NYC University Professors Challenge Forced Union ‘Representation’ in Lawsuit Detailing Union Anti-Semitic Speech and Actions
CUNY professors challenge New York State law that forces them to be represented by union hierarchy that ostracizes and discriminates against them
New York, NY (January 13, 2022) – Six City University of New York (CUNY) professors have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) union and others. The suit challenges the New York State law (“Taylor Law”) that PSC union officials use to force the professors under their monopoly “representation,” even though none of the professors are union members and all wish to dissociate completely from the union due to its extreme ideology and poor representation. The professors are receiving free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and The Fairness Center.
According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, plaintiffs Avraham Goldstein, Michael Goldstein, Frimette Kass-Shraibman, Mitchell Langbert, Jeffrey Lax, and Maria Pagano oppose PSC “based largely on its ideological and political advocacy” and their dissatisfaction with the union’s exclusive control over their working conditions. The complaint further details that “[a]ll but one of the plaintiffs are Jewish,” and several chose to dissociate from PSC because of a June 2021 union resolution that “Plaintiffs view as anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish, and anti-Israel,” as well as other actions taken “in a manner that harms the Jewish plaintiffs and singles them out for opprobrium, hatred, and harassment based on their religious, ethnic, and/or moral beliefs and identity.”
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are CUNY, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, and New York Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) Chairman John Wirenius, for the state’s role in enforcing the union’s monopoly “representation.” The suit notes that “[d]espite Plaintiffs’ resignations from membership in PSC, Defendants…, acting in concert and under color of state law, force all Plaintiffs to continue to utilize PSC as their exclusive bargaining representative.”
Lawsuit: Jewish Professors and Others Compelled to Fund, Associate with Union Even After Bullying and Threats
The complaint recounts the various ways plaintiffs report being discriminated against by union and university agents. It says that Prof. Michael Goldstein “has experienced anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist attacks from members of PSC, including what he sees as bullying, harassment, destruction of property, calls for him to be fired, organization of student attacks against him, and threats against him and his family.” Goldstein now has a guard accompany him on campus, the complaint notes.
Prof. Lax, the complaint says, already received in a separate case a letter of determination from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “that CUNY and PSC leaders discriminated against him, retaliated against him, and subjected him to a hostile work environment on the basis of religion.” Prof. Lax “has felt marginalized and ostracized by PSC because the union has made it clear that Jews who support the Jewish homeland, the State of Israel, are not welcome,” the complaint reads.
The lawsuit asserts that the PSC union, acting under the Taylor Law, is violating the professors’ First Amendment right of free association by compelling them “to associate with PSC, and to therefore be associated with PSC’s speech and PSC positions with which Plaintiffs vehemently disagree and believe to be anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.”
The lawsuit also notes that the professors are similarly being forced to associate with CUNY employees in the PSC union “bargaining unit” who “do not share their political views and who espouse views Plaintiffs believe to be anti-Semitic or anti-Israel,” another violation of their First Amendment rights. Additionally, the plaintiffs are “forced into the same bargaining unit with CUNY instructional staff, such as part-time adjuncts, whose employment interests diverge from their own.”
The complaint contends finally that PSC union bosses are violating the First Amendment as detailed in the 2018 National Right to Work Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, in which the Justices ruled it a First Amendment violation to force public employees to fund union activities as a condition of keeping their jobs, or to take union dues from public employees’ paychecks without their individual and affirmative consent.
Although Professors Avraham Goldstein, Kass-Shraibman, and Langbert each resigned their union memberships and attempted to cut off dues, the complaint explains that “Defendants PSC and the City or DiNapoli have taken and continue to take and/or have accepted and continue to accept union dues from certain Plaintiffs’ wages as a condition of employment…” in violation of Janus.
Suit Seeks Overturn of New York State Law Forcing Union Power on Professors, Damages
The lawsuit seeks to stop the defendants from “certifying or recognizing PSC, or any other union, as Plaintiffs’ exclusive representative without their consent” and “enforcing any provisions…that require Plaintiffs to provide financial support to PSC.” It also demands that the court declare “Section 204 of the Taylor Law…unconstitutional under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to the extent that it requires or authorizes PSC to be Plaintiffs’ exclusive representative…”
Also sought are refunds of the “dues seized from the wages of Plaintiffs A. Goldstein, Kass-Shraibman, and Langbert” in violation of their First Amendment Janus rights and compensatory damages for “Defendants’ unlawful interference with and deprivation” of the professors’ constitutional rights.
