Federal Court Hears Employees’ Lawsuit Against Union For “Window Period” Policy to Trap Workers into Dues Payments
Class-action lawsuit for Michigan workers says union boss limitations on ending forced dues violate workers’ rights
Cincinnati, OH (February 1, 2018) – Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys are arguing in the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case brought by two Michigan grocery store employees against United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 876. The workers’ class-action lawsuit challenges the UFCW’s arbitrary window period and other unreasonable requirements that restrict Michigan workers from exercising their right to stop dues payment.
Michigan’s Right to Work protections – enacted in 2012 – make union membership and financial support strictly voluntary. However, union officials have repeatedly blocked workers from exercising their rights under the law. Robbie Ohlendorf and Sandra Adams, a part-time stocking clerk and cashier respectively at Oleson’s Foods Stores, found this out when they attempted to exercise their right to end payments to UFCW officials.
During the summer of 2016, Ohlendorf and Adams submitted letters to the UFCW resigning from the union and revoking their authorization for the union to collect dues payments from their paychecks. Despite their revocations, UFCW union officials denied both employees’ requests to end payments by claiming the letters were not submitted during a union-created “window period” and were not sent by certified mail.
Believing their rights were being violated by UFCW policies, Ohlendorf and Adams turned to National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys for help challenging the policies. With free Foundation-provided legal representation, the pair filed a federal class-action lawsuit in December 2016 against the UFCW. They brought the lawsuit on the grounds that union officials violated their statutory rights, and those of their co-workers, as well as the union’s duty of fair representation by limiting dues revocations to a “window period” and by demanding that such requests be made via certified mail.
Unfortunately, a Western Michigan District Court judge sided with union lawyers, ruling that the dues deduction authorizations containing the restrictions were binding. Ohlendorf and Adams then appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals where their arguments are being heard today by a three-judge panel.
“As this case demonstrates, Robbie Ohlendorf, Sandra Adams, and countless other Michigan workers are being trapped into paying forced dues against their will because union bosses have created hurdles solely to block them from exercising their rights,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “A favorable ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals would send the message that union bosses cannot limit employees’ rights through these arbitrary requirements. Leaving a union and cutting off union payments ought to be no more difficult than joining one.”
West Virginia Resort Worker Files Unfair Labor Practice Charge After Union Officials Illegally Take His Money
Greenbrier employee’s case demonstrates tactics used by union bosses to extort forced dues
White Sulphur Springs, WV- A Greenbrier Hotel employee has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Laborers’ International Union of North America, Local 1182. Reginald Gibbs filed the charge with free legal representation provided by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys. The charge states that union officials violated his rights by using mandatory union fees for lobbying efforts and failing to provide necessary disclosures of spending by union affiliates.
Gibbs, a slot machine technician at West Virginia’s historic Greenbrier Hotel & Resort, previously turned to National Right to Work Foundation attorneys for help in filing a motion to intervene in a court case defending West Virginia’s Right to Work law. That law ensures that union membership and financial support are completely voluntary. In that lawsuit, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the law should go into effect, with the Chief Justice calling a lower court’s decision to grant a preliminary injunction against the Right to Work law a “monumental failure of legal reasoning.”
Although the state Supreme Court’s ruling means that the Right to Work law is currently in effect, forced dues contracts entered into before the law’s enactment, such as that at the Greenbrier, are exempted from the law. Thus, Local 1182 officials can have Gibbs fired for not paying union fees. However, even absent full Right to Work protections, workers are entitled to certain protections under the National Labor Relations Act as interpreted in the 1988 Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court case Communications Workers v. Beck.
After receiving his Beck-mandated notice and audit that should explain in detail how forced union dues were being spent, Gibbs noticed several discrepancies that violate his rights. Specifically, as his NLRB charge notes, union officials improperly used dues for political lobbying efforts and failed to adequately disclose how the dues were spent by union affiliates. The NLRB will now investigate the charge.
“Despite U.S. Supreme Court precedent that has been the law for almost 30 years, union officials routinely violate the rights of the workers they claim to represent, to extract extra money from their paychecks,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Fortunately, due to West Virginia’s new Right to Work law, once the current union contract expires, union bosses will no longer be able to play games with the union audit process, because Mr. Gibbs can finally stop all union payments.”
“This case provides another vivid example of why West Virginia workers need the protections provided by the Mountain State’s Right to Work law,” added Mix.
National Workplace Advocacy Group to Charter School Teachers: ‘Know Your Rights to Protect Yourself from Compulsory Unionism’
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation president issues statement in recognition of National School Choice Week
Washington, DC (January 25, 2018) – Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, issued the following statement in recognition of National School Choice Week 2018:
“Teacher union officials, armed with billions of dollars in mandatory union dues, have orchestrated a sustained campaign to delegitimize and block efforts to promote school choice and especially charter schools. But despite that opposition, charter schools have enjoyed steady growth and popularity.
