National Right to Work Foundation assisting government workers seeking to protect their First Amendment rights by ending mandatory union dues
Chicago, IL (October 11, 2016) – Two Illinois government employees have filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to continue their case challenging the constitutionality of government union officials forced-dues privileges. The workers, all employed by the State of Illinois are currently required to pay union dues or fees to a union as a condition of their employment.
A District Judge recently dismissed the case, Janus v. AFSCME, and the two employees, who are receiving free legal assistance from staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation and the Illinois Policy Institute’s Liberty Justice Center, have now formally filed their appeal of that dismissal.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement regarding the latest development in the case:
“No citizen should be forced to pay union dues or fees just to work for their own government. This is a fundamental violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the violation is especially egregious for public servants who are currently required to pay dues to a private organization just to work for their own government. We are hopeful that the United States Supreme Court will soon outlaw this unjust practice for every public employee across the country.”
Foundation files another brief in Big Labor’s lawsuit arguing union boss forced dues powers should be dismissed
Charleston, WV (October 5, 2016) – National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys filed an amicus curiae brief in Kanawha County Circuit Court supporting the state of West Virginia’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 10 state unions. The brief was filed for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation joined by The National Federation of Independent Businesses Small Businesses Legal Center.
The Foundation previously filed another amicus brief in the case in August, asking the judge to reject union arguments for a preliminary injunction because West Virginia’s Right to Work Law is no different than the other 25 state Right to Work Laws which have withstood intense legal scrutiny for over 60 years, and never been struck down by a federal court or a state appellate court.
Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey had announced at a hearing in August that she intended to grant a preliminary injunction. However, the judge has not since issued an injunction order. In the meantime, the parties were required to file dispositive motions by October 4. Consequently, Foundation attorneys have filed another brief to grant the State’s motion for summary judgement and uphold the Right to Work law, just as the U.S. Supreme Court and other appellate courts have held constitutional other state Right to Work laws.
The National Right to Work Foundation has a long history of successfully defending Right to Work laws in state and federal court, most recently in Indiana and Michigan. Foundation attorneys have also filed briefs in union lawsuits challenging Wisconsin and Idaho’s Right to Work laws.
“West Virginia’s Right to Work law should stand just like the 25 other state laws in place. Union officials are advancing an outrageous and rejected legal theory that attempts to create some kind of ‘right’ for them to extort money from workers forced to accept unions’ so-called representation,” Foundation President Mark Mix commented. “Instead of working to overturn Right to Work so they can order workers fired for refusing to pay, West Virginia union officials ought to be asking themselves why they are so afraid to give workers a choice as to union dues and fees.”
After the West Virginia Legislature overrode Governor Tomblin’s veto and became the 26th Right to work state on February 4, the National Right to Work Foundation announced an offer of free legal aid to any employees seeking to assert their rights under the new law. The Foundation also created a special task force to defend the West Virginia law, which went into full effect July 1, from any Big Labor legal challenges.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin Strikes Down Union Boss Challenge to Right to Work Law
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix released the following statement regarding the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin’s decision to dismiss Big Labor’s lawsuit in IUOE v. Schimel which seeks to overturn Wisconsin’s Right to Work law.
“Today, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin upheld the statutory and civil rights protections enshrined in Wisconsin’s Right to Work law. We are pleased that the court struck down this outrageous union legal challenge, as the constitutionality of state Right to Work laws is a long-settled question. Union officials have tried to strip away Right to Work protections for Wisconsin’s workers for years now dating back to their spurious lawsuits regarding Act 10, but once again worker freedom has prevailed. The Foundation stands ready to provide free legal assistance to workers here in Wisconsin and in the 25 other Right to Work states seeking to exercise their rights under their state Right to Work laws.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney’s submitted an amicus curiae brief in this case as in a similar case in Wisconsin State Court and in cases challenging Right to Work laws in Idaho and West Virginia.
Appeal Filed in US Appeals Court in Bid to Return to Illinois Homecare Providers $32 Million in Illegally Seized Union Dues
SEIU filings show $32 million was seized from 80,000 providers in scheme the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2014
Chicago, IL (September 22, 2016) – Staff Attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit to reverse the district court’s ruling in Riffey v. SEIU that blocked the return of thirty-two million dollars in union dues illegally seized by the SEIU from tens of thousands of Illinois homecare providers.
In 2014, the Foundation won the case Harris v. Quinn before the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that the collection of forced union dues from home-based caregivers violated their First Amendment rights. After the Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling the Harris case, now designated Riffey v. SEIU, was remanded to the district court to settle the remaining issues, including whether the SIEU would be required to return more than $30 million dollars in dues confiscated from nonmembers as part of its unconstitutional scheme.