“By forcing these professors into a union collective against their will, the state of New York mandates that they associate with union officials and other union members who take positions that are deeply offensive to these professors’ most fundamental beliefs,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Going as far back as the 1944 Steele v. Louisville & Nashville Railway Co decision, the Supreme Court has recognized that union bosses misuse their government-granted monopoly bargaining powers to take offensive positions that are directly contrary to the interests of many employees who are forced under a union’s so-called ‘representation’ against their will.”
“New York State’s Taylor Law authorizes such unconscionable compulsion. It is time federal courts fully protect the rights of government employees to freely exercise their freedom to dissociate from an unwanted union, whether their objections are religious, cultural, financial, or otherwise,” added Mix.
Employees voted nearly 2-1 to remove unwanted Teamsters ‘representation’
Atchison, KS (January 12, 2022) – Distribution center workers at Blish-Mize, a wholesale hardware distributor in Atchison, Kansas, voted to remove Teamsters Local 696 union officials from their workplace. With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Diane Dame, a Blish-Mize employee, filed a decertification petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The petition bore the signatures of enough of Dame’s coworkers to trigger an NLRB-supervised decertification election, during which a large majority of the employees voted to oust Teamsters officials from their workplace.
Yesterday, NLRB regional officials tallied the ballots and announced the workers had voted 26-14 to remove the Teamsters. Now, barring any legal challenges from Teamsters bosses, the workers at this location will no longer be subject to union monopoly control.
In the past year alone, Foundation attorneys helped numerous workers remove unwanted Teamsters officials from workplaces across the country. Thanks to “blocking charge” reforms adopted by the Trump NLRB in 2020 at the Foundation’s urging, workers have been able to act on their desire to oust unpopular union officials with far fewer delays.
The “blocking charge” reforms prevent a union’s unfair labor practice charges against employers from halting decertification elections. Now, except in extraordinary circumstances, even if charges are filed, employees still have a chance to vote immediately and know the results. Before the reforms went into effect, even charges that ultimately proved meritless could delay an election for months or years.
“Diane Dame and her coworkers exercised their right to free themselves from unwanted Teamsters boss control,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “We hope that Teamsters officials respect the choice made by the workers they claim to represent, and don’t resort to legal tricks to try to remain in power in a workplace where it’s clear they aren’t wanted.”
Carpentersville firefighters collected enough signatures for election whether to boot SEIU, but union officials are now attempting to block the vote
Chicago, IL (January 10, 2022) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Village of Carpentersville firefighters are defending their right to remove unpopular Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials from power at their workplace. Leading the effort is Carpentersville firefighter Nick Salzmann, who submitted a decertification petition to the Illinois Labor Relations Board (ILRB) seeking an employee vote whether to oust the union.
The ILRB is the Illinois state agency responsible for adjudicating workplace disputes between union officials, Illinois government agencies, and Illinois public employees. Although the ILRB was prepared to schedule a decertification vote for later this month in response to Salzmann and his coworkers’ petition, SEIU union bosses levied “blocking charges” against Village of Carpentersville officials in an attempt to stall the vote. Foundation attorneys are now assisting Salzmann in opposing the delay.
SEIU union officials control contracts for all part-time firefighters in Carpentersville, including Salzmann and his colleagues. Salzmann in September 2021 submitted enough employee signatures to trigger the decertification election under state law. However, SEIU officials seek to block the employee action citing an unrelated incident that occurred after the employees’ petition was filed.
Foundation staff attorneys regularly help rank-and-file employees exercise their right to boot unwanted union officials out of their workplaces. In the past year alone, the Foundation successfully aided Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center technicians in Las Vegas, Rush University maintenance workers in Chicago, Main Street Car Wash employees in New York City, Airgas and XPO Logistics workers in Southern California, and others in obtaining votes to nix unpopular unions.
Most recently, Foundation staff attorneys are also assisting St. Vincent Hospital nurses in Worcester, MA, with their effort to vote out Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) officials. MNA bosses ordered a more than 300-day strike against the hospital – the longest in Massachusetts history – during which hundreds of nurses signed a decertification petition demanding a vote to oust MNA.
Thanks to Foundation-advocated reforms the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) adopted in 2020, what used to be “blocking charges” now rarely stifle employee requests for decertification votes in private sector workplaces covered by the National Labor Relations Act, and are generally dealt with after votes have been tallied. However, Illinois public sector employees are instead under the jurisdiction of the ILRB.
“Mr. Salzmann and his coworkers, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the citizens of Carpentersville, certainly don’t deserve to have their right to dispense with unwanted union ‘representation’ vitiated by the very union bosses who claim to serve them,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It’s also ridiculous that Illinois law permits union bosses to delay employee votes simply by accusing the employer of often-unrelated alleged wrongdoing, making employees’ free choice subordinate to union bosses’ thirst to remain in power.”
