DC Circuit reverses NLRB ruling that allowed Arizona union bosses to deduct dues from non-member workers who revoked their deduction authorizations
Washington, DC (March 23, 2017) – Seven Phoenix-area Fry’s Food Stores employees have won a federal court decision in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals after United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 99 union and company officials refused to honor their legal right to refrain from union dues payments.
With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Shirley Jones of Mesa; Karen Medley and Elaine Brown of Apache Junction; Kimberly Stewart and Saloomeh Hardy of Queen Creek; and Tommy and Janette Fuentes of Florence – acting for almost 800 similarly situated employees – filed federal unfair labor practice charges in December 2009 that spurred the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to investigate and issue a statewide complaint against Fry’s Foods and UFCW Local 99 union officials.
In the midst of a well-publicized UFCW Local 99 union boss-ordered strike in November 2009, the employees and almost 800 of their co-workers resigned their UFCW union memberships and revoked their dues deduction authorizations – documents used by union officials to automatically withhold dues from employee paychecks – while the UFCW union did not have a monopoly bargaining contract in effect at their workplaces. The workers’ charges argued that, despite the employees’ efforts to halt the dues seizures, Fry’s officials illegally continued to deduct dues from their paychecks, and UFCW union officials illegally continued to accept the seized monies.
Under Arizona’s popular Right to Work law, no worker can be required to join or pay any money to a union. Further, the National Labor Relations Act provides that dues deduction authorizations cannot be irrevocable “beyond the termination date of the applicable collective bargaining agreement.”
After a long investigation, the Phoenix NLRB regional director issued a formal complaint against UFCW Local 99 union officials for enforcing illegal dues deduction authorizations that do not allow employees to revoke them during contract hiatus periods, contrary to federal law. However, an NLRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled for the union officials and rubberstamped the scheme.
The NLRB originally affirmed the ALJ’s ruling, but that decision was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Noel Canning that the Board lacked a valid quorum after President Obama’s unconstitutional 2012 NLRB “recess appointments.” After Noel Canning, a Senate-confirmed NLRB issued another ruling backing the ALJ’s decision, and exonerating Fry’s Foods and Local 99 union bosses. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys then appealed the case to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals handed down its decision on March 21, vacating the NLRB ruling. All three judges rejected the NLRB lawyer’s arguments. Two judges sent the case back to the NLRB for a new decision because the Board did not explain how its decision could be squared with Board precedent that workers must have at least one opportunity to revoke their dues deduction authorizations when a contract expires. Judge Silberman dissented, arguing that the NLRB ruling should be reversed without a remand, because the “Board has engaged in a blatant attempt to rewrite a statute in which Congress spoke plainly” that employees have “a right to revoke at will upon termination of an agreement.”
“These workers have waited the better part of a decade for justice after UFCW bosses refused to respect their legal rights to resign from the union and stop payment of all dues during a union-instigated work stoppage,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “While it has taken a long time, this ruling is a step towards vindicating the hundreds of employees victimized first by UFCW union officials, then by an Obama NLRB that rubberstamped those abuses.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.