In June, the District Court ruled that the SEIU did not have to repay these funds. That decision is now being appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, issued the following statement:
“The United States Supreme Court ruled that the SEIU had illegally confiscated union dues from tens of thousands of Illinois homecare providers, but the district court ruling denied those same caregivers the opportunity to reclaim money that never should have gone to the SEIU in the first place. If SEIU bosses are not required to return the money they seized in violation of homecare providers’ First Amendment Rights, it will only encourage similar behavior from union officials eager to trample on the First Amendment to enrich themselves at the expense of tens of thousands of homecare providers.”
With former Kansas engineer at the helm, membership of citizen group formed to oppose compulsory unionism grew from fewer than 20,000 to 2.2 million
Seattle, WA (September 19, 2016) – Reed Larson, who established the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in 1968 and was its leader until 2003, and headed the National Right to Work Committee from 1959 until 2003, passed away peacefully late in the evening on Saturday, September 17. His beloved wife, the former Jeanne Hess, had passed away in 2010. Larson is survived by their three daughters, and by nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Mark Mix, who took over the presidency of both organizations in 2003, even as Larson continued to fight for the Right to Work cause, serving as executive committee chairman of the Foundation and the Committee for several years, reflected on the passing of Larson, who was 93:
“It is a loss in that we find ourselves a bit empty knowing that a man who developed, expanded, and guided the very organizations we have the privilege of working for is gone. There is peace in knowing that Reed lived a full, fruitful and successful life. And I know he is at peace and in a place that has been prepared for him by his personal Savior.”
In 1954, Reed Larson went on “temporary leave” from his job as an engineer in Wichita to lead the fight to pass a Right to Work law in Kansas. The effort suffered a serious setback the following year, when Gov. Fred Hall broke his campaign pledge by vetoing Right to Work. But this move quickly ended Hall’s political career, and Larson and the thousands of other freedom-loving Kansans he had mobilized didn’t give up. In November 1958, the state’s Right to Work law was finally adopted.
Early the following year, on the basis of his accomplishments in Kansas, Larson was offered the leadership job of executive vice president with the National Right to Work Committee. He accepted. At the time, the then-four-year-old organization had just 20,000 members. By the time Larson stepped down from the presidency, the Committee had 2.2 million members. Today membership stands at 2.8 million.
At the state level, under Larson’s watch the Committee assisted successful efforts to pass new Right to Work laws in four states and played a key role in stymieing dozens of full-scale bids by Big Labor to repeal existing Right to Work laws. At the federal level, the Committee scored a “must-win” victory in 1965-66 over Organized Labor’s Capitol Hill campaign to eviscerate all state Right to Work laws through repeal of Taft-Hartley Section 14(b).
Among the other key defensive victories for Right to Work were the defeats of so-called “common situs picketing” legislation designed to corral independent construction employees into unions (1975-77) and legislation to bar employers from offering permanent jobs to workers hired during strikes (1991-94).
Meanwhile, the Foundation’s efforts to defend the First Amendment rights of independent-minded employees bore fruit with incremental U.S. Supreme Court victories such Ellis v. Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks (1984), Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson (1986) and Communications Workers of America v. Beck (1988). Respectively, these decisions empowered transportation, public, and a wide range of private-sector employees to withhold forced-dues payments for all activities unrelated to collective bargaining.
“Government-authorized forced unionism continues to do enormous damage, both to individual workers and to the country. But under Reed Larson’s leadership, the Committee and the Foundation began to roll back the damage,” said Mr. Mix.
“Just since the beginning of 2012, an additional four states have adopted Right to Work laws. By staying the course and continuing to fight forced unionism head on, just as Reed taught us to do, Right to Work forces will ultimately achieve a total victory. I’m confident of that.”
Union officials try to punish Verizon employees who decided to work during union boss-initiated work stoppage
Trenton, NJ & New York, NY (September 19, 2016) – Four Verizon employees have filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Communications Workers of America (CWA) unions for violating federal labor law after the employees exercised their right to resign their union memberships during the high profile union boss-ordered strike in April. In three of the cases, union officials illegally demanded that the workers appear before union tribunals, so they could fine or otherwise retaliate against the workers for rejecting union boss demands that they abandon their jobs.
In April, IBEW and CWA union officials announced a coordinated work stoppage and ordered workers up and down the East Coast from Massachusetts to Virginia to abandon their jobs. The strike included IBEW Local 827 and CWA Locals 1111 and 1105, which are the subjects of the four NLRB charges.
