27 Jun 2022

Hundreds of Minnesota Mayo Clinic Nurses Seek Vote to Free Themselves of Unwanted Union ‘Representation’

Posted in News Releases

Nurses signed decertification petition filed with Labor Board to end Minnesota Nurses Association officials’ monopoly bargaining powers

Mankato, MN (June 27, 2022) – Hundreds of healthcare workers at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, Minnesota have signed a petition seeking a vote on the removal of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) union, affiliated with the National Nurses United. The workers’ decertification petition was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 18 office in Minneapolis, MN with free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

Brittany Burgess, a registered nurse of the Mayo Clinic, filed the petition. The request seeking to end MNA union officials’ monopoly bargaining powers at the Mayo Clinic was signed by more than two hundred nurses in the bargaining unit, well over the number needed to trigger an NLRB-conducted secret ballot vote to remove the union.

Minnesota is not a Right to Work state, meaning workers can be forced to pay dues or fees to union officials as a condition of getting or keeping their jobs. If the workers’ vote is successful, MNA union officials will be stripped of their monopoly “representation” powers, including the ability to impose a forced dues requirement on the nurses in the bargaining unit.

National Right to Work Foundation legal aid has recently assisted workers in numerous successful decertification efforts across the nation, including workers in Kansas, Illinois, and Delaware. Because the NLRB has made the decertification process unnecessarily complicated, workers often need to turn to Foundation attorneys for free legal aid in navigating the process.

Foundation-advocated reforms to decertification elections that were adopted by the NLRB in 2020 have curtailed union officials’ abuse of so-called “blocking charges” to delay or block workers’ from exercising their right to decertify a union on the basis of unproven allegations made against an employer, often completely unrelated to workers’ desire to free themselves of the union. However, just days ago the Biden-appointed NLRB majority announced it was starting rulemaking to overturn those reforms and make it easier for union officials to block decertification votes no matter how many rank-and-file workers want a vote.

“Ms. Burgess and her coworkers, who provide lifesaving medical care to the people of Minnesota, should not have to be subjects of Minnesota Nurses Association union bosses whose so-called ‘representation’ they oppose,” commented National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “These nurses represent just one example in what has been a surge of decertification efforts over the past year, which makes it all the more outrageous that the Biden Board has announced it intends to give union bosses more power to block workers from exercising their statutory right to vote out unions they oppose.”

24 Jun 2022

Worker Advocate Slams Biden Labor Board Plan to Gut Reforms Protecting Workers’ Right to Vote Out Unwanted Unions

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Biden NLRB announces rulemaking to expand union boss power to block decertification votes and trap workers in union ranks opposed by rank-and-file

Washington, DC (June 24, 2022) – National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix today slammed the National Labor Relations Board’s announcement that it would be initiating rulemaking to overturn 2020 reforms that strengthened the ability of rank-and-file workers to hold votes to remove unwanted union representation:

“With this announcement, the Biden NLRB has signaled its abandonment of any pretense of protecting the free choice rights of workers opposed to union affiliation. While the Foundation-backed 2020 reforms provided much-needed protections of the right of workers to vote in secret on union ‘representation,’ the Biden-appointed majority is showing once again that its priority is protecting union boss power, even when it means undermining the clear, statutory rights of employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

“By seeking to destroy these modest checks on union boss control, the Biden NLRB will make it easier for workers to be trapped in union ranks, including forced dues payment, even when a majority of workers oppose union officials’ so-called ‘representation.’ This move may serve the interests of the Big Labor politicos who helped put Biden and his allies in Congress in office, but it is a blatant attack on the rights of the rank-and-file workers of America, who have overwhelmingly chosen not to affiliate with a labor union.”

Pro-Voting Reforms in Crosshairs of Union-Label NLRB

The 2020 reforms now targeted by the Biden NLRB changed how the agency deals with union “blocking charges,” which are filed by union officials to prevent rank-and-file employees from exercising their right to vote to remove (or “decertify”) a union.

