Labor Board Sets Trial to Prosecute Missouri IBEW Union for Making Illegal Forced Dues Demands from Nonmember
IBEW officials violated nonmember worker’s rights by demanding non-chargeable union dues and failing to provide legally-required disclosures
Neosho, MO (July 23, 2018) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint in response to unfair labor practice charges filed by an employee of New-Mac Electric Cooperative against the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 53. After James Feagins objected to paying full union dues beyond what he could be legally required to pay, union officials failed to provide him with information on union dues and spending. They also demanded that he pay about 94% of the full dues rate just to keep his job, including illegal charges for expenses outside the local bargaining unit.
With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Feagins, who works in New-Mac’s accounting department, filed charges with the NLRB against Kansas City-based IBEW Local 53. The charge states that union officials violated Feagins’ rights by failing to provide him with legally required information of union expenditures, such as an independent audit, and charging him for union activities unrelated to bargaining.
Missouri’s Right to Work law is pending a voter referendum in August. Because the law is not yet in effect, employees like Feagins can be required to pay some fees to union officials as a condition of employment. However, even without Right to Work protections workers cannot legally be required to fund activities unrelated to union bargaining, such as political action, and unions must follow certain procedures to justify the amount of the compulsory fee. As Feagins’ case shows, enforcing such rights absent a Right to Work law can be difficult.
In November 2017, Feagins, who is not a union member, objected to paying any fees to IBEW beyond the legal requirements. However, union officials failed to provide Feagins with a detailed explanation of union expenses to justify the amount they were charging him. Further, union officials continue to charge Feagins for non-bargaining activities. The fees they have demanded include organizing expenses from outside Local 53’s competitive market, which is illegal.
To protect his rights, Feagins turned to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance. Following a charge filed for him by Foundation staff attorneys, the NLRB Regional Director issued a complaint, and has now scheduled a trial for October.
“Feagins chose to hold IBEW union officials accountable for their greedy neglect of employees’ rights,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “As long as union officials have the power to force financial support from the workers they claim to represent, these types of violations will continue as union bosses seek to line their pockets with illegal forced dues.”
“This case underscores the need for Missouri workers to have the protections of a Right to Work law to make union affiliation and union financial support completely voluntary,” continued Mix. “Each and every Missouri worker deserves the freedom to decide for him or herself whether union officials deserve part of their hard-earned money.”
Majority of workers wanted union out in 2014, but Obama Labor Board blocked UNITE-HERE union’s removal for over four years
Sausalito, CA (July 17, 2018) – Workers at Scoma’s of Sausalito, a California restaurant, held a decertification election last Monday, July 10, to remove the UNITE HERE union from their workplace, resulting in a 37-12 landslide vote against the union. The successful election is a culmination of over four years of employee efforts to remove the union’s presence at the restaurant. The restaurant employees received free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys in their efforts to exercise their rights to remove the union.
In 2014, restaurant employee Georgina Canche and a majority of her fellow coworkers successfully petitioned their employer to withdraw recognition of UNITE HERE as their monopoly bargaining representative. Despite that a majority of the employees signed the petition and the employer followed procedure established by longstanding labor law, the union filed a federal charge against the employer with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to reinstate its monopoly bargaining powers, regardless of the workers’ petition.
Eventually, the notoriously pro-forced unionism Obama Labor Board sided with union lawyers, and even issued a “bargaining order” that would block attempts by the workers to hold a secret ballot vote to decertify and remove the union. Scoma’s then appealed the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which unanimously overturned the “bargaining order” and remanded the case to the Labor Board so that an election could proceed.
Last Monday, following additional delay, the NLRB Regional Director finally conducted a secret ballot decertification election, in which the workers voted 37-12 to remove UNITE HERE from their workplace, making it clear that a vast majority of Scoma’s employees do not accept UNITE HERE’s monopoly representation.
“After years of dilatory legal challenges by union lawyers, the workers of Scoma’s restaurant are finally able to have a say in their own workplace representation,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Union officials ought to ask themselves why they refuse to accept election results, and why they spent so much time trying to invalidate the wishes of an overwhelming majority of the workers they purport to represent.”
Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court Victory Leads Union Lawyers to Drop Lawsuit Seeking to Overturn Idaho’s Right to Work Law
Following the National Right to Work Foundation’s victory in the US Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 370 union officials have withdrawn a case pending at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that sought to overturn Idaho’s longstanding Right to Work law.
Just hours after the Supreme Court released the landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision, declaring that public-sector workers cannot constitutionally be forced to pay union fees, the Court of Appeals asked that briefs be submitted by the parties in IUOE v. Wasden on the impact of Janus on the lawsuit.
Yesterday, prior to the deadline for that brief, union bosses notified the Court that they were withdrawing their legal challenge to Idaho’s popular Right to Work law which protects workers from being forced to fund a labor union as a condition of getting or keeping a job.
In addition to successfully arguing the Janus case at the U.S. Supreme Court, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys filed an amicus curiae brief in the in the IUOE v. Wasden case to defend Idaho and other state’s longstanding legal right to pass Right to Work laws to protect workers from forced union dues.
In response to the end of this particular legal attack on Right to Work, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement:
“This development is a huge victory for independent-minded workers, not just in Idaho but across the country. IUOE officials tried to push their outrageous legal theory to overturn over 60 years of precedent which, had it been accepted could have wiped out Right to Work protections for millions of workers. Thankfully, their attempt to end Right to Work laws has failed, and Idaho workers still have the liberty to choose whether or not to financially support a union.”
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a rule to cease the diversion of Medicaid payments from providers into union dues. Their press release can be found here.
National Right to Work President Mark Mix issued the following statement in response:
“Today’s announcement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is a vital first step in ending the illegal dues skim that diverts public funds away from the care of Medicaid recipients and into union officials’ coffers. For years, aided by a compliant Obama Administration, Big Labor has siphoned off hundreds of millions of tax dollars in violation of federal law, which is why this rulemaking is now needed make it clear that states cannot legally divert Medicaid funds into the bank accounts of politically-connected union bosses.”
The 2014 Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn Supreme Court decision found that it was unconstitutional for the state of Illinois to force home care providers paid through Medicaid programs to be forced to pay union fees. That case now continues as 80,000 providers seek the return of funds seized from them in violation of their First Amendment rights.
However, despite the Supreme Court ruling the dues skim has not stopped, which is why in 2017 the National Right to Work Foundation sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, bringing their attention to this issue. Additionally, Foundation President Mix personally raised the issue with Trump Administration officials earlier this year.
Janus Ruling Means Class-Action Lawsuit Challenging Union Opt-Out Requirement Could Return Over $100 Million to California Workers
Foundation-backed Hamidi v. SEIU class action lawsuit for over 40,000 nonmember workers seeks refunds of monies taken in violation of the First Amendment
Sacramento, CA (July 9, 2018) – The recent Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME strengthens the legal case brought for 40,000 California state employees seeking refunds of dues seized by Service Union International (SEIU) union officials.
Hamidi et al. v. SEIU Local 1000 is a class-action lawsuit challenging SEIU Local 1000 union officials’ opt-out policy that required workers to affirmatively opt-out of the portion of union fees that workers cannot be legally required to fund. In 2015, a federal District Court Judge certified National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney W. James Young as the attorney for the class of over 40,000 nonmembers who have been forced to fund SEIU union officials as a condition of employment.
On the same day Janus was decided, Young wrote a Rule 28(j) letter to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals formally notifying the Court of the Janus decision and its relevance to the Hamidi case. The High Court’s opinion in Janus, written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, makes several points that bolster the legal claims of lead plaintiff Ken Hamidi and the other tens of thousands of other workers who seek damages for improperly seized “non-chargeable” union fees going back to June 2012.
In Janus the Supreme Court not only made it clear that the First Amendment protects public sector workers from being required to make any payments to a union as a condition of government employment, but also that workers cannot be required to opt out of such payments. According to the Supreme Court, “neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”
The Court also held that, since at least 2012 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a similar class of tens of thousands of nonmember employees forced to pay money to SEIU Local 1000 in the Foundation-won Knox v. SEIU Local 1000, unions “have been on notice” about the dubious legal grounds for requiring workers to pay any union fees.
