Wisconsin Mill Worker Asks Labor Board General Counsel to Prosecute Steelworkers Union for Rule Blocking Dues Revocation
Union officials’ arbitrary rule forces workers to wait 13-months to cut off dues payments and exercise rights under Wisconsin Right to Work law
Washington, D.C. (June 12, 2018) – An employee of a Wisconsin paper mill has filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel with free legal aid by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys. The filing asks the NLRB’s top prosecutor to review a decision by an NLRB regional office, which declined to bring charges against a local union whose policy makes workers wait up to 13 months before they can revoke their dues authorization and exercise their rights under Wisconsin’s popular Right to Work law.
Since 2015, Wisconsin’s Right to Work protections make union membership and financial support strictly voluntary. However, union officials blocked workers from exercising their rights under the law. Donald Dillabough, an employee at Clearwater Paper Corporation, found this out when he attempted to exercise his right to end payments to the United Steelworkers (USW).
In December 2017, Dillabough emailed the USW resigning from the union and revoking his authorization for the union to collect dues payments from his paychecks. Despite his revocation, USW union officials denied his request to end payments by claiming his request was not submitted during a union-created “window period.” The union had established an arbitrary 13-month waiting period in between windows in which employees can withdraw their membership.
In February, represented by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Mr. Dillabough filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union contending that the 13-month window period rule violates his rights under the National Labor Relations Act. However, the regional office declined to issue a complaint against the union. Now, Mr. Dillabough has appealed to the NLRB’s General Counsel, Peter Robb, who can overturn the decision not to prosecute the USW local for the union’s policy.
“Even in states like Wisconsin, where union dues payments are by law supposed to be completely voluntary, union bosses frequently employ window period schemes in an attempt to trap workers into paying forced dues against their will,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Wisconsin’s Right to Work law protects an employee’s right to choose whether or not to join and financially support a union. In their zeal to seize forced dues for as long as possible, USW union officials have violated longstanding Labor Board precedent, and the General Counsel should defend Mr. Dillabough’s rights by initiating a prosecution against the USW for this illegal policy.”
National Right to Work Foundation Attorneys File Brief in Case Defending West Virginia Right to Work Law
Brief counters union lawyers’ claims that invalid injunction let them extend forced dues contracts after law went into effect
Charleston, WV (June 7, 2018) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed an amicus curiae brief with the Kanawha County Circuit Court. The brief urges the court to deny a motion made by union officials that would circumvent and undermine the protections afforded to workers by West Virginia’s Right to Work law.
The brief, filed in West Virginia AFL-CIO et al. v. Governor James C. Justice, et al. responds to union lawyers’ legally dubious arguments that union officials should be allowed to enforce forced dues contracts entered into during the pendency of an erroneous injunction against enforcing the state’s Right to Work law.
After West Virginia’s Right to Work law passed in February 2016, several state unions brought a lawsuit against the state. The Kanawha County Circuit Court issued a preliminary injunction against the law to prevent it from being enforced. However, the West Virginia Supreme Court later ruled that the Circuit Court was wrong to have granted the injunction in the first place.
The Right to Work law renders invalid all forced unionism clauses in union bargaining agreements entered into after July 1, 2016. After the injunction was dissolved, union lawyers asked the Circuit Court to exercise authority and give legal effect to such clauses in agreements entered into during the erroneous injunction’s pendency.
In the brief, Foundation staff attorneys argue that the Circuit Court cannot rewrite the date of the law’s application, allowing for workers to be forced to fund a union or be fired for years after the state’s legislature intended the law to go into effect.
Additionally, because the injunction was erroneous and is now dissolved, the Right to Work law is fully effective. Foundation attorneys argue that a wrongly-issued preliminary injunction does not give union officials any exemption to the law. The brief also explains that the Circuit Court’s validation of the clauses would decide the validity of an untold number of contracts in other jurisdictions throughout West Virginia concerning parties not even represented in the case, and therefore such an order would not be in the Circuit Court’s power.
“This lawsuit challenging West Virginia’s Right to Work law was always about creating confusion and uncertainty that union bosses could then exploit to seize more dues from workers against their will,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “West Virginia’s popular new Right to Work law is a victory for workplace freedom, and it is long past time that Mountain State union bosses stop wasting dues money fighting dead-end legal challenges and start to work to provide services for which rank-and-file workers will voluntarily pay.”