“Foundation attorneys will fight for Mr. Salzmann and his colleagues until they are able to make their voices heard,” Mix added.
National Right to Work Foundation Attorneys Assist Hundreds of St. Vincent Hospital Nurses Seeking to Remove MNA Union
Many nurses reported union harassment and bullying during 300+ day union boss ordered strike, now they seek vote to remove union
Worcester, MA (January 4, 2022) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation are now representing Richard Avola, a nurse at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, MA, in his and his colleagues’ push to eject unpopular Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) union bosses from the hospital. Avola filed a “decertification petition” in late December with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), accompanied by hundreds of his coworkers’ signatures seeking an NLRB vote whether to remove the union.
Avola and his coworkers’ petition comes as a protracted strike MNA bosses ordered against St. Vincent Hospital has drawn to a close. Media reports indicate that union militants harassed and bullied nurses who returned to the hospital to care for patients during the over 300-day strike. Union partisans reportedly put photographs of working nurses on strike paraphernalia and took illicit pictures of nurses’ license plates. Despite credible reports of union harassment of nurses who exercised their right to work, high-profile elected officials including U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren expressed support for the union boss-ordered strike.
In response to inquiries from nurses impacted by the union bosses’ strike order, Foundation staff attorneys in March issued a legal notice informing St. Vincent nurses of their right to work during the strike and to cut off dues payments to the MNA hierarchy. The notice offered free legal aid to St. Vincent nurses who encountered union pushback in the exercise of their individual rights.
Foundation attorneys have helped nurses and hospital employees in several cases in recent years. In October, nurse Jeanette Geary won her decade-long case against United Nurses and Allied Professionals bosses in Rhode Island who ignored her right not to fund union lobbying. Foundation attorneys have also represented Swedish Medical Center employees in Seattle, a therapist who successfully decertified the union at Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas, Rush University Medical Center workers in Chicago, a nurse at Corpus Christi Medical Center in Texas, and others.
“It’s easy to see why Mr. Avola and his coworkers want to oust MNA operatives from St. Vincent Hospital: Union bosses forced nurses to endure a gruelingly long strike, while those who went back to work and refused to abandon their patients faced harassment and intimidation tactics,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys will fight to ensure that St. Vincent hospital nurses can freely exercise their right to dispense with unwanted union ‘representation,’ and will battle any union boss attempts to hamper that right.”
After NLRB refused to tally 2020 election results to enforce ‘contract bar,’ subsequent vote reveals widespread opposition to union bosses
Selbyville, DE (December 20, 2021) – In June and July of 2020, employees at the Mountaire Farms poultry plant in Selbyville, Delaware held a union decertification election on whether to remove officials of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union from their workplace. In April of 2021, union lawyers convinced the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to destroy the hundreds of ballots employees had cast before they were ever counted. Last week, a second vote conducted by the NLRB confirmed that nearly a year and a half later, Mountaire Farms employees decisively opposed the UFCW in a 356-80 vote.
The summer 2020 vote was requested by Mountaire employee Oscar Cruz Sosa, who received free legal representation from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Cruz Sosa sent a petition signed by many of his coworkers to the NLRB requesting a vote. The election was held, but the ballots were impounded while the Board considered whether its non-statutory “contract bar” policy should invalidate the election.
The “contract bar” prevents workers from holding a decertification vote, for up to three years, while a union monopoly bargaining contract with their employer remains in effect. Foundation attorneys urged the Board to reverse the bar because it is not found in the text of the National Labor Relations Act, and serves only to protect unpopular union bosses from worker accountability.
Ultimately, the Board sided with union lawyers, upheld the “contract bar,” and threw out the ballots cast by workers at the 800-employee facility. The employees were forced to wait almost a year for the contract UFCW bosses had with their employer to expire before beginning anew the process for another election.
National Right to Work Legal Defense President Mark Mix issued the following statement about the election results:
Despite what we now know to be overwhelming opposition to their presence at Mountaire Farms, UFCW officials took advantage of the NLRB’s rules to block a decertification vote for over a year and a half. The vote tally only emphasizes the injustice of the NLRB’s April decision to apply the “contract bar” policy and destroy these workers’ ballots, leaving them trapped paying compulsory union dues despite such massive opposition to union officials’ so-called “representation.”
While we’re under no illusions that the Biden NLRB, stacked with former union officials, will end this longstanding impediment to workers’ right to free themselves of an unwanted union, this saga demonstrates why the injustice that is the non-statutory “contract bar” must be ended by a future Board.