Because SEIU Local 1000 did not adjust its policy of forcing workers to opt-out of non-chargeable fees after the Knox decision, the Supreme Court’s Janus decision means the union could now be required to refund all non-chargeable fees (determined by the Supreme Court in Janus to be all fees) seized since June 2012 from over 40,000 class members, an amount likely well over $100 million.
“Around the country, the effect of the Janus decision is just starting to be felt,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Thanks to this landmark ruling, tens of thousands of California government employees are now a step closer to finally receiving recompense for years of being forced to hand over their hard-earned money to an SEIU union they choose not to join.”
Worker’s labor board charges say union and company violating the law to impose unionization, ask for secret ballot vote to remove union
Seattle, WA (July 5, 2018) – Today, housekeepers at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seattle, Washington filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asking for a decertification vote to remove the UNITE HERE Local 8 union from their workplace. The union was installed through an abuse-prone “card check” drive, which bypasses an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election. The petition was filed with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
In a card check drive, union organizers can pressure, intimidate or mislead workers into signing cards, which then are counted as “votes” in favor of unionization. In the case of the UNITE HERE card check at Embassy Suites Seattle, company officials created further pressure by assisting union organizers in collecting cards before utilizing them to install the union as the workers’ monopoly bargaining “representative.” Because the state of Washington lacks a Right to Work law, even workers who choose not to be voluntary union members can be forced to pay dues or fees to union officials, or else be fired.
Foundation staff attorneys also filed federal unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against the union and hotel management for housekeeper Gladys Bryant, who helped lead the drive to remove UNITE HERE.
Her charge against the union states that union officials illegally misled her about how to revoke the card union organizers had her sign. After learning more about the union’s activities and deciding she did not want UNITE HERE in her workplace, she asked a union agent how to withdraw her support. Contrary to the law, she was told she would need to drive to the union hall to revoke. When she did drive hours to demand her card in person, union officials had locked her out.
Bryant’s charge against the company alleges that hotel management violated federal labor law by assisting UNITE HERE with the card check campaign. That assistance included granting union organizers access to the workplace, turning over employees’ personal information to union organizers, and agreeing to silence any opposition to unionization from managers.
The charges ask the NLRB to either invalidate the card check unionization due to illegal conduct, or hold a decertification election to let the workers vote out the union they oppose. If the NLRB Regional Director applies the controversial Obama Labor Board decision Lamons Gasket to block the workers from holding a secret ballot vote to remove the union, Foundation staff attorneys will appeal and ask the newly composed five-member Board to overturn the decision, which prevents votes for one year after a card check recognition.
“This situation demonstrates the coercive, and often collusive, environment that accompanies a card check campaign, and demonstrates why the new Trump Labor Board should promptly abandon the disastrous Lamons Gasket decision, which locks workers into forced dues ranks even when a majority opposes a union,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation.
“This case uniquely spotlights one of the many double standards in federal labor law, which rigs the system in favor of forced unionism,” added Mix. “Although past Labor Boards have frequently declined to prosecute companies for assistance given to union organizers, they would prosecute the company for giving exactly the same type of assistance to workers seeking to remove a union. It is long past time this inequity in enforcement be eliminated.”
National Right to Work Foundation Sends Letter to States to Stop Forced-Fees Abuses that Violate Janus First Amendment Precedent
Letter explains states open themselves up to lawsuits if they continue seizing union fees from nonmember public employees
Springfield, VA (July 3, 2018) – In light of the new U.S. Supreme Court Janus ruling that declares compulsory union fees for government employees to be unconstitutional, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, who argued and won the case, has sent letters to state comptrollers or other officials responsible for the state payroll in 21 states without Right to Work laws. The letter demands they comply with the new legal protections for workers and immediately cease deductions of union fees from the paychecks of all nonmember state employees.
The Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME, argued by Foundation staff attorney William Messenger, that forcing government employees who are not union members to pay union fees as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment. The Court’s opinion clarified that nonmember employees must “clearly and affirmatively consent before any money is taken from them” for payment to a union.
