of Scripture,” 2016.
- Justia US Law, “Machinists & Aerospace Workers, Lodge 751 v. Boeing,” 1986.
- McKenna, Rob. Attorney General, “Circumstances in Which a State Employee May Exercise a Right of Non-Association with a Labor Union,” Washington State Office of the Attorney General, 2006.
- O’Toole, Kathy. WEA General Counsel, “General Instructions to Union Presidents Regarding Religious Objectors,” 1996.