Monte Carlo Bartender Wins Appeal After Losing Job Due to Collusive Deal to Force Her to Pay Union Officials for “Pour Card”
Labor Board General Counsel gives OK to investigate and prosecute UNITE HERE union officials’ scheme that discriminates against non-union members
Las Vegas, NV (May 30, 2018) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has sustained an appeal by a Las Vegas bartender who filed charges for being fired as a result of a collusive agreement between her employer and the local union. Natalie Ruisi filed the charges and appealed with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Ruisi worked at Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services, a subcontractor for Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino. She, as well as several other Aramark employees, was discharged because she did not meet Monte Carlo’s requirement to pass a craft examination offered solely through the company union, Local Joint Executive Board of Las Vegas affiliated with UNITE HERE International (UNITE HERE).
Ruisi claims that the contract between Monte Carlo and UNITE HERE violates the National Labor Relations Act by requiring employees, including those who work for subcontractors, to take pre-hire classes from the union as a condition of employment. She alleges that the requirement unfairly discriminates and encourages membership in a labor organization.
In 2013, Monte Carlo and UNITE HERE entered into a monopoly bargaining agreement that her NLRB charges say illegally discriminated against workers who chose to exercise their right to refrain from formal union membership. The discrimination included requiring bartenders, even those who work for a subcontractor, to pass a craft examination that could only be obtained through union officials in order to acquire a “pour card” to work.
When Monte Carlo subcontracted to Aramark, UNITE HERE officials demanded that Monte Carlo discharge all Aramark employees who had not passed the union’s craft examination. Ruisi and 15 other employees, who as nonmembers did not know about the requirement until after they were hired, were discharged.
Although the NLRB Regional Director scheduled a trial with the intention of prosecuting the violation, at the last minute the charge was unexpectedly dismissed. Foundation staff attorneys appealed, and Trump-appointed NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb ruled that the Regional Director should investigate the case for violations of the National Labor Relations Act. The case has been remanded to the Regional Director for further action.
Nevada is a Right to Work state, with laws that protect individual workers’ rights to choose whether or not to join a union and pay union dues. Additionally, the National Labor Relations Act protects workers’ choice to refrain from union activities and prohibits employers from interfering with or coercing employees in violation of their rights.
“Ruisi is fighting for her right to choose whether or not to associate with a union – a right that, in addition to her rights under federal labor law, is codified and protected by Nevada’s Right to Work law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Unfortunately, this type of illegal union scheme is widespread in Las Vegas, which is why this successful appeal is so important.”
“Other Las Vegas service industry workers facing similar situations should know that they can contact the National Right to Work Foundation to request free legal assistance,” added Mix.
NNOC union officials blocked access to informational table, pushed incomplete dues authorization forms, to obstruct petition to remove union
Kansas City, MO (May 25 2018) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a hospital worker has filed federal charges against a local union after officials harassed her and other employees as they attempted to gain signatures for a petition to remove the union.
Kacy Warner, a nurse at Research Medical Center, filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the local National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC). In the charge, Warner states that union officials violated her and other employees’ right to choose their representative by their attempts to intimidate employees from approaching an information table about a decertification petition.
Warner is not a member of the union. She is circulating a petition to decertify the union, which if supported and voted for by a majority of workplace employees would remove the union from the workplace.
Warner and her colleagues set up an informational table in a reserved room, with the petition on the table for employees to sign. She and a fellow employee were then approached by the union’s chairman with two forms: a membership form and a nonmember form, both of which required her to authorize the union to siphon money from her paycheck.
The chairman demanded that Warner and her colleague sign one of the forms immediately. The demand was only made after Warner began circulating the petition.
As the situation continued to escalate, union officials began “loudly badgering” Warner and her colleagues as they tried to inform other employees about the petition. Officials blocked their table, sat in chairs on either side of the doorway, and intercepted employees who entered the room in efforts to squelch the decertification petition.
Unwilling to be intimidated into silence, Warner turned to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance in filing charges. The NLRB will now investigate.
Because Missouri’s Right to Work law is pending a voter referendum, employees can currently still be required to pay dues or fees to unions to keep their jobs, even if they are not union members. Under the Foundation-won 1988 U.S. Supreme Court Beck decision, the Court provided limited protection by stating that employees can only be forced to pay union dues for certain union activity, and that unions must justify the amount of the compulsory fee. The forms that the union chairman demanded Warner and her colleague sign failed to comply with those requirements.
Additionally, under certain parameters, employees have the right to hold a petition for decertification, which revokes the union’s “certification” to be the exclusive bargaining representative. If 30% or more of workplace employees sign the petition, the NLRB will hold a secret ballot to determine whether a majority of workers wish to decertify the union. If so, the union is effectively removed from the workplace.
