Union officials ordered employee removed and banned from travel assignments for exercising rights under Wisconsin Right to Work law
Green Bay, WI (March 1, 2017) – With free legal representation by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a Wisconsin nuclear plant worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against his employer, NextEra Energy, IBEW Locals 204 and 2150, IBEW Local System Council U-4, and the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 555 for illegal discrimination and retaliation in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
Clifford Teeter of Augusta, Wisconsin, is employed by NextEra Energy at its Two Rivers facility as a Lead Auxiliary Operator. Currently, the workers at the Two Rivers facility are under NextEra’s union monopoly bargaining contract with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2150. NextEra also has an agreement with three other IBEW and UWUA union locals to allow NextEra management to send workers on temporary work assignments at NextEra plants in other states.
In July 2016, NextEra and IBEW Local 2150 sent out an email to Teeter and his co-workers asking for volunteers for a month long travel assignment at NextEra’s facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Teeter volunteered for the assignment and was officially selected by NextEra for the assignment.
On September 12, Teeter notified NextEra and Local 2150 that he had resigned his formal union membership and revoked his dues checkoff authorization. Under federal law an employee can resign his formal union membership at any time, and it is illegal for union officials to retaliate against an employee for choosing to exercise this right. In addition, Right to Work laws in 28 states – including Wisconsin and Iowa – give employees the right to cut off all dues and fees to the union, leaving union membership and dues payment completely voluntary.
Soon after the resignation, Local 2150 officials informed Teeter that they were having NextEra remove him from the travel assignment because he was no longer a member in good standing with the Local. NextEra complied with the request, removing Teeter from the assignment and giving his spot to the next most senior union member.
Teeter was later informed by Local 2150 officials that he would only be eligible for future travel assignments if he rejoined the Local. Faced with this discrimination, Teeter reached out to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal aid, and filed federal unfair labor practice charges against NextEra and the four unions involved in the agreement, with the help of Foundation staff attorneys.
The federal unfair labor practice charges allege that the resource sharing agreement discriminates against workers who choose to exercise their right to disassociate from a union. The discriminatory actions of NextEra and the associated union local officials deprived Teeter of overtime, incentive, and bonus pay, as well as other career opportunities that he would have earned by going on the travel assignment.
“Unfortunately, even in states like Wisconsin that have Right to Work protections, union bosses are willing to use any tactic, legal or illegal, to retaliate against workers who exercise their right to resign their membership and cut off dues payments to a union they do not support,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Wisconsin’s Right to Work law is very clear: no worker can be punished for their choice to abstain from union membership. This case shows that vigilance is necessary to ensure that Right to Work protections for employees are vigorously enforced.”
Mr. Teeter’s case is one of many relating to Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, which was enacted in 2015. Foundation staff attorneys have submitted amicus briefs in federal and state court in response to union boss lawsuits attempting to overturn the Right to Work protections for Wisconsin employees. A federal judge upheld the law and the state lawsuit is pending. In addition, since Wisconsin enacted Right to Work, Foundation attorneys have filed 19 actions defending and enforcing Right to Work protections for workers, with 8 actions currently active.
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.