Construction Workers’ Unanimous Vote to Remove Union Certified, Union Officials Drop Bid to Overturn Election
2020 Labor Board reforms stopped union boss attempt to block election, resulting in 13-0 vote against union ‘representation’
Houston, TX (December 17, 2021) – Yesterday the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) formally certified the results of a union decertification election in which workers at MDS Boring & Drilling in Houston voted unanimously to remove International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) officials from their workplace. The overwhelming election results were finalized after union officials dropped charges they had filed against the company that could have used by union lawyers to overturn the result.
Ballots were mailed to eligible employees on October 22 after Seth Patrick, an MDS Boring employee, petitioned the NLRB for a vote to remove IUOE officials from his workplace. He filed his petition with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, and collected signatures from enough of his coworkers to trigger an NLRB-conducted decertification election.
On November 19, the NLRB tallied the results and announced that the workers had voted unanimously 13-0 to remove IUOE Local 450 officials. However, the NLRB would not then certify the result because union officials had previously filed unfair labor practice charges against MDS Boring that served to delay certification of the election results.
Under the NLRB’s old rules, such “blocking charge” allegations against an employer would have been grounds for cancelling the vote or delaying it for months or even years until the charges were resolved. Using the “blocking charge” tactic, sometimes repeatedly, union officials often trapped workers into union ranks nearly indefinitely, despite overwhelming worker opposition to union affiliation. In states without Right to Work laws that make financial support of unions voluntary, this incentivized union bosses to drag out the process so they could collect more forced dues from workers.
However, thanks to Foundation-backed “blocking charge” reforms adopted by the NLRB in 2020, elections themselves cannot be delayed by union litigation. Instead, a vote is held, and any extraneous litigation occurs after the election results are announced. In the case of MDS Boring, the vote demonstrated that IUOE officials lacked the support of even a single worker, making it far more difficult for union officials to justify a drawn-out effort to remain in power.
“A unanimous vote proved beyond a doubt that MDS Boring workers didn’t want IUOE officials’ so-called ‘representation,’” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “Under the old system, union officials could have stalled the election for months or years to retain power. Thanks to the new Foundation-backed NLRB reforms, these workers were able to promptly hold the vote, which then demonstrated that each and every worker wanted the union out of their workplace.”
Notice: Despite union boss claims, workers who spend 30 days or less on the job cannot be forced to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of employment
Washington, DC (December 14, 2021) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has published a special legal notice for workers in transportation, retail, foodservice, and other industries who have been hired temporarily to meet demand during the 2021 holiday season. The notice warns that union officials can and often do deceive temporary staff into joining or paying dues to a union with which they do not wish to associate, and details the rights that employees have to resist such illegal demands.
The notice also provides contact information for the Foundation’s staff attorneys so temporary workers can obtain free legal assistance in exercising their right to be free of unwanted union affiliation. In one instance, Foundation attorneys aided a Stockton, CA, seasonal UPS worker, who received a paycheck for $0 after UPS management deducted full union dues from his paycheck at the behest of Teamsters union officials.
The full notice is available in both English and Spanish here: https://www.nrtw.org/special-notice-for-all-seasonal-and-temporary-employees/.
“If you are a temporary worker in any state, regardless of whether it has Right to Work protections,” the notice reads, “you do not necessarily have to join a union or pay union fees as a condition of employment for your temporary job. Union officials and some employers may wrongly tell you it is necessary for you to join a union or pay union fees, but there are some stipulations.”
State Right to Work protections ensure that no private-sector worker can be forced to financially support a union just to stay employed. However, even in non-Right to Work states where private-sector employees can normally be compelled to pay a portion of union dues just to keep their jobs, the notice explains that seasonal workers “should understand first and foremost that if you are working for LESS THAN 30 DAYS on the job, then you are not legally obligated to pay union fees or join a union.”
The notice also urges temporary workers not to sign any documents authorizing union membership or permitting union officials to deduct dues directly out of their wages, explaining that forcing a worker to sign either kind of document is illegal. “Forced union membership could trap you into paying union dues and fees well after you have ended your seasonal employment,” the notice reads.
Finally, the notice encourages seasonal employees to reach out immediately to the Foundation’s legal team if they encounter pressure from their employer or union officials or have questions about their situation.
“American workers who step up during the holidays and go the extra mile to make the season special do not deserve to be subjected to union boss coercion, but Foundation staff attorneys have encountered countless situations in which greedy union bosses misled new workers who don’t understand their rights,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Seasonal workers should not hesitate to contact the Foundation if they believe they are being forced to fund or otherwise associate with an unwanted union in violation of their legal rights.”