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Christian worker files discrimination charges over forced SEIU membership

Union, SEIU
Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) hold a rally in support of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union at the Richard J. Daley Center plaza on Feb. 26, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois. |

A security officer has filed discrimination charges against his employer for taking union dues out of his paycheck even though he has repeatedly identified union membership as a violation of his religious beliefs. 

Thomas Ross, a San Francisco-based security officer who works for Allied Universal, has filed discrimination charges against his employer for forcing him to join the Service Employees International Union in violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and federal labor law. While Ross repeatedly informed his employers of his religious objection to joining the union, his employer took union dues out of his paycheck anyway. 

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is providing Ross with free legal assistance, detailed the circumstances that led Ross to file federal discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. 

“The Foundation is proud to help working men and women who courageously stand up for their beliefs even in the midst of union coercion,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix in a statement. “However, it’s important to recognize that regardless of whether an employee’s objection to union affiliation is religious in nature or not, no American worker should ever be forced to subsidize union activities they oppose.” 

In the discrimination charges, Ross stated that his employer disregarded his well-established and previously approved request for a religious accommodation to the requirement that he join the union and “demanded that I sign a payroll deduction, join the union, and pay union dues.” 

Documents obtained by The Christian Post show correspondence between Ross, his employer and union officials dating back to 2020. In a letter dated Aug. 4, 2020, Ross told President David Huerta of the United Services Workers-West Chapter of the Service Employees International Union that he had “a sincerely held religious belief that prevents me from being able to conscientiously join or financially support the union, a belief that is protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” 

Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion. Ross outlined the reasons for his inability to join the union in his letter to Huerta, explaining that “the Bible teaches that employees are to submit to their employers with ‘fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice; as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men’ (Ephesians 6:5-7).” 

Ross cited additional Bible passages as he stressed that he is “commanded to submit to my employer as to Jesus Christ” and, therefore, “to strike, walk out on, speak evil of, disobey, undermine, or provoke discontent against my employer is to rebel against Jesus Christ.” The security officer pointed to Matthew 20:2,15 as evidence that “Christ also specifically taught individual bargaining rather than collective bargaining for laborers.” 

Ross concluded his request for religious accommodation by expressing concern that union membership would force him to support laws that “would persecute Christian and other religious business owners and require them to violate their consciences or lose their businesses.” An Aug. 31 letter written by Ross states that the union “appears to be satisfied with the contents” of his request for religious accommodation and has enabled him to “work without any difficulty since 8/2020.”

In the Aug. 31 letter, Ross noted that he had received a request to provide information about any “changed phone numbers or addresses” accompanied by a notice informing him that while “this form will not enroll you in the union,” it serves as an “acknowledgment that you are aware of the union.”

Ross asserted that in addition to the notice, the form he received via email coaxed him to check off an option reading “Yes! I want to join with my fellow employees and become a member of SEIU United Workers West and I agree to abide by its Constitution and bylaws.”

“You had highlighted that I sign beneath this statement, and your email stated: ‘Please note - This is mandatory to return to me,’” Ross added. “However, I do not agree to become a member of SEIU, and I do not request membership, and I do not voluntarily accept membership, nor do I agree to abide by the SEIU constitution and bylaws.”

The message also contained highlighted text asking him to acknowledge the “need for a strong union” and a belief that “everyone … should pay ... to support our union’s activities,” in addition to authorizing the deduction of pay to support union dues. Ross stressed that he did not consent to have union dues taken from his paycheck and simply wished to comply with the request to provide an update about his phone numbers and addresses while continuing to abstain from union membership. 

Two weeks after Ross wrote the Aug. 31 letter, his employer “stated that union membership was compulsory and deducted union fees” from his paycheck against his wishes. This prompted him to file the charges. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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