“Union bosses are trying to cling to their power by taking away the voices of the workers they claim to represent,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Time and time again, union bosses display huge amounts of entitlement when they try to force fees from the hands of workers rather than earn workers’ voluntary support. Warner is doing the right thing by holding them accountable for their intimidation tactics. Workers will only be protected from the injustice of forced union dues after the citizens of Missouri put their Right to Work law into effect.”
Supreme Court Asked to Hear Case Seeking Return of Union Fees Seized in Scheme Invalidated in High Court’s 2014 Harris Decision
National Right to Work Foundation attorneys file brief for Illinois homecare providers who had $32 million seized by SEIU without their consent
Washington, DC (May 21, 2018) – Today staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed the final brief in Riffey v. Rauner asking the United States Supreme Court to grant certiorari and hear the case. The home care providers for whom the case was brought had over $32 million in fees seized by union officials in a scheme the Supreme Court has already ruled violated the First Amendment. The case is now fully briefed and the Supreme Court could announce in June whether it will take the case.
The reply brief filed today counters the claims made in briefs by union officials and the Illinois Attorney General. Those briefs were filed only after the Supreme Court required the union and the attorney general to file briefs responding to Foundation attorneys’ initial petition for a writ of certiorari.
Riffey v. Rauner is a continuation of the Foundation-won Supreme Court Harris v. Quinn case. If the Court decides to hear Riffey, the Justices will consider whether a class of nonmember homecare providers should receive a refund of over $32 million that SEIU union officials seized from them without their consent.
Beginning with a 2003 executive order by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, tens of thousands of individual homecare providers were classified as “public employees” solely so they could be unionized by the SEIU and thus required to pay union fees. Many of these in-home care givers were parents caring for their own children in their own homes.
Staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation assisted eight of these providers in filing a federal class-action lawsuit, Harris v. Quinn, challenging the forced dues. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that SEIU’s forced dues scheme violated the First Amendment rights of the in-home care providers.
To settle remaining issues, the case was remanded to the District Court and re-designated as Riffey v. Rauner. The District Court ruled in 2016 that, even though the workers never consented to their money being taken for union fees, the SEIU did not have to refund the over $32 million in unconstitutional fees confiscated from union nonmembers.
Foundation attorneys are now asking the Court to take the case and determine whether the “government inflicts a First Amendment injury when it compels individuals to subsidize speech without their prior consent.” If the Court so rules, it would overturn the lower court’s reasoning denying the providers refunds of the seized fees.
Riffey is not the only case being litigated by Foundation staff attorneys related to whether individuals must take steps to “opt out” of dues the Supreme Court has already ruled they cannot be required to pay. In Hamidi v. SEIU, currently fully briefed at the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a group of California state employee nonmembers are challenging a union requirement that they must take an additional step to “opt out” of union dues the union admits are used for lawfully non-chargeable political activity.
“Union bosses assume that they’re entitled to a significant cut of workers’ hard-earned money when they force nonmembers to leap through bureaucratic hoops just to stop funding activities they didn’t sign up to fund in the first place,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation will continue to fight for these homecare providers to get their illegally-seized money back.”
“If the Supreme Court agrees with the National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney who argued the Janus case heard earlier this term, challenges like Riffey and Hamidi will likely be the next big issue when it comes to fully protecting the constitutional rights of government employees from forced unionism,” added Mix. “Ultimately, the Supreme Court should make it clear that individuals who have never joined a union cannot be required to take affirmative steps just to protect their First Amendment rights.”
Workers Ask NLRB to Overturn Obama-Era Actions Blocking Secret Ballot Votes to Challenge Card Check Unionization
Trump Labor Board urged to reconsider Lamons Gasket precedent that prevents workers from decertifying a union installed through a card check drive
Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2018) – Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington seeking to overturn an Obama Labor Board decision that blocks workers from holding a decertification vote for up to one year after a union is installed through an abuse-prone card check unionization drive.
Foundation staff attorneys represent a group of Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based clerical workers for shipping company USF Holland. The workers oppose Teamsters Union Local 200’s monopoly representation and filed the signatures necessary to hold a decertification election to remove the union. However, the election petition was dismissed when the NLRB Regional Director applied the controversial 2011 Lamons Gasket ruling that bars workers from holding a secret ballot decertification vote for one year after they have been unionized through the card check process.
In Lamons Gasket, an Obama-selected NLRB overturned the 2007 National Right to Work Foundation-won Dana decision that gave workers the opportunity to challenge card check unionization with a secret ballot vote. Under the Dana precedent, workers can collect signatures to request a secret ballot election during a 45-day window following notice that they have been forced into union representation by a card check organizing drive.