Under old rules, union officials could block workers’ requested votes from taking place for months or even years by making any type of allegations against the employer. When applied properly, the 2020 changes prevent “blocking charges” from stopping an election in most cases, and permit unfair labor practice charges surrounding an election to be taken up usually only after a vote tally has been released.

In some Foundation cases, NLRB bureaucrats have blocked employee-requested elections based on “blocking charges” alleging employer misconduct unrelated to the workers’ desire to oust the union, or even based on supposed employer wrongdoing that took place outside of the employee unit seeking such a vote.

The NLRB in 2020 also substantially eliminated the so-called “voluntary recognition bar.” Union officials used this scheme to block workers from requesting a secret-ballot election after a union was installed as a monopoly bargaining agent through an abuse-prone “card check” drive.

“Card check” bypasses the NLRB secret-ballot process and lets union officials demand so-called “authorization cards” directly from workers – conduct that would be patently illegal in any secret-ballot setting.

The NLRB in 2020 instead reinstated a system secured by Foundation staff attorneys for workers in the 2007 Dana Corp. NLRB decision, which permitted workers to challenge the result of a “card check” drive by petitioning for a secret-ballot vote. Thousands of workers took advantage of the Dana process post-2007, but the Obama NLRB voided employees’ Dana rights in 2010.

Additionally, the NLRB in 2020 changed its rules to crack down on construction industry schemes through which employers and union bosses unilaterally install a union in a workplace without first providing proof of majority union support among the workers. Foundation staff attorneys represented a victim of such a scheme in a key case (Colorado Fire Sprinkler, Inc.) that ended when a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously reversed the Obama Board and ruled for the worker who had been unionized despite no evidence of majority employee support for the union.

21 Jun 2022

National Right to Work Foundation Slams Decision Trapping Michigan Construction Workers in Unpopular Union

Posted in News Releases

NLRB rules that ballots employees already cast in vote to oust union cannot be counted, highlighting Labor Board’s pro-union boss bias

Washington, DC (June 21, 2022) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, has permitted the destruction of hundreds of ballots already cast by Michigan Rieth-Riley Construction Company workers in an election whether to oust International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) union officials. The decision shuts down a years-long effort by Rieth-Riley employees to remove IUOE Local 324 officials, allowing the union to stifle the workers’ vote with questionable “blocking charges” against Rieth-Riley management.

Rieth-Riley employee Rayalan Kent led the effort to vote out IUOE union officials. With the assistance of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, he submitted two petitions in 2020 with enough worker support to trigger the NLRB’s administration of a “decertification vote.” A vote finally occurred in October 2020, but Regional NLRB officials in Detroit ruled, just hours before the ballots were to be counted, that union boss-concocted “blocking charges” invalidated the employees’ petition. The NLRB in Washington has now affirmed that decision.

Both rulings fly in the face of Foundation-backed reforms the NLRB adopted in 2020 regarding “blocking charges,” which provided that ballots in union decertification elections should be counted first before any unfair labor practice charges surrounding the election are dealt with. Moreover, even prior NLRB precedent required that an evidentiary hearing be held to determine whether there is any “causal nexus” between union allegations of employer misconduct and employee dissatisfaction engendering a union decertification effort. But the NLRB never held any such hearing in this case.

Settlements Foundation attorneys won in 2021 for Rieth-Riley employees Rob Nevins and Jesse London indicate that malfeasance by IUOE officials, not Rieth-Riley misdeeds, likely caused the company’s workers to push for the union’s ouster. London and Nevins decided to end their union memberships and keep working to support their families despite a union boss-ordered strike in 2019.

Nevins charged union officials with threatening to “blackball” him if he didn’t strike, and London reported that IUOE officials refused to hand over health insurance premium money they owed him for time he participated in the strike. The settlements mandated that IUOE union bosses not discriminate against London and Nevins for exercising their right to refrain from union membership, and also ordered them to pay London the health insurance premium money he was owed.