The Foundation’s letter was sent to the appropriate officials in all states that lack an active state Right to Work law, in which before Janus workers could be compelled to pay fees to a union to keep their jobs, even if they were not a union member. However, under the new protections in Janus, union officials can no longer require public-sector employees to pay dues, and payments can no longer be deducted from nonmembers’ paychecks without express consent.
In the letter, the Foundation urges those states to “immediately stop the deduction of union fees from the paychecks of all nonmember state employees,” as one state controller has already announced will be done.
If states do not comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling, the letter explains that “Foundation staff attorneys will bring a civil rights action seeking class-wide injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees for any nonmember state employees who request their assistance.”
“Although the Janus decision is a huge victory for independent-minded government employees across the nation, a long road remains ahead to enforce the new protections of their First Amendment rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union officials just lost their forced-fees privileges to dock the paychecks of five million public-sector workers. The Foundation will continue to give workers a voice by making sure union bosses respect workers’ constitutional rights.”
The Foundation has also established www.MyJanusRights.org to inform government employees of their new rights.
Workers Ask Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging Union Policy Limiting Dues Revocations to Brief “Window Period”
Class-action lawsuit for Michigan workers, now before the Supreme Court, says union boss’ limitations on ending forced dues violate workers’ rights
Washington, D.C. (July 2, 2018) – After the Janus decision was announced, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court, asking the Court to review a 6th Circuit Court decision against grocery store employees Robbie Olendorf and Sandra Adams. The two employees of Oleson’s Food Stores in Michigan are pursuing a class action lawsuit with free legal assistance from Foundation staff attorneys. They contend that United Food and Commercial Workers Local 876 (UFCW) union’s check-off revocation restrictions violate federal labor law.
Michigan’s Right to Work protections, which were signed into law by Governor Snyder in 2012, make union membership and financial support strictly voluntary. However, union officials frequently block workers from exercising their legal rights. Robbie Ohlendorf and Sandra Adams, a part-time stocking clerk and a cashier respectively at Oleson’s Foods Stores, found this out when they attempted to exercise their right to end payments to UFCW officials in 2016.
When the two submitted letters to the UFCW Local 876 revoking their authorization for the union to collect dues, UFCW officials rejected their attempt. The officials cited a “window period” and certified mail rule, which require any revocation to take place only in an arbitrary union-defined time period and only by certified mail.
Believing UFCW’s policies violated their rights, Ohlendorf and Adams turned to National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys for help. With free Foundation-provided legal representation, the pair filed a federal class-action lawsuit in December 2016 against UFCW Local 876. They brought the lawsuit on the grounds that union officials’ restrictions violate their statutory rights and breach the union’s duty of fair representation by limiting dues revocations to a “window period” and demanding that such requests be made via certified mail.
After a Western Michigan District Court judge ruled that the dues deduction authorizations containing the restrictions were binding, Ohlendorf and Adams appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in March declined to overturn the district court’s ruling. For the first time, the Court of Appeals also held that employees cannot bring a lawsuit statutorily challenging a union’s restrictions on revocations.
If their petition is granted and the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the two workers’ lawsuit may have a resounding impact on whether employees can sue in federal courts to challenge union-imposed window periods, which are frequently used by union officials to prevent workers from exercising their legal right to stop dues payments in Right to Work states.
“Unions have a long history of using these so-called ‘window period’ rules to block workers from exercising their legal rights and continue to seize forced dues against their will,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Even in Right to Work states, Big Labor officials will concoct new methods to keep extracting dues from workers—and now the Supreme Court will have a chance to weigh in and potentially put an end to these abusive union practices.”
“Arbitrary union limitations on ending dues payments violates union officials’ duty not to use their government-granted monopoly powers to discriminate against workers who exercise their legal rights to resign from union ranks,” continued Mix.
National Right to Work Foundation Launches Task Force to Defend and Enforce Janus Supreme Court Victory
MyJanusRights.org offers free legal assistance to public employees seeking to enforce right to cut off union fees as protected by Janus v. AFSCME decision
Springfield, VA (June 28, 2018) – Today the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced the creation of a task force to defend the rights of government employees as protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME.
