Wisconsin’s Right to Work law makes union dues payments voluntary, but union officials continued taking fees
Milwaukee, WI (September 14, 2017) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Milwaukee employee has successfully won a settlement from Teamsters Local 200 union officials. The settlement requires that Teamsters Local 200 union officials pay the employee all union fees that were improperly seized and the subject of federal unfair labor practice charges.
Christopher Sarenac works as a driver for Roundy’s Supermarket, Inc. in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee. Roundy’s Supermarkets had a monopoly bargaining contract with Teamsters Local 200 until it expired on September 26, 2016. In early February 2017, Sarenac sent a letter to union officials and Roundy’s Supermarket, Inc. resigning union membership and revoking his dues check-off authorization. At this point, a new monopoly bargaining agreement between his employer and Teamsters union officials had not been reached.
Five days after resigning, Sarenac received a letter signed by Teamsters officials acknowledging his withdrawal of union membership. Roundy’s Supermarket, Inc. subsequently ceased deductions of union fees from Sarenac’s paycheck for a time but later resumed deducting fees, likely at the request of union officials.
On March 31 2017, Sarenac sent Teamster officials a letter reminding them of his nonmember status, his freedom to refrain from union payments under Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, and his check-off revocation. His letter requested clarification of the status of his revocation. Sarenac did not receive a response from union officials until after National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys filed an unfair labor practice charge for him with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in June.
In July, union officials finally responded to Sarenac’s request. However in their response, Teamsters officials claimed that he had not successfully revoked his check-off because he was outside of a five day “window period” created by union officials to block revocations. This led to the filing of a new unfair labor practice charge in August challenging the continued deduction of fees from Sarenac’s paycheck as a violation of federal labor law.
Faced with a potential NLRB prosecution, Teamsters union officials settled the cases by paying Sarenac back the amount unlawfully taken by the union from Sarenac’s wages, and union officials agreed to cease all future deductions from his paycheck.
“This case, once again, shows the lengths to which union officials will go to collect every last cent of forced fees they can, even in clear violation of the law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Christopher Sarenac exercised his rights under Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, only to have the very union officials that claim to ‘represent’ him violate his rights. This case shows why every worker in America should have Right to Work protections that ensure that union membership and dues payment are strictly voluntary, and why it is important that those laws be vigilantly enforced.”
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.