On March 10th, a group of independent drivers gathered national media attention when they filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle, seeking to block the City Council bill instituting forced unionism on independent driver contractors. The drivers’ lawsuit argues that the Council bill is an infringement on their First Amendment rights as well as being preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act.
These drivers are being represented by staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Freedom Foundation. Below is a selection of media coverage about the Foundation’s efforts to protect the individual liberty of all the ride-sharing workers. To read the full article please click on the hyperlinked title of each publication. To read the Foundation’s press release about the lawsuit please click here.
Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal
Law 360 – Eleven independent drivers sued the city of Seattle in federal court Friday claiming its new ordinance allowing for-hire drivers for Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing apps to unionize is unconstitutional and unfairly forces all drivers to comply with terms set by designated unions just to use the app.
Seattle Times – In a federal lawsuit, the drivers are seeking a temporary restraining order barring the city from enforcing the law — the first of its kind in the country — saying it goes against federal labor and privacy laws, as well as violates their rights to free speech and association.
Wall Street Journal –Seattle also is a crucial test case for millions of so-called gig economy workers who make deliveries, run errands and perform other freelance tasks as contractors. Uber and startups like delivery company Postmates Inc. and errands service TaskRabbit Inc. have withstood pressure to treat their contract workers as employees, thereby avoiding payment of full benefits or compensation for expenses like gasoline.
Reuters – The 11 drivers, represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, said in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Seattle on Friday that the city’s law violates their rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by forcing them to join a union in order to work, and is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act.
KIRO TV – “It’s freedom, it’s the way of life these days if you want to be entrepreneur and own your own business. Be your own boss, manage your own life,” said driver Tianna Williamson.
Forbes – The Seattle ordinance also raises fundamental questions about the nature of work and employment, and the fairness of labor laws forged in the industrial era when they are applied to gig-economy workers.
Indiana Worker Hits Union Bosses with Federal Unfair Labor Practice Charges for Refusing to Follow the Law
Union Officials Seize Union Dues Despite Worker’s Resignation
Indianapolis, IN (March 17, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, an Indiana worker has filed federal unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union Local 135 for continuing to deduct dues from his paycheck despite his resignation from formal union membership and revocation of his dues check-off authorization.
The worker, Allen Sizemore, works at Builders First Source in the lumberyard. In December 2016, Sizemore resigned his formal union membership and revoked his dues check-off authorization within the “window period” permitted by the union. In spite of this, Teamsters union bosses continue to accept dues deducted from Sizemore’s paycheck in clear violation of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Recently, the same union, IBT Local 135, was hit with federal charges for a similar action against another worker, Daryl Mitchell, also at Builders First Source. Indiana’s Right to Work law clearly provides that a worker has the right to resign and stop paying forced dues to a labor union, as does the NLRA in Right to Work states.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix commented, “It is maddening that Indiana union officials continue to illegally seize forced dues from a hard-working Hoosier they claim to ‘represent.’ No worker should be forced to jump through all these hoops just to exercise their rights under the law.”
Indiana became the 23rd Right to Work state to end union officials’ power to have a worker fired solely for refusing to pay union dues or fees in early 2012. Since then Michigan (2012), Wisconsin (2015), West Virginia (2016), Kentucky (2017) and Missouri (2017) have joined the ranks of states with Right to Work protections.
Eleven Ridesharing Drivers File Federal Lawsuit to Block Seattle’s Forced Unionism Ordinance Targeting Uber & Lyft
Lawsuit says scheme to impose Teamsters union on independent contractors violates drivers’ First Amendment rights & federal labor law
Seattle, WA (March 10, 2017) – Today, eleven independent drivers are filing a federal lawsuit to block the Seattle City Council’s controversial ordinance designed to impose forced unionism on independent for-hire and ride-sharing drivers. These drivers use the popular Uber and Lyft apps to pick up customers. Dan Clark, lead plaintiff in the suit, is an independent driver who picks up riders through both Uber and Lyft.
The drivers are filing suit against the City of Seattle in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington with free legal representation by staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Washington state-based Freedom Foundation. The drivers’ federal lawsuit argues that the Seattle ordinance is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and that imposing union representation and forced dues on them violates their First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of association.
