Class-action lawsuit for Michigan workers says union boss limitations on ending forced dues violate workers’ rights
Cincinnati, OH (February 1, 2018) – Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys are arguing in the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case brought by two Michigan grocery store employees against United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 876. The workers’ class-action lawsuit challenges the UFCW’s arbitrary window period and other unreasonable requirements that restrict Michigan workers from exercising their right to stop dues payment.
Michigan’s Right to Work protections – enacted in 2012 – make union membership and financial support strictly voluntary. However, union officials have repeatedly blocked workers from exercising their rights under the law. Robbie Ohlendorf and Sara Adams, a part-time stocking clerk and cashier respectively at Oleson’s Foods Stores, found this out when they attempted to exercise their right to end payments to UFCW officials.
During the summer of 2016, Ohlendorf and Adams submitted letters to the UFCW resigning from the union and revoking their authorization for the union to collect dues payments from their paychecks. Despite their revocations, UFCW union officials denied both employees’ requests to end payments by claiming the letters were not submitted during a union-created “window period” and were not sent by certified mail.
Believing their rights were being violated by UFCW policies, Ohlendorf and Adams turned to National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys for help challenging the policies. With free Foundation-provided legal representation, the pair filed a federal class-action lawsuit in December 2016 against the UFCW. They brought the lawsuit on the grounds that union officials violated their statutory rights, and those of their co-workers, as well as the union’s duty of fair representation by limiting dues revocations to a “window period” and by demanding that such requests be made via certified mail.
Unfortunately, a Western Michigan District Court judge sided with union lawyers, ruling that the dues deduction authorizations containing the restrictions were binding. Ohlendorf and Adams then appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals where their arguments are being heard today by a three-judge panel.
“As this case demonstrates, Robbie Ohlendorf, Sara Adams, and countless other Michigan workers are being trapped into paying forced dues against their will because union bosses have created hurdles solely to block them from exercising their rights,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “A favorable ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals would send the message that union bosses cannot limit employees’ rights through these arbitrary requirements. Leaving a union and cutting off union payments ought to be no more difficult than joining one.”
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.