Union Officials Face Lawsuit for Keeping Teacher's Charitable Donations in Union Coffers
By Will Collins
Created 19 Jun 2012 - 2:19pm
Suffolk County, NY (June 18, 2012) -- With the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a local teacher has filed a lawsuit in state supreme court against two unions for refusing to tell her what they did with union dues that were supposed to have been sent to charities.
Maureen Stavrakoglou is employed by the Brentwood School District, which requires all teachers to pay dues to the Brentwood Teachers Association (BTA) union and its state affiliate, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union, as a condition of employment. However, teachers with sincere religious objections to supporting a union are entitled to request that their union dues be redirected to a mutually agreed upon charity.
In 2005, the BTA and NYSUT unions came to an agreement with Stavrakoglou that redirected all of her NYSUT dues to charity. After the agreement was finalized, Stavrakoglou asked union officials to redirect her dues for 2007-2008 to the Make a Wish Foundation. The BTA's president subsequently assured Stavrakoglou that the dues would be sent to the charity she designated.
Stavrakoglou has since designated several new charities for her union dues. However, two of the charities she chose -- The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation -- have no record of ever receiving a donation from the union under Stavrakoglou's name. A third charity, The NYC Firefighters' Burn Foundation, only received Stavrakoglou's donation after she called union officials to inquire about the status of her dues. The donation was made over half a year after it was supposed to have been done.
Stavrakoglou's lawsuit seeks an account of how her union dues were spent and the immediate payment of any illegally-confiscated dues to the charities she designated. She also seeks punitive damages from the BTA and the NYSUT unions.
"After telling Maureen Stavrakoglou they'd respect her religious objections and redirect her dues to charity, teacher union bosses appear to have brazenly ignored her wishes," said Patrick Semmens, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. "Cases like this demonstrate the need for a New York Right to Work law, which would make union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary."