Wisconsin Grocery Driver Wins Settlement with Teamsters Union Officials in Case Over Illegally Seized Union Fees
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.”
Over Labor Day weekend in Investor’s Business Daily, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix made the moral and economic case for ensuring that no worker should be required to join or pay dues or “fees” to a labor organization as a condition of employment:
The case for Right to Work has always centered on the freedom it provides workers, but there is also overwhelming evidence that freeing workers from forced dues gives Right to Work states an economic leg up.
From 2005-2015, private-sector job growth was 15.4% in Right to Work states compared to just 10.4% in forced-unionism states, according to government statistics compiled by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research. The same research shows that once you adjust for the cost of living, workers in Right to Work states had on average $2,500 more to spend in disposable personal income than their forced-unionism counterparts.
Read the full column by clicking here, and stay tuned to our blog for more Labor Day media appearances.
National Right to Work Labor Day Statement: 2017 Has Makings of Banner Year in Fight Against Forced Unionism
Government employees challenging union boss forced dues powers at the Supreme Court, while states continue to pass Right to Work laws
Springfield, VA (September 4, 2017) – Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee, issued the following statement on the occasion of Labor Day 2017:
“This Labor Day, many Americans will enjoy a well-deserved three day weekend. After the festivities, vacations, and beach trips have ended, however many critical fights for employee freedom loom on the horizon.
“Even though polls consistently show that 8 in 10 Americans support Right to Work laws, which makes union membership and financial support strictly voluntary, every day millions of workers are forced to fund a labor union as a condition of employment. These workers are forced to face an ugly choice: pay dues to union officials they may not support or be fired.
“On this Labor Day, every American should pause to consider these victims of compulsory unionism which is embedded in many state and federal laws. Fortunately, help is on the way and they don’t stand alone.
“In over 250 cases over the past year National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have provided free legal representation to workers who have had their rights violated. These cases show the desperate need for additional protections against Big Labor’s forced dues powers.
“One individual standing up for his rights is Illinois state worker Mark Janus. In June, he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case challenging mandatory union payments as a violation of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court could agree to take the case this September with a ruling coming by the end of June 2018.
“If Janus’ Foundation-provided staff attorneys are successful, 2017 may be the last Labor Day that teachers, police officers, firefighters and millions of other government employees are forced by law to fund union activities as a condition of working for their own government.
“Meanwhile, Right to Work laws continue to expand with Missouri and Kentucky being added to the list of 28 states with laws to protect workers from being fired for not paying money to a labor union. Kentucky is already seeing unprecedented levels of job creation and investment specifically because of its new Right to Work status. Unfortunately for Missouri, union bosses there have launched a campaign to block the law, meaning workers may have to wait until November 2018 to be free of forced union dues.
“Despite these big victories for worker freedom, more work remains. In addition to pushing for state Right to Work laws the National Right to Work Committee is building support in Congress for a National Right to Work Act that would eliminate portions of federal law which authorize forced dues. And even where Right to Work protections exist, workers are frequently required by law to accept a union’s so-called ‘representation,’ even if they would rather negotiate with their employer on their own merits.
“Not satisfied with these unique coercive powers, union officials continue to spend billions of dollars – much of it from the paychecks of workers who would be fired for not paying – on politics and lobbying seeking to expand their powers even further. This reminds us that even as we make historic strides, there is much work is left to do.
“On Labor Day, we should celebrate the hard-working men and women that make America the great nation it is. Properly celebrating America’s workers must include respecting each worker’s individual right to decide for themselves if joining and financially supporting a labor union is right for them. Here at the National Right to Work Committee and National Right to Work Foundation we will not rest until that freedom is fully protected.”
A video version of this statement is available here: https://youtu.be/X_7ctAhhjvE
Yesterday in the Washington Times, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix discussed one of Big Labor’s special legal privileges, the exemption from federal prosecution for acts of violence:
The recent acquittal of four Boston Teamsters charged with attempting to extort the producers of the popular “Top Chef” television show is the latest illustration of a loophole in federal law that permits organized labor to engage in acts of extortion that would be illegal if anyone else tried it.