The Foundation’s Janus Task Force includes veteran Foundation staff attorney William Messenger, who successfully argued Janus v. AFSCME before the Supreme Court and other staff attorneys who worked on the case.
The National Right to Work Foundation has also established a stand-alone website to assist workers in learning their rights and providing guidance on how to exercise them. That site, www.MyJanusRights.org, directs workers to the Foundation’s legal aid program for free assistance in exercising their First Amendment rights protected by the Janus decision. Foundation legal aid can also be obtained through www.nrtw.org or by calling 1-800-336-3600.
The Foundation is offering free legal aid to all government workers who wish to refrain from union membership and union payments. The Foundation’s eighteen staff attorneys defend workers’ rights in more than 200 cases each year, all at no cost to the employees aided.
“The victory in Janus means that public-sector workers can no longer be forced to pay dues or fees to union officials to keep their jobs,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “Unfortunately, experience shows us that union officials frequently ignore restrictions on their power over workers, which is why we are establishing this task force to assist workers who want to enforce their new Janus rights.”
The Foundation has a long history of assisting employees seeking to exercise their Right to Work protections. Defending and enforcing Right to Work protections has long been one of the most critical tasks Foundation staff attorneys undertake. Any public-sector worker who has questions about his or her rights, or encounters any resistance or abuse while trying to exercise his or her workplace rights, is encouraged to contact Foundation staff attorneys for free legal aid.
Supreme Court Vacates Decision Against Homecare Providers Seeking to Recover Union Fees, Remands in Light of Janus Ruling
Court of Appeals ordered to reconsider case seeking return of $32 million in union fees seized by SEIU without providers’ consent
Washington, DC (June 28, 2018) – This morning the U.S. Supreme Court granted, vacated, and remanded Riffey v. Rauner, asking the Court of Appeals to reconsider the case in light of the new precedent set in the National Right to Work Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME decision. A group of Illinois home care providers filed Riffey with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The case seeks the return of over $32 million in fees seized by SEIU union officials in a scheme declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Riffey v. Rauner is a continuation of the 2014 Foundation-won Supreme Court Harris v. Quinn case. In Harris, the Court ruled that a forced dues scheme imposed by the state of Illinois, in which over 80,000 individual homecare providers in Illinois were unionized and thus required to pay union fees, violated the First Amendment.
In 2014, the case was re-designated Riffey v. Rauner and remanded to the District Court to settle remaining issues, including whether or not tens of thousands of providers who had never joined the union would receive refunds of the money taken from them unlawfully by the SEIU. In June 2016, the District Court ruled that, despite the Supreme Court ruling in Harris, the SEIU did not have to repay the funds. Foundation staff attorneys appealed that ruling to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed, claiming that, even though these workers never consented to their money being taken for forced dues, they did not suffer First Amendment injury.
Foundation staff attorneys earlier this year asked the Supreme Court to grant certiorari and hear the case to clarify that it is a violation of the First Amendment when fees are taken from nonmembers without their consent. After the Court released its ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, declaring it a First Amendment violation for public sector workers to be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, the Court granted certiorari in Riffey, vacated the lower court’s ruling, and remanded the case back to the Court of Appeals.
“With the Supreme Court remanding Riffey, we are one step closer toward vindicating the rights of the tens of thousands of victims, many whom are family members caring for disabled children in their own homes,” commented National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Supreme Court already ruled in the Foundation’s 2014 Harris v. Quinn case that the scheme violated the First Amendment. It is long past time that the over $32 million illegally seized by SEIU union bosses be returned.”
“Now, with the new protections for workers afforded by our landmark Janus v. AFSCME victory, it is critical to establish that unions cannot require individuals to ‘opt out’ of union dues that they cannot be required to pay in the first place,” continued Mix. “Union officials are already using such ‘opt-out’ schemes nationwide to limit workers’ constitutional protections. Ultimately, a clear ruling by the Supreme Court on this issue is needed to ensure that individuals who never joined a union cannot be required to take affirmative steps simply to protect their First Amendment rights.”