“The current decision demonstrates how the NLRB and its bureaucrats have twisted a law that is allegedly designed to protect the free choice rights of rank-and-file workers. Instead of supporting workers’ rights, this Board and past Boards have weaponized the National Labor Relations Act against workers solely to entrench union boss power,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Rather than apply the letter and spirit of the 2020 Election Protection rule, Joe Biden’s NLRB has undermined and rendered useless even those modest reforms. Given this awful ruling, it is now likely that Rieth-Riley workers’ votes to remove the union will simply be dropped in a trash can.”

Mix added: “Workers have a statutory right to vote out a union they oppose and NLRB bureaucrats should not be able to nullify that right on the basis of unproven and often unrelated allegations of employer misconduct.”

20 Jun 2022

Workers Slam Grocery Union Officials with Federal Charges for Illegal Fines Topping $3,000 for Working during UFCW Strike

Posted in News Releases

Charges: Workers weren’t formal union members and exercised legal right to work but were still subjected to excessive, punitive fines

Denver, Colorado (June 20, 2022) – Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed charges against United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 union for illegally levying fines against King Soopers grocery chain workers who chose to exercise their right to work during a strike. Charges against the union were filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The unlawful fines issued by union bosses against the workers are more per day than the workers earned in a day of work, totaling more than $3,000 throughout the 10 day strike.

UFCW officials demanded that workers strike against King Soopers grocery stores for more than a week in January 2022, impacting more than 8,000 employees. In response, Foundation staff attorneys issued a legal notice informing the affected workers of their rights that union officials often hide, including that the workers have the right to continue to work to support their families.

“The situation raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the legal notice reads. “That is why workers frequently contact the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation to learn how they can avoid fines and other oppressive union discipline for continuing to report to work.”

During past UFCW-instigated strikes workers faced similar unlawful fines, which union officials claim can only be disputed at internal union kangaroo courts. However, with free legal aid from the Foundation, workers have successfully challenged such fines on the grounds that union bosses have no authority to levy such fines against workers who are not fully voluntary union members.

As today’s charges note, that is the case for King Soopers grocery workers Nick Hall and Marcelo Ruybal, whom union bosses are threatening to fine $812 and $3,800 respectively despite them not being voluntary union members. According to one news report, UFCW Local 7 union officials threatened workers who exercised their right to work during the strike that they “shall be subject to a fine of $250 per day of the violation, as well as all monies earned by you from King Soopers during said dates of these violations.”

In a similar case for two Stop & Shop grocery workers in New England, Foundation staff attorneys won a settlement earlier against UFCW officials for issuing illegal fines for working during an April 2019 strike.  That settlement required UFCW union officials to post remedial rights notices in over 70 Stop & Shop stores and return dues seized from the two workers in violation of their rights.

“Once again union bosses have been caught red-handed retaliating against rank-and-file workers who exercised their rights to work despite the UFCW’s strike demands,’” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said. “No worker should have to pick between feeding their family and toeing the union line, and we’re proud to assist these workers in standing up to union bullies.”

“Other King Soopers workers facing similar fines should know they can reach out to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance in challenging such excessive, retaliatory fines,” added Mix.

17 Jun 2022

Southern IL Aluminum Worker Slams IBEW Union with Federal Charge for Illegally Seizing Dues for Politics

Posted in News Releases

Union officials had police bureau rescind benefit after employees exercised their First Amendment right to abstain from formal union membership & dues

Murphysboro, IL (June 17, 2022) – Penn Aluminum International employee Mary Beck has filed a federal charge against International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 702 after union officials unlawfully seized money from her wages without her consent and without proving that a contract mandating such deductions is even in effect.

As detailed in the charge, the Murphysboro aluminum worker informed local union officials twice that they have no legal authority to deduct money from her paycheck, but union officials ignored her and instead illegally continue to seize full union dues, including dues for union political activity.

Beck’s charge was filed at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 14 in St. Louis with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Additionally, her case says union officials violated federal labor law by refusing to even respond to her requests to stop dues deductions.

