Appeals court upholds Bush order on unions

Government contractors must tell workers of rights

April 23, 2003|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

WASHINGTON - A U.S. appeals court upheld yesterday President Bush's order requiring government contractors to tell workers they don't have to join unions or pay dues that are used to promote organized labor's political agenda.

The decision will ensure that 1.8 million employees of government contractors who pay union dues will be told they may choose that their money not be used for political purposes, according to the National Right to Work Foundation, a group that opposes compulsory union membership.

In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a trial judge's ruling that Bush's order was pre-empted by federal labor law that allows unions to sign collective bargaining agreements requiring workers to have dues withheld from their paychecks.

The appellate panel lifted the injunction barring the order's enforcement on companies such as Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. that sell goods and services to the government.

"This levels the playing field for those companies with federal contracts. Their employees will see what their rights are," said Dan Cronin, a spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation. "Too many labor unions don't tell their workers what rights they have."

The AFL-CIO did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Bush issued the order shortly after taking office in 2001, reinstating a rule that had been first issued by the first President George Bush and lifted by President Bill Clinton.

Under federal labor law, workers who don't want to join a union may opt to pay an "agency fee" that covers the costs of collective bargaining and union representation without financing the union's political activities.

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