Couple Beats Their Union After Three-Decade Court Fight, Donates Winnings to Right-to-Work Group

Union upholds laborers' right to opt-out of paying union dues.

By Published on June 21, 2018

A couple’s 30-year court fight with a union that did not allow them to opt out of paying union dues is over, and the couple is claiming victory, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

David and Shirley Pirlott filed their federal labor complaint on Nov. 8, 1987, against Teamsters Local 75. The union mailed the couple $3,000 each in March, settling the lawsuit. The couple has promised to donate some of the winnings to the National Right to Work Foundation, the nonprofit that represented the couple in court.

“We’ll donate some back to Right to Work [Foundation] because they were so good about helping us and the rest is going to go back to the savings account,” Shirley told the Free Beacon. “It wasn’t ever about the money — it was about beating the union. The win is the best part.”

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The Supreme Court upheld union members’ “Beck rights,” or the right to opt-out of funding a union’s political activities, in the 1987 case Communications Workers of America v. Beck. Local 75 gave the Pirlotts a vague breakdown of how union dues are spent. The couple complained to the National Labor Relations Board over the union’s lack of transparency.

“I was a steward and was sitting in on meetings and saw how badly they lied to the people about the company,” Shirley said. “That’s when I soured on the union.”

Early in the case, the couple faced hazing and threats from other union members, some that the Pirlotts considered close friends. Shirley purchased a pistol to carry in her car and, eventually, things settled down. The court case dragged on, though, as bureaucrats put off action and tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars were wasted in unnecessary delays. The NLRB under President Donald Trump finally settled the complaint, according to the Free Beacon.

The Beck case spawned a slew of “Beck rights” complaints and court cases, and the Supreme Court is set to make a similar court ruling at any time in Janus v. AFSCME.

The case asks whether mandatory union dues for public employees violates a worker’s First Amendment rights. The plaintiff, Illinois healthcare worker Mark Janus, argues that because public-sector unions directly lobby the government to set the wages, benefits and working conditions of government employees, the negotiations are inherently political.

The case, expected to be ruled in favor of Janus, could impact millions of union workers.


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