As Beck’s unfair labor practice charge notes, she sent a letter to IBEW union chiefs and her employer in January 2022, exercising her right to resign her union membership and end any union dues deductions she was not required to pay in order to keep her job. Her letter also demanded a copy of any contract that gives IBEW officials the power to require dues payment as a condition of employment. When she received no response, she redelivered this letter by hand in March 2022.

IBEW Union Bosses Didn’t Show They Can Legally Take Dues from Worker, Take Money Anyway

Because Illinois lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector employees, union officials can legally force workers in facilities under union control to pay some union fees just to stay employed. However, union bosses lose this legal privilege if there is no monopoly bargaining contract in effect between the union and management in the workplace. Under longstanding law, union officials must also gain consent from a worker before they can directly deduct compulsory fees from his or her paycheck.

In contrast, in the 27 Right to Work states, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary and the free choice of each individual worker.

Additionally, nonmember workers governed by a union monopoly bargaining contract have a right under the Foundation-won 1988 CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision to object to paying any union fees beyond what union officials claim goes toward core bargaining activities. This amount excludes money used for union political expenditures. Beck’s letter asked that all union deductions cease if IBEW bosses failed to provide a valid contract, and reduce her dues as per CWA v. Beck if they were able to provide such a contract.

To date, Beck’s charge says, the union has not responded to her written request, full union dues (including dues for politics) are still coming out of her paycheck, and she has not received a copy of a union contract.

Beck’s charge states that IBEW bosses are violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by “accepting fees from Charging Party’s paycheck without a consent or a collective bargaining agreement” and by “failing to respond in a timely manner to Charging Party’s January and March letters.” These actions violate Beck’s right under the NLRA to abstain from union activity, the charge says.

Illegal Forced-Dues-For-Politics Trickery Likely to Increase as Midterm Elections Near

Beck’s charge comes after union bosses spent near-record sums on politics during the 2020 election cycle. A report by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) released in 2021 revealed that union officials’ own filings show about $2 billion in political spending during the 2020 cycle, money primarily from dues-stocked union general treasuries, including dues from workers in non-Right to Work states who would be fired if they refused to financially support union activities. Moreover, other estimates strongly suggest that actual union spending on political and lobbying activities actually topped $12 billion in 2019-2020.

“IBEW union officials in Illinois, a non-Right to Work state, already have the legal power to demand that dissenting workers like Ms. Beck subsidize some union activities against their will. The fact they are taking money from her well in excess of the legal limit – months after she requested a stop – demonstrates they value power and influence far above workers’ individual rights,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As midterm elections near and union officials seek to defend their government-granted power to force workers to pay up or else be fired, workers should not hesitate to contact the Foundation to challenge forced-dues-for-politics situations like the one that Ms. Beck is facing.”

13 Jun 2022

Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital Lab Techs Secure Victory in Effort to Remove Unwanted Union

Posted in News Releases

After failing to block the vote using cynical legal arguments, OPEIU union officials ran away rather than face loss in decertification election

Rochester, MI (June 13, 2022) – Lab technicians at Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital in Michigan, have finally won their effort to be free of unwanted so-called” representation” by union officials of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 40. After workers secured a decertification vote over union officials’ objections, the union disclaimed interest in representing the bargaining unit rather than face a vote of the workers they had claimed to “represent.”

Ascension workers Alyse Gschwender and Delaney Warren received free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys during the decertification process before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The petition for the vote to remove OPEIU officials, which signed by numerous Ascension lab technicians, was filed April 6, 2022, by Ms. Warren. After she took a position outside of the bargaining unit, Ms. Gschwender became the petitioner.

During the protracted process, Foundation staff attorneys successfully fought off OPEIU union lawyers’ efforts to block the vote cited the pending sale of the facility by Ascension to LabCorp as grounds for rejecting the workers’ request for an election. Union lawyers had urged the NLRB to block a vote whether to remove the union on the grounds of an upcoming “cessation of operations” by the employer, a policy previously applied only to certification elections.