Since a 1973 Supreme Court decision exempted union extortion and racketeering actions from the Hobbs Act, so long as the object being extorted constituted a legitimate union objective, union thugs have been getting a free pass on violence and threats such as what occurred in June 2014.
Washington, DC (September 1, 2017) – In light of the damage and devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and National Right to Work Committee president Mark Mix issued the following statement calling for President Trump to use the emergency suspension provision of the Davis-Bacon Act:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of Hurricane Harvey as well as the police, firefighters, first responders, and other volunteers sacrificing their well-being to help their fellow Americans. The relief efforts will require all hands on deck to help Texas and other affected areas recover.
“One step President Trump can take immediately is suspending the outdated 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. This law has the effect of limiting federally funded construction projects to politically-connected unionized firms at the expense of the 86 percent of American construction workers who choose not to affiliate with a union. After a hurricane, the federal government should not be restrained in its efforts to rebuild infrastructure based on whether or not a construction firm is unionized.
“Studies show that the Davis-Bacon Act raises construction project costs by up to 38 percent. So unless Davis-Bacon is suspended, the impact of federal aid dollars will be artificially reduced at the very time when the impact of federal aid must be maximized to quickly and efficiently help rebuild after the damage caused by Harvey.
“This call to action is not unprecedented; The law has been suspended for an emergency four times before, including by both President George W. Bush and his father President George H.W. Bush, to aid in recovery from devastation caused by hurricanes. President Trump should do the same to help Texas and other affected areas recover from what experts suggest may be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. History.”
Chicago Utility Worker Appeals Labor Board Case Against Union Officials for Illegal Forced Dues for Politics
Unfair labor practice charges allege union officials failed to follow Supreme Court precedent providing for disclosure to workers of how forced dues are spent
Chicago, IL (August 22 , 2017) – A Chicago worker, assisted by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, has appealed the dismissal of federal unfair labor practice charges against the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) and UWUA Local 18007. Gerald Howard is employed by Peoples Gas in Chicago, Illinois. UWUA Local 18007 union officials have a monopoly bargaining contract in place with Peoples Gas that includes a requirement that workers can be fired for refusing to pay dues or fees to the union.
Under federal law, no worker can be forced to formally join a union. However, because Illinois is not a Right to Work state, workers can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Under the National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court case Communication Workers v. Beck, nonmember workers cannot be legally compelled to pay union dues used for union politics and member-only activities. Workers can also demand a breakdown of the dues and fees paid to see which fees are used for which purpose.
In a letter sent to UWUA Local 18007 on February 18, Howard formally resigned his membership in the UWUA and objected to paying full dues, as is his right under the Beck precedent, but UWUA Local 18007 union officials failed to acknowledge his resignation. A month later on March 15, Howard sent another letter, this time to officials at the UWUA International headquarters in Washington, DC.
In a letter dated April 3, Washington-based UWUA officials finally acknowledged Howard’s resignation and objection to paying full dues as of his February 18 letter. The UWUA official’s letter also claimed that Howard would be required to pay 90% of full union dues, but did not provide any explanation for how it arrived at that figure.
Although the UWUA later provided Howard a breakdown attempting to justify that non-chargeable activities like union political and lobbying activities only make up ten percent of full dues, further evidence suggests the figure is not accurate. In required disclosure reports filed with the U.S. Department of Labor under threat of perjury, UWUA officials do not categorize political spending but their report shows multiple examples of political spending that contradict the figures in the breakdown provided to Howard after he filed his unfair labor practice charges.
“UWUA union bosses are ignoring clear Supreme Court precedent, compelling payment for union political and lobbying activities and violating the rights of a worker they claim to ‘represent’ in their grab for more forced union dues,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This type of disregard for the rights of rank-and-file workers highlights why Illinois desperately needs a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments strictly voluntary.”
