UFCW officials failed to provide legally required disclosures to justify mandatory fees they demanded Danville teenager pay or else be fired

Danville, CA (May 7, 2018) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a teenage, part-time Safeway employee has filed federal charges against a local union for demanding he pay union fees without providing the legally required information on union dues and spending.

Sixteen-year-old Christopher Ratana-Kelley filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5. The charge states that by failing to disclose their local expenditures or to verify how union fees were calculated, UFCW officials violated his protected legal rights.

When Ratana-Kelley became a courtesy clerk at Safeway, UFCW officials demanded he pay union dues or fees despite choosing not to become a union member. California lacks a Right to Work law, which means workers can be required to pay some fees to union officials as a condition of employment. However, workers cannot be required to fund any activities unrelated to union bargaining, such as political action, and unions must follow certain procedures to justify the amount of the compulsory fee.

When the teenager objected to paying any fees to the UFCW beyond what he could legally be required to pay and asked for a breakdown of how his fees were calculated, union officials failed to provide the information. Concerned by being kept in in the dark about how his fees would be spent, Ratana-Kelley turned to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance in filing charges. The NLRB will now investigate the charges.

Because California does not have a Right to Work law, employees can be required to pay dues or fees to unions to keep their jobs, even if they are not union members. However, in the Foundation-won United States Supreme Court Beck decision, the Court provided some protection to workers by stating that employees can only be forced to pay union dues for certain union activity. Employees also have the right to have an independent third party audit the union expenditures and certify that the percentage of dues that nonmembers are forced to pay does not include political spending and other non-collective bargaining expenses.

“Christopher is a teenager just entering the workforce,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a Goliath, and Christopher has chosen to hold the union giants accountable for their flagrant neglect of workers’ rights. This case underscores the need for California to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary.”

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, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.

Posted on May 7, 2018 in News Releases