Over 9,000 independent drivers in the Seattle area collect riders through the Uber and Lyft apps, accounting for tens of thousands of rides daily across the Emerald City area. Last week Teamsters union officials, who pushed for passage of the first-in-the-nation Seattle ordinance subjecting ride-sharing drivers to forced unionism, filed papers with the city formally declaring their intent to unionize drivers who work with Uber and Lyft, as well as Eastside Town Car and Limousine, LLC.
“Teamsters union bosses are attempting to impose their 1920s era forced unionism model on a 21st-century workforce,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Polls consistently show Americans overwhelmingly oppose workers being forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of working.”
“Expanding forced unionism to independent drivers is not only wrong, it is a violation of federal law and the First Amendment rights of drivers who never asked for and don’t want union officials’ so-called ‘representation,’” Mix continued. “Big Labor’s one-size-fits-all, top down model is the very antithesis of ride-sharing which attracts drivers by connecting them with consumers and providing them the freedom to decide when to work and through which app to find customers.”
Background: Teamster-Backed Seattle Law Attempts to Expand Forced Unionism to Ride-Sharing Independent Drivers
In 2015, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance that targeted independent drivers, such as those who contract with Uber and Lyft, for compulsory unionization. The bill authorizes unionization through the coercive and unreliable card-check system as opposed to a secret ballot vote and allows union officials to make payment of union dues or fees mandatory, even for drivers who oppose union representation. Under ‘card check,’ cards solicited and collected from individuals by professional union organizers are counted as ‘votes’ for unionization, despite numerous examples of workers signing the cards as a result of being pressured, misled, threatened or even bribed.
The ordinance further mandates that companies turn over private personal contact information for drivers to union organizers, even for drivers who have shown no interest in unionization or actively oppose the union. In addition, should the Teamsters successfully “organize” drivers through a card check, city administrators are empowered to impose a union contract on the drivers and companies if an agreement isn’t reached within 90 days of the unionization certification.
The ordinance was passed by the Seattle City Council in September 2015 after heavy lobbying by Teamsters union officials who sought to take advantage of independent drivers and force them to pay dues to the union as a condition of picking up riders through the apps. Shortly after the bill was passed, the National Right to Work Foundation issued a special legal notice to Seattle independent driver contractors, notifying them of their rights and offering free legal aid. A number of concerned drivers then reached out to the Foundation for help.
After the bill became law in December 2015, the ordinance was put on hold until January 2017 while the Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services (FAS) finalized the unionization process. The final rule defines ‘qualifying drivers’ who are eligible to vote on unionization as drivers who have completed 52 rides beginning or ending in Seattle in the last 90 days, regardless of whether or not a driver wants anything to do with a union.
These so-called “qualifying drivers” will be the only drivers eligible to vote on union representation, despite the fact that all drivers who contract with these companies will be subject to the forced unionism terms. Effectively, Teamster cards collected from a small fraction of all drivers could result in the unionization of more than 9,000 drivers in Seattle, plus any future drivers.
On March 7, 2017, officials from Teamsters Union Local 117 filed a notice of their intent to unionize drivers associated with Uber and Lyft, as well as Eastside Town Car and Limousine, LLC. The three companies now have until April 2 to turn over to the union the personal contact information for the fraction of total drivers who are designated by the City as eligible to vote on unionization. These drivers are filing their lawsuit now because they have a limited window before their personal information will be forcibly delivered to union officials against their wishes.
To view a copy of the filed complaint please click here.
New York City Preschool Teachers and Other Employees Vote to End Unwanted UFT Union ‘Representation’
Birch Family Services Manhattan Early Childhood Center pre-K providers vote to remove the UFT from their school
New York City, NY (March 9, 2016) – Employees of the Birch Family Services Manhattan Early Childhood Center in Washington Heights, Manhattan have voted overwhelmingly to remove the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) union from their workplace and end the UFT’s designation as their monopoly bargaining representative.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, private-sector employees in unionized workplaces have the right to initiate a decertification election to remove a union. Recently, employees in the Birch Family Services Manhattan Early Childhood Center signed and submitted a decertification election petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The employees who voted to remove the union included teachers, teachers’ aides, teaching assistants, nurses and other employees.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys provided free legal advice to employees seeking to remove the union, including on how to navigate the often-complicated NLRB process for successfully getting a vote to remove the union officials as the school employees’ NLRB-designated monopoly bargaining representative, a process known as decertification.