In briefs to the NLRB Foundation staff attorneys countered that such grounds for blocking the vote were unjustified both as a matter of law and considering the facts of Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital’s announcement regarding the potential transfer of the operation to LabCorp. Foundation attorneys also noted that the attempt to block the vote was likely a cynical attempt to keep power over the bargaining unit, because if the sale ultimately went through the union would have likely sought to block a decertification vote citing the NLRB-created “successor bar” that insulates union officials from decertification votes after an employer’s change in ownership.

The Board rejected the union lawyers’ arguments and scheduled a decertification vote by mail-in ballot with the votes set to be counted later this month. However, rather than go forward with a vote they apparently knew they were going to lose, OPEIU officials instead disclaimed interest in the unit, finally giving the workers the freedom from unwanted union representation they sought.

Because Michigan is one of 27 states with Right to Work protections for private sector employees, unions cannot force workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of keeping their jobs. However, even in Right to Work states union officials are empowered to impose monopoly representation on entire units of workers even over the objections of many workers within the unit, necessitating decertification elections to remove unwanted union “representation.”

“No worker anywhere should be forced under a union’s so-called ‘representation’ against their will. Foundation staff attorneys stand ready to provide legal aid to workers wanting to hold a decertification election to oust a union they oppose and believe they would be better off without,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case shows the lengths union lawyers will go to block workers from even holding votes to remove a union, even when union officials know that the vote will likely demonstrate that most workers want nothing to do with the union.”

9 Jun 2022

Teamsters Officials Hit With Federal Charges for Having USF Holland Worker Illegally Fired

Posted in News Releases

NLRB charges filed against union and employer after company fired worker for exercising his right not join the union

Jackson, MN (June 8, 2022) – Jannie Potgieter, who up until recently was a freight employee at industrial park USF Holland in Jackson, Minnesota, has filed federal charges against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 120 union and his employer. Mr. Potgieter’s charges say that Teamsters bosses became hostile because he exercised his right not to be a union member, and that USF Holland officials illegally terminated him at Teamster officials’ behest. Mr. Potgieter is receiving free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

Mr. Potgieter’s charges were filed on May 27, 2022, with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that enforces the National Labor Relations Act and adjudicates disputes among private sector employers, unions, and individual employees. The charges state that on May 18, 2022, a USF Holland manager discharged him because he exercised his rights under Communications Workers of America v. Beck (1988).

Because Minnesota lacks Right to Work protections for private sector employees, unions can force them to pay union fees as a condition of keeping their jobs. However, under Communications Workers v. Beck, a U.S. Supreme Court decision won by Foundation staff attorneys, formal union membership cannot be required, nor can payment of the part of dues used for non-bargaining expenditures like union political activities. In contrast, in the 27 states with Right to Work protections, union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.

Recently, Foundation attorneys aided Remmington Duk after his employer, Robert Basil Buick GMC, and International Association of Machinists (IAM) illegally terminated Mr. Duk for exercising his Beck rights. In that case both the employer and union quickly backed down, ultimately paying Duk more than $18,000 in settlements, in addition to being required to post notices informing other workers of their Beck rights.

“Foundation attorneys will continue to defend workers who are illegally threatened by union officials for exercising their rights, including not to become a formal union member and not to fund union political activities,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Employers that illegally fire workers at the behest of union officials will similarly be held accountable by Foundation attorneys.”

“Ultimately, this case shows why Minnesota workers need the protection of a Right to Work law to ensure all union payments strictly voluntary,” Mix added. “While Mr. Potgieter knew his rights enough not to simply give into Teamsters’ bosses illegal demands, there are almost certainly countless other workers who pay out of fear, not only for their livelihoods but also as a result of the Teamsters and other union bosses’ well-earned reputation for deploying thuggish tactics.”