The Dana ruling provided an important, although limited, protection for workers against the coercive practices frequently associated with card check, which allow organizers to bully or mislead employees into signing cards that are then counted as “votes” toward unionization. When the Big Labor-friendly Obama NLRB overruled Dana with Lamons Gasket, it meant no matter how many workers signed a petition seeking to oust a union, they would have to wait at least a year before they could file for a secret ballot vote.
The workers in the appeal filed today are six women employed in USF Holland’s clerical office in Milwaukee who object to being placed under the Teamster union’s monopoly “representation” without a secret ballot vote. In January, Teamsters organizers had actually filed to hold an NLRB-supervised vote but had the election cancelled just a week before it was set to occur. Company officials then gave in to the Teamsters’ demands and recognized the union on the basis of the card check.
In response the workers filed for a secret ballot election to remove the Teamsters, but were told they could not hold one because of the Lamons Gasket precedent. Their appeal asks the new Trump NLRB to not only overturn that Obama-NLRB precedent, but to remove all limitations on workers filing to decertify a union following unionization through card check.
“The disastrous Lamons Gasket decision was one of many by the Obama Labor Board that elevated the powers of union bosses over the rights of individual employees, and it should be swiftly overturned,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Nothing in the National Labor Relations Act says that workers should be denied a secret ballot decertification vote on the basis of a card check recognition, which the Act and U.S. Supreme Court view as inherently inferior to an NLRB-run vote.”
“The Teamsters have a long and well-deserved reputation for corruption and violence, so it’s no surprise that the women in this case who filed for a decertification vote would prefer the privacy of a secret ballot to the coercion and pressure tactics inherent in a union card check organizing drive,” added Mix.
Worker Advocate: U.S. Supreme Court Should Hear Challenge to Government-Imposed Forced-Dues Union Contracts for CA Farmworkers
Amicus brief argues California law deprives farmworkers of their Constitutional rights by imposing union contract against their will
Washington, D.C. (May 16, 2018) – Today the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is filing an amicus curiae brief with the United States Supreme Court for the Foundation and several employees of Gerawan Farming, urging the court to grant certiorari in Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB). The brief asks the Court to hear the challenge to California’s law that authorizes the state labor board to impose a union contract on a company and its workers against their will.
Although many states have separate labor laws that specifically cover agricultural workers, California’s law is unique in that it authorizes the state to impose union monopoly bargaining contracts, including so-called “union security” requirements that obligate farm workers to make payments to union officials or else be fired. In the Gerawan case pending before the Supreme Court, a state-appointed mediator imposed a forced dues requirement—that workers overwhelmingly opposed—for the benefit of union officials who hadn’t been heard from in nearly two decades.
As the brief explains, United Farm Workers (UFW) union officials abandoned any attempt to negotiate a union contract in 1995, after which workers successfully worked to determine the terms of their employment without the union for 17 years. Then, in 2012, UFW union officials returned and immediately invoked an amendment to California law authorizing an ALRB-appointed mediator to impose a contract if the union and company cannot reach an agreement.
After UFW officials announced their return, Gerawan workers moved to decertify the union. However, that effort was stifled when the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) refused to count the ballots cast in the decertification vote, leaving the union in power despite what workers believe was overwhelming opposition to union “representation.”
The Foundation’s brief argues that California’s agricultural labor law violates the workers’ constitutional rights by forcing upon them union monopoly representation of a union they oppose – something central to many labor statutes – and by imposing the union monopoly contract that includes forced union dues.
In a related case, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are also providing free legal representation to Uber and Lyft drivers challenging a Seattle ordinance designed to unionize the independent drivers. Like the California law at issue in Gerawan, the Seattle scheme authorizes a government official to impose a forced dues contract over the objections of the company and individual for-hire drivers who are compelled to accept union monopoly representation.
“The injustices Gerawan workers face every day – as a government-imposed contract forces them to pay dues to a union they overwhelmingly oppose– is evidence that the more power government grants to union bosses, the greater the infringement on the rights of individual employees,” stated National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We hope the Supreme Court will take this case to establish legal limits to the coercive power that government can grant union officials over private employers and employees.”
Federal Appeals Court Rules for Michigan Worker in Case Challenging Union Officials’ Scheme to Block Employees from Opting Out of Dues
Today a three judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected an appeal filed by IBEW union lawyers of a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling won by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys on behalf of Michigan worker Ryan Greene.
In February 2017, the NLRB ruled union officials had violated the law by requiring workers to present their ID in person at the union hall to exercise their rights to resign from the union and cut off all dues payments, as protected by Michigan’s Right to Work law.