In a recent post on the Federalist Society website, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Vice President Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse responded to demands by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) that Trump’s lone remaining current NLRB nominee recuse himself from numerous potential cases:
“Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has suggested that Emanuel should ‘also sit out any case involving the hotly contested question of whether employers can force their workers to sign class action waivers,’ because he ‘has represented parties on the class action waiver issue in a case before the board, . . . his firm is counsel in a number of others . . . and he has also co-written briefs in U.S. Supreme Court cases arguing that the agreements aren’t unlawful restraints on employees’ right to engage in collective activity.’ (Emphasis added.)
However, unless the standards for recusal are more stringent for nominees of President Trump than they were for nominees of President Barack Obama, Emanuel can ethically ignore Senator Warren’s suggestion and need not recuse himself in all class-action waiver cases, even though that is a ‘hotly contested’ issue.”
The post goes on to cite Obama NLRB Member Craig Becker, who refused to recuse himself from a case to end protections for employees who had union monopoly bargaining imposed through the coercive and unreliable “card check” scheme. The Foundation’s press release on that case can be found here. Becker had previously weighed in on the issue as counsel for the AFL-CIO but that didn’t stop him from recusing himself when the NLRB voted 3-2 to end employees’ ability to force a secret ballot vote after a union was installed through card check.
To read the whole post, please click here.
Verizon Worker Hits CWA Union Officials with Labor Board Charges for Illegal $22,000 Retaliatory Fine
Union officials continue to illegally levy fines against Verizon employees who exercised right to work despite union boss-initiated strike
New York, NY (July 31, 2017) – A Brooklyn Verizon employee has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against Communications Workers of America (CWA) union officials for violating federal labor law after she exercised her right to resign her union membership during a high-profile strike in May 2016. The charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal assistance provided by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
In April 2016, CWA union officials began a coordinated work stoppage at Verizon facilities and ordered workers up and down the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Virginia, to abandon their jobs. CWA Local 1109, which is the subject of the ULP charges, participated in the multi-state strike.
Soon after CWA union officials ordered the strike, Verizon worker Pamela Ivy, who filed the unfair labor practice charges, returned to work on April 16. On April 19, she officially resigned union membership in a letter mailed to union officials. Under federal law, workers cannot be compelled to join a union-boss ordered strike.
However, under a 1972 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling, workers must resign their formal union membership before to returning to work to protect themselves from court-enforceable union fines. Despite the fact that Ivy resigned on April 19, union officials are attempting to fine her for working after that date. Specifically, it has fined her approximately $22,000 for working through the end of May.
“Once again union officers are blatantly violating the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It is outrageous that union officials are resorting to this type of ugly retaliation to ‘punish’ workers who chose to return to work in order to provide for themselves and their families.”
“The Foundation has successfully defended a number of Verizon workers in the New York area who were also threatened with sham trials and five-figure illegal fines, and we are eager to assist them and any other workers in defending their workplace rights,” added Mix.
Before this case, Foundation staff attorneys have defended fifteen Verizon workers from retaliation by CWA and IBEW union officials after the April 2016 East Coast strike. Seven of those workers were fined up to $14,000 each for exercising their federally protected rights. The remaining eight were threatened by union bosses with “union discipline” that would have resulted in similar fines. In eleven of those cases, union officials have already been forced to settle with the workers and rescind the illegal strike fines and threats.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys help Kentucky workers defend law to ensure union membership and dues payment remain voluntary
Frankfort, KY (July 26, 2017) – With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Kentucky workers have won a motion to intervene in the recently filed Big Labor-backed lawsuit attacking Kentucky’s new Right to Work law.
“This ruling ensures that Kentucky workers, whose rights are protected by Kentucky’s new Right to Work law, can participate in the defense of the law,” said Patrick Semmens, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Kentucky union bosses are offering spurious legal arguments in an attempt to restore their power to have workers fired for refusing to pay part of their hard-earned paycheck to a union they don’t support, and this ruling ensures that the Court will hear from pro-Right to Work Kentucky employees.”
For more information please refer to our June 29, 2017 press release on the motion to intervene.