Union officials illegally forced workers to become UAW members and pay full dues without informing them of their rights
Belleville, MI (May 6, 2011) – With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, a Wellington Industries employee has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 174 and UAW Independent Local One unions for forcing her to pay full union dues and enrolling Wellington employees in the UAW without their consent.
Brenda Kowalski, a welder at the Wellington Belleville plant, and over 150 of her coworkers were threatened with termination by UAW officials if they refused to join the union, sign dues deduction authorization cards, and pay full union dues.
Because Michigan lacks a Right to Work law, employees can be forced to pay certain union dues as a condition of employment. However, no worker can be forced to join a union just to keep a job. The Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent Communication Workers v. Beck also holds that nonunion employees cannot be forced to pay for union activities unrelated to workplace bargaining, such as politics and political lobbying.
Despite these protections, UAW officials failed to notify workers at the Belleville plant of their rights to refrain from formal union membership and opt-out of full union dues. UAW officials also failed to provide Wellington employees with an audited breakdown of union expenditures, which is required by law to help nonunion workers determine what dues they must pay as a condition of employment.
Because no one at the Belleville facility was informed of their rights by UAW officials, Kowalski’s charges call for the immediate refund of all union dues collected for non-bargaining activities by Local 174 operatives. The charges will now be investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.
“This episode shows why Michigan so desperately needs a Right to Work law, which would make union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary,” said Patrick Semmens, Legal Information Director for the National Right to Work Foundation.