6 Jun 2022

Worker Advocate Demands Department of Labor and Department of Justice Investigate Michigan SEIU Local’s “Serious Financial Malpractice”

Posted in News Releases

Michigan hospital workers seek to oust Healthcare Michigan union SEIU International recently put into trusteeship

Detroit, MI (June 6, 2022) – Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix formally asked the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney of Michigan, and the Office of Labor-Management Standards to investigate serious allegations of financial wrongdoing by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) affiliate Healthcare Michigan (HCMI). Foundation staff attorneys are providing free legal aid to workers at Sinai-Grace Hospital who are seeking a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decertification vote whether to remove HCMI officials from their workplace.

About the time the workers filed their second decertification petition to end the union’s so-called “representation” of the bargaining unit, the SEIU International announced it was putting the local into trusteeship due to serious and longstanding wrongdoing by local union officials. In her letter announcing the decision to take over the local, SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry concluded that there are “substantiated allegations of serious financial malpractice” and other issues of impropriety at HCMI.

Citing the SEIU’s trusteeship announcement, the National Right to Work Foundation President demanded that officials at the Department of Justice and Department of Labor also investigate HCMI union officials for illegally abusing their power, committing financial misdeeds, and possibly filing false reports with the Labor Department: “Any internal SEIU International investigation will be insufficient. There is a long history of union officials attempting to ignore or downplay corruption in their own ranks.”

The Sinai-Grace Hospital workers’ first petition seeking a vote to oust HCMI union officials was blocked after the NLRB sided with union lawyers in interpreting ambiguous union contract language to find that petition untimely. The sloppy contract language was negotiated by the union officials whom the SEIU International has now removed from power for, among other things, apparent malfeasance in properly accounting for how they spent workers’ dues money.

Undeterred by that NLRB ruling, the workers filed a second decertification petition after the contract with the vague language expired, again with sufficient number of signatures of Sinai-Grace Hospital employees to trigger the vote. NLRB Region 07 is expected to set dates to begin a decertification vote in the very near future.

“These latest developments show why these workers should not have been blocked in their earlier attempt to have a vote to oust HCMI from their workplace,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union officials frequently look the other way when confronted with wrongdoing by others within the union hierarchy, so it is telling that even an SEIU International top boss says HCMI officials are unfit to run the local.”

“This situation demonstrates that it is time to end Big Labor’s government-granted power to impose its so-called ‘representation’ on workers who don’t want anything to do with a union,” continued Mix. “Rank-and-file workers should not have to navigate the NLRB’s labyrinth of rules for decertification elections just to escape an unwanted union, and individual workers should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to have a union represent them.”

5 Jun 2022

Courageous Tennessean Wins Big in Union Discrimination Suit

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

LIUNA union official disparaged faith of employee and sent her priest ‘remedial church readings’

Dorothy Frame

“This is one of the greatest things I’ve ever done in my life,” Frame said of her victory over LIUNA officials. For more on her case watch our video with Frame’s Foundation attorney at the bottom of this page.

CLARKSVILLE, TN – Workers who seek free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation often stand up for their rights despite real threats union bosses make on their livelihoods and their ability to provide for their families. For Tennessee employee Dorothy Frame, who just won a major settlement against Laborers International Union (LIUNA) officials with Foundation aid, all that and more was at risk. She believed LIUNA officials’ forced-dues demands violated her religion.

Frame filed a complaint against LIUNA in November 2021, asserting that union officials illegally discriminated against her by forcing her, in violation of her Catholic beliefs, to fund the union’s activities through mandatory union dues payments. Frame voiced her religious objections to the union’s political activities, but union officials repeatedly rejected and ridiculed her request for a religious accommodation.

Under the settlement, as a condition of dismissing the lawsuit against LIUNA, union officials paid Frame $10,000 in damages. The settlement also required the LIUNA officials’ attorney to send an apology letter to Frame for the union’s inappropriate conduct.

Frame first requested a religious accommodation in 2019, when she sent “a letter informing [LIUNA] of the conflict between her religious beliefs and the requirement that she join or pay the Union.”

