In a forced union dues lawsuit in which a former Southwest Airlines flight attendant won a $5.1 million judgment, emails written by a union representative obtained through discovery and acquired by The Center Square appear to show threats against the flight attendant and mock her for the political campaigns she unwillingly donated to.
Dallas-based Charlene Carter successfully won her case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on July 14 after first suing the airlines and the Transport Union Workers of America (TWUA) Local 556 in 2017. The jury unanimously sided with her, handing a stinging defeat to the airlines and union in a battle over forced union dues that’s gone on for five years.
Since then, the union and Southwest have said they will appeal and the National Right to Work Foundation will continue to represent her pro bono.
Her attorneys introduced emails obtained in discovery including one from Oct. 13, 2014, obtained by The Center Square. In it, TWU activist Brian Talburt writes to Southwest’s then-senior director in Inflight Services, Sonya Lacore, refering to a non-union member, Mike Casper, as the “the first legit cancerous tumor that had any significant reach with the 1000 members,” saying “he could be contained.”
Referring to another non-union employee, Corliss King, who later became a Local 556 executive board member, he wrote, she was “incredibly dangerous” because “she will play VERY well to the heavy inner city, minority crowd.”
“I am all about targeted assassinations,” he stated, referring to using Facebook and social media as a way to attack the reputations of the non-union employees.
“Cancer is a dangerous thing and must b [sic] eradicated when ever [sic] possible or it spreads,” he wrote. “You cannot contain it, it needs to be eliminated. I would highly encourage targeting people and a one day detective with a video camera is a very cheap investment.”
He later forwarded the email to TWU’s president, Audrey Stone, according to the documents.
The emails include responses to a complaint Carter filed with Stone when Carter said she didn’t want her dues money to be used for political activities she didn’t support. One response to Stone’s email was from Todd Gage, a TWU Local 556 Vice President. He said, “I wish I could give her a list of all the campaigns she has donated to in the last 17 years! Her head would explode.”
Another Local 556 Second Vice President, Brett Nevarez, said, “so typical bat****/dip**** cannot read her paycheck!”
TWU didn’t respond to a request for comment when asked if it supported what appears to be incitement to violence against or targeted harassment of employees.
“Ms. Carter demonstrated that, even in an overwhelmingly toxic environment, independent-minded workers can stand up, push back against union boss attacks on individual rights and free speech, and win,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement. “The evidence presented at Carter’s trial reveals an ingrained union culture of intimidation and prejudice against dissident workers. While we will keep fighting to defend Ms. Carter’s victory for her rights, flight attendants or other employees who have experienced similar hostility should not hesitate to contact the National Right to Work Foundation for help in defending their rights.
“Federal law governing labor relations in the air and rail industries allows union officials to demand workers fund their activities as a condition of employment,” Mix added. “TWU union officials’ attacks on employees who disagree with the union’s agenda are the unsurprising result of a system in which workers do not have even the simple power to withhold dues when union officials violate their rights – an accountability mechanism Right to Work protects.”