“In response, union officials have decided that if they cannot reverse the growth of charter schools, then they would attempt to control charter schools by forcing teachers and other school employees under union monopoly power. Of course, this could prove disastrous for charter school teachers and students nationwide, many of whom are attracted to charter schools precisely because they reject the one-size-fits-all approach promoted by national teacher union bosses.
“All charter school employees are entitled to certain constitutional and statutory rights but unfortunately union officials frequently attempt to keep employees in the dark about those rights. That is why National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have provided direct, free legal aid to over 10,000 teachers since its founding and why the Foundation continues its Charter School Initiative.
“Led by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, the National Right to Work Foundation’s Charter School Initiative aims to enlighten charter school employees about their rights so that they can make decisions about union representation in an atmosphere free of union boss threats, harassment, coercion, or misrepresentation. To that end, Foundation attorneys have developed free educational materials for charter school teachers and employees. Furthermore, Foundation staff attorneys are prepared to continue defending charter school employees from the injustices of forced unionism.
“Charter school teachers and other employees: You have rights. For more information about your rights and the Foundation’s Charter School Initiative, check out our website at www.nrtw.org/charterschools.”
Special Legal Notice to Disney World Employees: How to Resign from Teamsters Local 385 & End Dues Payments
Orlando, FL – In response to multiple inquiries from Disney World employees regarding their legal rights, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have issued a Special Legal Notice for all Disney World employees who wish to resign their membership in Teamsters Local 385 and exercise their right to end payment of union dues.
In recent years, numerous workers have filed federal unfair labor practice charges against Teamsters Union Local 385 with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys in response to union officials’ refusal to accept their membership resignations and/or dues checkoff revocations.
The National Right to Work Foundation Special Legal Notice for Disney employees can be found here.
To learn more about your legal rights in general, go to the Foundation’s “Know Your Rights” page. To request free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation call toll free at 1-800-336-3600, or use our legal aid request form.
Worker Advocate Issues Statement on Judge’s Ruling Dismissing Union Lawsuit Against Kentucky’s Right to Work Law
Frankfort, KY – Today, at the Franklin County Circuit Court, three Kentucky workers with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys successfully defended the Blue Grass state’s Right to Work law against spurious legal arguments from union officials attempting to retain their forced dues powers.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling:
“We welcome today’s ruling by the Franklin County Circuit Court upholding Kentucky’s Right to Work law, which simply ensures that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary. Right to Work laws have long been upheld by appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, so it comes as no surprise that union bosses’ arguments against Kentucky’s Right to Work law were rejected in this case. Rather than wasting tax dollars and workers’ dues money continuing this frivolous legal attack on Right to Work, Kentucky union bosses ought to be working to ensure that the representation they claim to provide is actually a service Kentucky employees will voluntarily pay for.”
The ruling can be found here.
Teamsters Officials Hit With Labor Board Charge for Obstructing Workers’ Right to Remove Unwanted Union
Unfair labor practice charge highlights systemic abuse of NLRB policy by union bosses seeking to block workers from holding decertification votes
Des Moines, IA (January 19, 2018) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Bemis North America employee has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against Teamsters Local 727S for interfering with his right to hold a vote to remove a union that is not supported by a majority of workers. In late 2017, Union officials filed several frivolous “blocking charges” with the clear intent of preventing Bemis employees from holding a decertification election, as is their right under the federal law.
Wayne Devore works at Bemis North America in Des Moines, Iowa. In late October 2017, he filed a petition for a decertification election with the NLRB, after collecting the necessary signatures from his coworkers opposed to the Teamsters so-called “representation.” Under NLRB rules employees can trigger a vote to strip union officials of their monopoly bargaining powers over workers when at least 30 percent of employees in the bargaining unit sign a decertification petition.
NLRB Region 18 officials verified the signatures and scheduled a hearing on November 9 on the decertification petition to set dates and time for the decertification election. Yet, just days before the hearing was to take place, Devore was informed by the NLRB that it was postponed because Teamsters officials had filed an unfair labor practice charge.
The charge union officials filed appeared to have been filed solely to delay or block the decertification. Later, Teamsters officials withdrew that original charge, only to contrive five more frivolous unfair labor practice charges. This occurred despite the fact that in the previous year Teamsters Local 727S officials had raised no charges against Bemis management.
Despite Teamsters officials’ abuse of the process, the decertification election has been postponed by the NLRB while the Teamsters’ unfair labor practice charges are pending. Initially, Board agents said the first charge would take two to four weeks to investigate. However nearly three months later, there still has been no indication that the decertification vote will actually be held.