Relying on that advice from Foundation staff attorneys, the employees collected signatures from their coworkers in support of the decertification vote and submitted the petition to the NLRB, resulting in a decertification vote that was held on February 28, 2017. At the end of the vote, the tally stood 37-15 in favor of decertifying the UFT and removing them from the workplace.
“The Foundation is committed to helping workers like these New York City preschool employees assert their right to remove union officials whom they feel are a detriment to their school and their students,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Foundation staff attorneys stand ready to continue defend and protect these educators’ choice if there is union boss retaliation.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are prepared to defend the workers’ choice should union officials attempt to overturn the results of the vote.
Wisconsin Nuclear Plant Worker Hits Union Officials with Federal Charges for Retaliation and Discrimination
Union officials ordered employee removed and banned from travel assignments for exercising rights under Wisconsin Right to Work law
Green Bay, WI (March 1, 2017) – With free legal representation by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a Wisconsin nuclear plant worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against his employer, NextEra Energy, IBEW Locals 204 and 2150, IBEW Local System Council U-4, and the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 555 for illegal discrimination and retaliation in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
Clifford Teeter of Augusta, Wisconsin, is employed by NextEra Energy at its Two Rivers facility as a Lead Auxiliary Operator. Currently, the workers at the Two Rivers facility are under NextEra’s union monopoly bargaining contract with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2150. NextEra also has an agreement with three other IBEW and UWUA union locals to allow NextEra management to send workers on temporary work assignments at NextEra plants in other states.
In July 2016, NextEra and IBEW Local 2150 sent out an email to Teeter and his co-workers asking for volunteers for a month long travel assignment at NextEra’s facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Teeter volunteered for the assignment and was officially selected by NextEra for the assignment.
On September 12, Teeter notified NextEra and Local 2150 that he had resigned his formal union membership and revoked his dues checkoff authorization. Under federal law an employee can resign his formal union membership at any time, and it is illegal for union officials to retaliate against an employee for choosing to exercise this right. In addition, Right to Work laws in 28 states – including Wisconsin and Iowa – give employees the right to cut off all dues and fees to the union, leaving union membership and dues payment completely voluntary.
Soon after the resignation, Local 2150 officials informed Teeter that they were having NextEra remove him from the travel assignment because he was no longer a member in good standing with the Local. NextEra complied with the request, removing Teeter from the assignment and giving his spot to the next most senior union member.
Teeter was later informed by Local 2150 officials that he would only be eligible for future travel assignments if he rejoined the Local. Faced with this discrimination, Teeter reached out to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal aid, and filed federal unfair labor practice charges against NextEra and the four unions involved in the agreement, with the help of Foundation staff attorneys.
The federal unfair labor practice charges allege that the resource sharing agreement discriminates against workers who choose to exercise their right to disassociate from a union. The discriminatory actions of NextEra and the associated union local officials deprived Teeter of overtime, incentive, and bonus pay, as well as other career opportunities that he would have earned by going on the travel assignment.
“Unfortunately, even in states like Wisconsin that have Right to Work protections, union bosses are willing to use any tactic, legal or illegal, to retaliate against workers who exercise their right to resign their membership and cut off dues payments to a union they do not support,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Wisconsin’s Right to Work law is very clear: no worker can be punished for their choice to abstain from union membership. This case shows that vigilance is necessary to ensure that Right to Work protections for employees are vigorously enforced.”
Mr. Teeter’s case is one of many relating to Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, which was enacted in 2015. Foundation staff attorneys have submitted amicus briefs in federal and state court in response to union boss lawsuits attempting to overturn the Right to Work protections for Wisconsin employees. A federal judge upheld the law and the state lawsuit is pending. In addition, since Wisconsin enacted Right to Work, Foundation attorneys have filed 19 actions defending and enforcing Right to Work protections for workers, with 8 actions currently active.