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, 2017) – 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.
National Right to Work Foundation Staff Attorney Argues Case Before 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Challenging Forced Union Dues
Janus v. AFSCME could be next U.S. Supreme Court case to decide constitutionality of mandatory union fees for public employees
Chicago, IL (March 1, 2017) – On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will hear oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case challenging mandatory union fees paid by government workers in Illinois. This case builds on recent Supreme Court decisions Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), both of which were won by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
In Janus, the plaintiffs are two Illinois government employees who are represented by staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center.
Under Illinois law, union officials are empowered to require government employees to pay money to a union as a condition of employment. Although state employees aren’t forced to be full-fledged union members, they are required to pay mandatory dues or fees to a union or be fired. This lawsuit seeks to end that practice on the grounds that these fees violate the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.
A victory for the Janus plaintiffs would impact millions of government employees who currently can be fired for refusing to pay dues or fees to union officials. The National Right to Work Foundation currently has seven cases across the country on behalf of public employees seeking a ruling that mandatory union fees violate the First Amendment, with Janus most likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court first.
In 2016, because of the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the High Court split 4-4 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that would have also ended forced dues for public employees. A new justice will be the deciding vote should Janus or another case presenting the issue be taken up by the Supreme Court.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix commented, “Hopefully the Seventh Circuit will rule quickly so the case can go to the Supreme Court, which should uphold the First Amendment by ending the injustice of forcing public employees to pay tribute to union bosses as a condition of working for their own government.”
NLRB Issues Complaint Against Teamsters Officials for Threats in Response to Campaign to End Forced Dues
Teamsters Local 455 officials reprimanded again by the National Labor Relations Board for violating workers’ fundamental rights
Fort Morgan, CO (February, 22 2017) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 455 union for threatening workers with the loss of their benefits, discharge and a lawsuit because they circulated petitions to end forced union dues and remove the union’s business agents. The complaint was issued after NLRB investigators found merit to charges filed against the Teamsters Local 455 by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for Francisco Manjarrez.
Late last year, Foundation staff attorneys assisted the worker in filing federal unfair labor practice charges against the union for threatening him for exercising his rights to circulate a deauthorization petition at his workplace. Under the National Labor Relations Act if a deauthorization petition gains the signatures of thirty percent of employees, the workers then get to vote to end union bosses’ power to require them to pay money to the union or be fired.
After Manjarrez refused to back down from circulating the petition, union officials threatened illegal retaliation against him and his co-workers who had signed the petition.
The charges against Teamsters Local 455 in November of 2016 came just weeks after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision against the union for violating federal labor law by declining to help all workers under their monopoly bargaining control. The union was also charged with lying to workers that they would not be promoted or represented unless they paid full union dues or fees.
A hearing regarding the new charges against the union is scheduled for May 1 before a Regional National Labor Relations judge.
“It is outrageous that union officials threatened workers benefits and employment for simply expressing their rights under the law,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These particular union officials have a disturbing history of belittling and downright ignoring the rights of the very workers they claim to ‘represent.’ Colorado workers need Right to Work protections to help defend workers from this type of behavior.”
Monte Carlo Bartender Hits UNITE-HERE Union with Federal Charges After Being Illegally Fired for Not Having ‘Union Card’
Union ‘representation’ was imposed on workers without a vote, after which non-member employees were fired in violation of federal law
Las Vegas, NV (February 21, 2017) – A Las Vegas bartender has filed federal Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges against Aramark and the UNITE-HERE Local 165 union after the Local 165 union officials illegally had her fired from her position for not having a “union pour card.” The ULP charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 28 office in Las Vegas, NV.
In November 2016, Natalie Ruisi was hired by Aramark, a concessions contractor, to be a bartender for the then soon to open Park Theater located in the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. In December, Ruisi was informed by Aramark management that the Aramark employees at the Park Theater would be represented by union officials from UNITE-HERE Local 165.
The workers at the Park Theater had never voted on whether or not to join the union. As the charge notes, no evidence exists that a majority of the workers support UNITE-HERE Local 165 as their monopoly bargaining agent. It is illegal for a union and company to agree to an exclusive union contract when union officials have not offered any proof that they are supported by at least a majority of the workers in a workplace.
On January 12, 2017, Ruisi and a number of her co-workers were fired. Ruisi was told that she and her co-workers were being fired because they did not possess a “union pour card.” When she was hired, a union card was not a requirement or condition of employment, and Ruisi was never even given the opportunity to acquire a union card. Of course, Nevada’s longstanding Right to Work law makes it illegal for any employee to be forced to join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
The charges allege that Aramark’s actions in collusion with UNITE-HERE union officials violate Ruisi and her co-workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Specifically, the charges note that, by recognizing a minority union and firing workers for not possessing prior union certification, Aramark has deliberately provided unlawful assistance to UNITE-HERE union officials, and that. UNITE-HERE union bosses likewise violated the NLRA by accepting monopoly bargaining agent status over workers without any demonstration of majority support.
“As this case shows, Right to Work laws are only words on paper unless they are vigorously enforced. Ms. Ruisi was hired to fulfill a job, and was summarily fired without warning simply for not possessing a union card,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “It is shameful that union bosses fired a worker for simply expressing her long protected rights under Nevada’s Right to Work law which has been in place for over 65 years.”
Foundation attorneys are also assisting Ruisi in a second case, originally filed in 2014, that is currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In that case, Ruisi and her fellow plaintiffs are appealing an NLRB decision upholding an unwritten UNITE-HERE policy that inhibits workers seeking to revoke dues-checkoff.
The union policy at issue in that case requires members to submit a written request for the union to provide them with information about the date that they signed their dues-checkoff authorization cards, which serves no purpose except to obstruct workers from exercising their legally protected rights. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 14, 2017.
Including the charges filed for Natalie Ruisi, Foundation staff attorneys currently have over 90 legal actions for employees before the National Labor Relations Board and its regional offices.