Chicago Medical Center nurses kept in the dark about their rights as union bosses order them to abandon patients during strike
Chicago, IL (April 20, 2011) – With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, a Chicago nurse has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the National Nurses United (NNU) union. The charges allege that NNU officials stopped her from opting out of certain union dues and attempted to force her to join the union.
Jennifer Heyd, a University of Chicago Medical Center nurse, was first told that she had to authorize union dues deductions and sign a NNU membership card in November of 2010. Although Heyd informed union officials that she did not want to join the union or pay full dues, NNU bosses told her that she would be fired if she did not become a member or authorize dues deductions.
Because Illinois lacks a Right to Work law, employees can be forced to pay certain union dues as a condition of employment. However, the Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent Communication Workers v. Beck holds that no employee can be charged for union activities unrelated to workplace bargaining, including dues collected for members-only events or political activism. Moreover, no worker can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment.
In January 2011, Heyd attempted to contact union officials to explain her desire to refrain from union membership. Although she received no response, Heyd contacted the union again in February to restate her opposition to joining the union and paying full dues. A union official then informed Heyd that she had to sign a membership card and authorize union dues deductions or be fired. According to the union, the payroll department would take care of Heyd’s Beck objection.
Despite this assurance and the fact that Heyd sent a letter to the union restating her Beck objection, the NNU has never responded to Heyd’s request to opt out of full dues. Moreover, other nurses in the bargaining unit were also informed that they had to join the union or be fired.
Heyd’s charges will now be investigated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
“Hard-working nurses shouldn’t be forced to pay tribute to union officials or join an organization they have no interest in supporting just to keep a job,” said Patrick Semmens, Legal Information Director for the National Right to Work Foundation. “In the midst of a controversial strike, it’s particularly important that nurses be made aware of their right to resign from union membership at any time, after which they can choose to return to work free from retaliatory union strike fines.”