Understanding that his legal rights were being violated, Devore turned to the National Right to Work Foundation for assistance. His unfair labor practice charge filed by his Foundation-provided staff attorney alleges that when Teamsters officials filed their charges, they were aimed solely at blocking or delaying the decertification vote and thus infringed on the workers’ protected legal rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
“As is the case here, far too often union bosses are more interested in holding on to their power rather than respecting the rights and wishes of the rank-and-file workers they claim to represent,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Mr. Devore and his coworkers have a legal right under federal labor law to hold a decertification vote to remove the Teamsters from their workplace, and Teamsters officials violated that right when they abused the NLRB’s blocking charge doctrine.
“This case highlights a systemic problem in the NLRB’s policy that permits union officials to file unsubstantiated charges against employers designed primarily to block employees from removing unwanted unions,” continued Mix. “Nothing is more contrary to the stated purpose of the National Labor Relation Act than trapping employees in union ‘representation’ opposed by a majority of workers, which is why the current NLRB blocking charge policy must be scrapped.”
Dealership employee discovered insurance had been canceled by union after he exercised right to resign his union membership and filed an NLRB charge challenging union practices
Chicago, IL (January 12, 2018) – A Chicago-area auto mechanic has filed an unfair labor practice charge against International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 701 with free legal assistance from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The charge, filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), describes how union bosses wrongfully terminated the worker’s health insurance in retaliation for him exercising his right to resign union membership.
Mike Vallaro is employed at Gerald Subaru, Inc. in Naperville, IL. He exercised his right to resign from the union after IAM Local 701 union officials demanded that he and his co-workers abandon their jobs and join a union-initiated strike in August 2016. By resigning prior to the union-ordered work stoppage, Vallaro could continue working and not legally be subjected to IAM internal “union discipline.”
Despite this, union officials sent him a letter threatening a disciplinary trial for working during the strike. They claimed that, if he was found guilty by the union tribunal, Vallaro would be forced to pay a monetary fine. In similar situations around the country, union officials have levied fines in the tens of thousands of dollars against workers who defied strike demands.
Understanding his rights, Vallaro turned to Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys for free legal aid and filed the unfair labor practice charge. After National Right to Work Foundation’s involvement, IAM Local 701 notified Vallaro that its trial had been canceled. However, NLRB proceedings in the case continued.
The mechanic thought that was the last of IAM Local 701’s illegal intimidation, until he went into the doctor’s office for a medical procedure, only to find that his medical insurance had been canceled. Under the monopoly bargaining contract between the IAM and his employer, all employees are entitled to health insurance. The union controls and selects the insurance plan that covers the employees irrespective of whether they are a union member or not. Additionally, because Illinois is not a Right to Work state, Vallaro is still forced to pay fees to IAM Local 701 officials each month.
Vallaro never received prior notification that his health insurance had lapsed. After conferring with his co-workers he discovered that he was the only worker in the monopoly bargaining unit to have his insurance canceled, making it clear it was in retaliation for his previous resignation and unfair labor practice charge.
In response Vallaro again turned to Foundation staff attorneys, who assisted him in filing another unfair labor practice charge against IAM officials, this time for illegal retaliation and discrimination by violating their monopoly bargaining contract to cancel Vallaro’s insurance. Both charges are now being investigated by the NLRB Region 13 office in Chicago.
Meanwhile, Vallaro faces mounting medical bills as a result of his insurance being canceled. Fortunately, for now, his employer Gerald Subaru is assisting Vallaro with the bills that would have been covered had IAM union officials not wrongfully canceled the coverage.
“Mr. Vallaro simply wanted to continue working to support himself and his family instead of engaging in a union boss-ordered strike. Now, because he exercised his protected rights under federal law, he is facing a relentless campaign of illegal union intimidation,” said Mark Mix president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Union bosses’ willingness to cancel the health insurance of a worker they still claim to ‘represent’ just when he needs to rely on that insurance, is another ugly example of union officials abusing their monopoly forced dues powers to attack workers who refuse to toe the union line.”
Illinois Homecare Assistants Ask U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case Seeking Ruling That First Amendment Is Violated When Union Dues Are Seized Without an Individual’s Consent
Providers denied refunds of $32 million in union fees which the High Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn were seized in an unconstitutional scheme
Washington, DC (January 9, 2018) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to hear a case that could determine whether individuals’ First Amendment rights can be limited by union opt-out procedures. In the case, thousands of homecare providers are being denied refunds of over $30 million seized by union officials without their consent.
The case stems from an executive order issued by former Governor Rod Blagojevich that classified more than 80,000 individuals who receive state subsidies to provide in-home care to disabled persons as “public employees” solely for the purpose of the providers being unionized and required to pay union fees. As a result, these in-home care givers, many of them parents caring for their own children, were unionized through an SEIU “card-check” union organizing drive.
Staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation assisted eight of these providers in filing a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the forced dues seizures. The High Court took the case and, on June 30, 2014, it ruled that SEIU’s forced dues scheme imposed by Governor Blagojevich is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of the in-home care providers.
After the Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling in Harris v. Quinn – now designated Riffey v. Rauner – the case was remanded to the District Court to settle the remaining issues, including whether SEIU would be required to return more than $32 million in dues confiscated from nonmembers through its unconstitutional scheme.
In June 2016, the District Court ruled that, despite the Supreme Court ruling in Harris, the SEIU did not have to repay these funds on a class-wide basis. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals where Foundation staff attorneys argued the case in May 2017. The Appeals Court ruled that even though these workers never consented to their money being taken for forced dues, their First Amendment Rights were not violated. Foundation staff attorneys now ask the Court to determine whether the “government inflicts a First Amendment injury when it compels individuals to subsidize speech without their prior consent.”
The petition can be found here.
“The Supreme Court’s Harris decision ruled that forcing homecare providers to subsidize union speech violates their First Amendment rights,” stated NRTW President Mark Mix. “This petition asks the High Court to further clarify its Harris ruling, by making it clear that individuals who have never joined a union cannot be required to take affirmative steps just to protect those Constitutional rights.”
“An individual’s First Amendment rights should never be limited by bureaucratic opt-out procedures,” continued Mix. “With the Supreme Court considering the Constitutionality of mandatory union fees for all public employees next month in the Foundation’s Janus case, this issue could be critical in protecting the freedom of speech of millions of Americans.”
Springfield, VA – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has issued a Special Legal Notice for all temporary workers during the Holiday Season who may be unaware of the rules and laws surrounding forced unionism and forced union dues.
Often times, union officials mislead individuals about their legal rights to refrain from union membership and payment of union dues or fees. This is especially true when it comes to temporary or seasonal employees. Under federal law, workers cannot be forced to pay any money to a union during their first 30 days of employment.
When employees are misinformed about their rights, they can end up paying their entire paycheck to union officials as one National Right to Work Foundation-aided worker found.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement regarding this legal notice:
“Each year during the Holiday Season, union bosses play the role of Grinches by seizing the paychecks of temporary workers trying to earn some extra money for themselves and their families around the holidays. ”
“Temporary workers should be wary of deceitful tactics used by union officials, and even some employers, designed to fill union coffers with dues money that workers cannot be required to pay. All temporary workers should read the Foundation’s legal notice to ensure their legal rights are not being violated and contact our Foundation attorneys for free legal aid if they suspect their rights have been infringed upon.”
Please read the Foundation’s Special Legal Notice for temporary workers here.
Worker Files Opening Brief in Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court Case Seeking to Strike Down Forced Union Fees
Worker Advocate: It is time for the Court to recognize that the First Amendment protects public employees from being forced to subsidize union speech
Washington, DC (November 29, 2017) – Today, attorneys for Illinois public servant Mark Janus filed the first merits brief in the Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME. The brief asks the High Court to recognize that the First Amendment protects public workers from being required to make payments to union officials as a condition of working for their own government.
Plaintiff Mark Janus is an Illinois child support specialist who filed the challenge with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center. Janus is currently required to pay union fees to AFSCME union officials even though he opposes many of the positions union officials advocate using his money and feels he would be better off without the union’s so-called representation.
In the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, a divided High Court ruled that public employees could not be required to subsidize many political and ideological union activities; however the court left in place forced fees used to subsidize union monopoly bargaining with the government. In a series of cases in the last five years the Supreme Court has begun to question the theory underpinning Abood.
In the National Right to Work Foundation-won Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014) cases, the Supreme Court made clear that mandatory union payments invoke the highest level of First Amendment protection. In Janus, Mark Janus asks the Supreme Court to apply this heightened scrutiny to all mandatory union payments required of government employees.
If the High Court rules in Janus’ favor, over 5 million public school teachers, firefighters, police officers and other government employees who currently are forced to pay money to union officials just to keep their jobs would be free to decide individually whether or not to make voluntary union payments. Oral arguments in the case are now expected to occur in late February.
“Forced union fees remain the largest regime of compelled speech in the nation,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Forty years ago in Abood, the Supreme Court erroneously left forced fees in place citing the artificial distinction between union officials’ ideological activities and union bargaining with the government that inherently seeks to alter public policy.”
“Now that the Janus case is being briefed for argument at the High Court, we are hopeful that in the coming months the Supreme Court will correct this anomaly in First Amendment jurisprudence by striking down all mandatory union payments for public workers,” continued Mix. “Americans shouldn’t forfeit their First Amendment protections just to work for their own government.”
“Government workers like Mark Janus shouldn’t have to pay for union politics just to keep their jobs,” said Jacob Huebert, director of litigation at the Liberty Justice Center. “The First Amendment gives everyone the right to choose which political groups they will and won’t support with their money.”