Soon after CWA and IBEW union officials ordered the strike, three workers, Joseph Todaro, Gregory Sable, and Jackson Thoby chose to resign from their respective locals and return to work. Under federal law a worker cannot be compelled to participate in a union-boss ordered strike. However under a 1972 NLRB ruling, in order to protect themselves from internal union discipline they must resign their formal union membership before to returning to work, as each of these workers did.
Despite their resignations, these workers were notified by officials of the CWA and IBEW that they were being tried by the unions for violating internal union rules, presumably with the intent to fine them for refusing to heed union boss demands and instead working to support their families. In some similar cases, union bosses have attempted to levy fines as high as $30,000 against workers who exercised their right to continue working during strikes.
A fourth worker, James VanValkenburgh, resigned his union membership and requested that CWA Local 1111 provide him with a Beck notice of his right as a nonmember to pay only the part of dues used for bargaining purposes and allow him to stop paying full dues from the date of his resignation. Local 1111 has so far ignored his resignation and continues to deduct full union dues from his wages.
“Here we see yet another example of union officials trying to punish workers who have exercised their rights to continue working to support their families,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Workers should not be threatened with vigilante vengeance in a union instigated kangaroo court for exercising their right to refrain from full union membership.”
Union officials illegally blocked nurse from resigning formal union membership so they could fine her for working during union-ordered strike
Minneapolis, MN (September 12, 2016) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Minnesota nurse Crystal Rehbein has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) union after MNA union officials threatened her with disciplinary action for refusing to abandon her patients and participate in a union boss-initiated strike.
In early June, Rehbein sent a certified letter resigning her membership in the MNA, shortly before the MNA hierarchy announced a weeklong strike. As a non-member, Rehbein then exercised her right to continue work and take care of her patients.
However, shortly after the strike ended, MNA officials sent a letter to Rehbein claiming her attempt to resign her formal union membership was rejected and claiming that she was not allowed to exercise her right to resign from formal union membership without first filling out a new membership application and updating her payment information. The union claim flies in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Pattern Makers v. NLRB decision which held that union members have the right to resign their union membership at any time.
In early August, MNA officials informed Rehbein that internal charges had been brought against her for continuing to work during the strike, and threatened her with fines, reprimand, or censure.
Under previous NRLB and Supreme Court rulings, employees may not be forced to use a particular form to revoke membership or dues checkoff authorizations. Furthermore, under a 1972 ruling, workers who resign their union membership and return to work during a strike may not be fined for a period following their resignation.
“Attempting to drag this brave nurse into a kangaroo court is nothing more than a tired intimidation tactic,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “All workers – including medical professionals – have the right to resign their formal union membership and continue working to support their families. It is a shameful day when union bosses are attempting to discipline a nurse for exercising her rights so she can continue to care for patients.”
Ms. Rehbein’s charges will now be investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.
Newaygo County Worker Hits Teamsters Union with Unfair Labor Practice Charge for Violating Right to Work Law
Union officials blatantly ignore employee’s revocation requests and continue to collect dues in violation of the law
White Cloud, MI (August 29, 2016) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a Newaygo County employee has filed unfair labor practice charges with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) against Teamsters Local Union 214. According to the charges filed by Gordon Alger, union officials continued to collect dues from his paycheck after he had formally notified the union of his decision to opt out of further payments.
Under Michigan’s recently-enacted public sector Right to Work law, no employee can be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Forced-dues requirements from union monopoly bargaining contracts prior to passage of the law were grandfathered in, but once those contracts expire, nonunion employees can no longer be required to pay union dues or fees to keep their jobs.
In December 2015, the contract between the Newaygo County Commission on Aging and Teamsters Local 214 expired. Consequently, all employees could thereafter exercise their rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law. Soon after the contract expired, Alger notified the union that he was revoking his dues deduction authorization.
Instead of following the law, union officials responded to Alger’s letter by claiming that the dues checkoff authorization he had signed in 2001, when dues were mandatory, meant that, despite the Right to Work law, he could not stop payments to the union until an annual window period in September. Furthermore, union officials illegally claimed that Alger had to send his revocation letter by certified mail, which imposes extra cost on the sender.
“Once again, union bosses in the Great Lakes State are forcing workers whom they claim to ‘represent’ to jump through numerous legal hoops just to exercise their legal rights under the law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case is particularly egregious because of the multiple lies and falsifications union bosses provided Gordon Alger just so they could collect more forced fees from him for an additional few months.”
Foundation staff attorneys are currently providing free legal assistance to Michigan employees in over 30 cases. Since Michigan passed Right to Work protections for workers in 2012, the Foundation has received numerous legal aid requests from Michigan employees seeking to protect their rights, because union officials have aggressively resisted the laws’ provisions that make union membership and the payment of union dues strictly voluntary.