In response to today’s Court of Appeals ruling affirming the NLRB decision, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens issued the following statement:
“Today’s ruling is another victory for independent workers seeking to exercise their rights under Michigan’s popular Right to Work law. This case demonstrates that even when union membership and dues payment is voluntary, whether because of state Right to Work legislation or a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, union officials regularly do whatever they can to block workers from exercising their protected legal rights. Instead of cooking up schemes to trap workers like Ryan Greene into paying union dues, union officials should ask themselves why they are so afraid of giving workers a choice when it comes to union membership and dues payment.”
UFCW officials failed to provide legally required disclosures to justify mandatory fees they demanded Danville teenager pay or else be fired
Danville, CA (May 7, 2018) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a teenage, part-time Safeway employee has filed federal charges against a local union for demanding he pay union fees without providing the legally required information on union dues and spending.
Sixteen-year-old Christopher Ratana-Kelley filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5. The charge states that by failing to disclose their local expenditures or to verify how union fees were calculated, UFCW officials violated his protected legal rights.
When Ratana-Kelley became a courtesy clerk at Safeway, UFCW officials demanded he pay union dues or fees despite choosing not to become a union member. California lacks a Right to Work law, which means workers can be required to pay some fees to union officials as a condition of employment. However, workers cannot be required to fund any activities unrelated to union bargaining, such as political action, and unions must follow certain procedures to justify the amount of the compulsory fee.
When the teenager objected to paying any fees to the UFCW beyond what he could legally be required to pay and asked for a breakdown of how his fees were calculated, union officials failed to provide the information. Concerned by being kept in in the dark about how his fees would be spent, Ratana-Kelley turned to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance in filing charges. The NLRB will now investigate the charges.
Because California does not have a Right to Work law, employees can be required to pay dues or fees to unions to keep their jobs, even if they are not union members. However, in the Foundation-won United States Supreme Court Beck decision, the Court provided some protection to workers by stating that employees can only be forced to pay union dues for certain union activity. Employees also have the right to have an independent third party audit the union expenditures and certify that the percentage of dues that nonmembers are forced to pay does not include political spending and other non-collective bargaining expenses.
“Christopher is a teenager just entering the workforce,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a Goliath, and Christopher has chosen to hold the union giants accountable for their flagrant neglect of workers’ rights. This case underscores the need for California to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary.”
SEIU officials’ backroom deal with hospital sought to “acquire” employees who had previously rejected union organizing attempts
Long Island, NY (May 1, 2018) – A physical therapy assistant’s legal settlement has reversed the corrupt deal between Northwell Health and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East (SEIU 1199) officials that forced her and her colleagues into union ranks without a vote.
The settlement stems from unfair labor practice charges Kathleen Flanagan filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. Flanagan was pushed into early retirement as a result of the backroom agreement between company and union officials to impose unionization on her department. If she had remained an employee, she would have been required to accept union representation, pay union fees, and accept a reduction in benefits.
SEIU 1199 union officials represented some workers at Northwell Health’s facilities, but workers in other classifications, including Flanagan’s physical therapy and occupational therapy department at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, had rebuffed union organizers. In November 2017, a Northwell Health representative informed Flanagan’s department that SEIU 1199 had “acquired them legally.” The department, as well as other departments at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Cohen Children’s Medical Center, was “accreted” into SEIU 1199’s monopoly bargaining unit and forced to accept the union’s unwanted “representation.” At a mandatory union orientation, a SEIU 1199 union official unlawfully told the workers they were required to join the union, and therefore pay full union dues, by January 1, 2018.
Flanagan challenged this so-called “accretion” as unlawful by filing charges with the NLRB. Northwell and SEIU 1199 have now settled the charges. Pursuant to the settlement, Northwell must cease recognition of SEIU 1199 as the monopoly bargaining representative of the illegally accreted hospital workers, and SEIU 1199 must relinquish monopoly bargaining privileges over those employees. The employees are now free from the unwanted union representation and will be reimbursed for union fees paid to SEIU 1199. Notices will be posted at Long Island Jewish Medical Facility and Cohen Children’s Medical Center and emailed out to affected employees to inform them of their rights.
“The so-called accretion doctrine, which is not mandated by the National Labor Relations Act, empowers union bureaucrats to coerce workers into unions without a vote, frequently after the targeted workers specifically reject union organizing attempts,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, the collusion between the company and union brass in this case was so egregious and flagrantly illegal that the NLRB had no choice but to take action.
“Thanks to Kathleen Flanagan, a power-grab by union officials was successfully halted and reversed,” continued Mix. “To protect workers across the country from being forced into unwanted unions, the Trump NLRB should overturn this outrageous accretion doctrine.”