After a five-year legal battle, longtime flight attendant and outspoken pro-life Christian Charlene Carter emerged victorious last week. On July 14, a jury at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled she should receive $5.1 million in damages (both compensatory and punitive) from Southwest Airlines and the Transportation Workers Union (TWU) of America.
According to the verdict, both organizations were involved in Carter’s unlawful termination from a job she had held more than two decades. Both organizations indicate they plan to appeal. Carter’s attorneys, meanwhile, applaud the decision as a victory over religious discrimination.
Flight Attendant’s Stance on Abortion Led to Conflict
Back in 2013, Carter discovered her union dues were going partly toward abortion-rights groups, including Planned Parenthood. Because abortion violates her Christian beliefs and conscience, she resigned as a TWU member. Yet she still had to pay dues, because the federal Railway Labor Act, which covers airline employees, takes precedence over any state-level Right to Work laws.
Then in January 2017, Carter found out that union president Audrey Stone and other officials used union dues to attend the pro-abortion Women’s March in Washington, D.C. Carter emailed Stone about her concerns and expressed support for a recall effort of Stone. Carter also made pro-life posts in Facebook groups for Southwest flight attendants.
Some messages from Carter reportedly contained videos of aborted babies. During meetings with leadership, the flight attendant explained her religious beliefs and opposition to abortion. Southwest fired her, saying her posts violated its workplace bullying policies and were “highly offensive in nature.”
This May, both Southwest and the union failed to get the lawsuit dismissed. After last week’s jury verdict, Southwest said it “has a demonstrated history of supporting our employees’ rights to express their opinions when done in a respectful manner.”
Lawyer: Workers Shouldn’t Have To Support ‘Abhorrent’ Agenda
Carter received free legal representation from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a nonprofit that fights “compulsory unionism.” Foundation president Mark Mix said, “This long overdue verdict vindicates Ms. Carter’s fundamental right to dissent from the causes and ideas that TWU union officials—who claim to ‘represent’ Southwest flight attendants—support while forcing workers to bankroll their activities. No American worker should have to fear termination, intimidation, or any other reprisal merely for speaking out against having their own money spent, purportedly in their name, to promote an agenda they find abhorrent.”
Mix added, “While we’re proud to stand with Ms. Carter and are pleased by the verdict, there ultimately should be no place in American labor law for compelling workers to fund a private organization that violates their core beliefs.”