News Release

Rhode Island School of Design Technician Wins Settlement from Local Teacher Union

Union officials refused to follow Supreme Court precedents

Providence, RI (February 4, 2013) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) technician has won an informal settlement from a local union for violating his rights.

The settlement stems from a federal unfair labor practice charge Robert Vennerbeck of Providence filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional office in Boston against the RISD Technical Association union – an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) union.

Vennerbeck resigned formal union membership and revoked his union dues deduction authorization – a form used to take union dues from workers' paychecks. The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that workers have the right to refrain from full-dues-paying union membership. Because Rhode Island does not have Right to Work protections making union affiliation completely voluntary, workers who refrain from formal union membership may still be forced to pay part of union dues to keep their jobs. However, nonmember workers cannot be required to pay union dues spent for union political activities and member-only events.

Vennerbeck charged that union officials refused to follow federal disclosure requirements outlined under Supreme Court precedent despite Vennerbeck's repeated requests. In addition, the charge filed with the NLRB stated that union officials refused to provide him with an independently-audited financial breakdown of union expenditures and the opportunity to challenge before an impartial decision maker the amount of forced union fees he must pay.

In late September, union officials demanded Vennerbeck be fired from his job in an apparent attempt to retaliate against him for exercising his rights.

The settlement waives all back union dues from the past two years, rescinds the union bosses' demand to have Vennerbeck fired from his job, and requires union officials to post a notice in the workplace informing workers of their right to refrain from union membership.

"RISD Technical Association union officials were forced to back off from their intimidation and threats toward a worker who had the temerity to not toe the union boss line and pay for their political agenda," said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. "Rhode Island desperately needs a Right to Work law making union membership and dues payments strictly voluntary."

Twenty-four states have Right to Work protections for employees. Public polling shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans and union members support the principle of voluntary unionism.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

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