Tennessee has a Right to Work law ensuring that private sector workers in the state cannot be compelled to pay dues as a condition of employment. But Fort Campbell, the location of Blanchfield Army Community Hospital where Frame worked, may be an exclusive “federal enclave” not subject the state’s Right to Work law.

LIUNA Officials: Worker’s Religious Objections to Forced Dues ‘Illegitimate’

Frame’s former employer, J&J Worldwide Service, maintains a union monopoly contract with LIUNA union bosses that forces employees to pay union dues or fees to keep their jobs.

Frame’s July 2019 letter included a message from her parish priest supporting her request for a religious accommodation. Federal law prohibits unions from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion, and requires unions to provide accommodations to workers who oppose dues payment on religious grounds.

Instead, LIUNA officials denigrated her beliefs. In addition to demanding she provide a “legitimate justification” for why her conflict with the union’s activity warranted a religious accommodation, a union lawyer claimed in a letter to Frame that her understanding of her faith was inferior to his own understanding of her faith. He even closed the letter by sending Ms. Frame and her priest remedial church readings.

Frame subsequently filed a discrimination charge against LIUNA with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in December 2019. Even after EEOC proceedings continued and Frame’s attorneys sent letters showing the conflict between the union’s stance and her religious views, union officials still refused to accommodate her beliefs and refused to return money they took from her paycheck after she requested an accommodation.

Ultimately, the EEOC issued Frame a “right to sue” letter leading to her federal anti-discrimination lawsuit, filed by Foundation staff attorneys, resulting in her victory.

“Despite being targeted with years of bullying and discrimination by LIUNA officials, Ms. Frame refused to forsake her religious beliefs and stood firm for her rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “She has now prevailed decisively against LIUNA’s illegal attempt to force her to choose between remaining true to her beliefs and staying employed.”

Forced-Dues Privileges Open Door for Union Discrimination against Workers

“The National Right to Work Foundation is proud to stand with principled workers like Ms. Frame. Big Labor’s government-granted privilege to force rank-and-file workers to support union boss activities creates a breeding ground for malfeasance and anti-worker abuse,” Mix continued. “No American worker should have to pay tribute to a union they oppose just to keep their job, whether their objections are religious or otherwise.”

3 Jun 2022

Puerto Rico Police Bureau Employees Hit Union and Bureau with Federal Lawsuit for Illegally Denying Healthcare Benefits

Posted in News Releases

Union officials had police bureau rescind benefit after employees exercised their First Amendment right to abstain from formal union membership & dues

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí.

San Juan, PR (June 3, 2022) – Eight civilian employees of the Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB) are suing the Union of Organized Civilian Employees and their employer for illegally retaliating against them for the exercise of their constitutional rights. Their suit says bureau and union officials are depriving them of a monthly health benefit because they are not union members. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are representing the workers for free and filed their class-action suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.

The plaintiffs, Vanessa Carbonell, Roberto Whatts Osorio, Elba Colon Nery, Billy Nieves Hernandez, Nelida Alvarez Febus, Linda Dumont Guzman, Sandra Quinones Pinto, and Yomarys Ortiz Gonzalez are defending their First Amendment rights recognized in the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision.

In Janus, the High Court ruled that forcing public sector employees to join or fund a union as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment. The Justices also declared that union dues can only be taken from public sector workers who have voluntarily waived their right not to pay.

Under the laws of Puerto Rico and many states, union officials are empowered to impose their “representation” on every employee in a workplace, even those who reject formal union membership or vote against installing a union. Workers subjected to this monopoly power cannot negotiate their own terms of employment. Instead they are forced by the law under the union’s one-size-fits-all monopoly contract, even though such contracts often undermine the interests of many covered workers.

Although courts have recognized that such government-imposed union “representation” infringes on workers’ First Amendment right to freedom of association, they have thus far allowed forced union representation so long as union officials do not use it to engage in explicit discrimination, including on the basis of formal union membership, as is happening to the PRPB employees.

The legal doctrine that makes such discriminatory contract terms illegal was first adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case in which union officials were wielding their monopoly bargaining power to discriminate against workers on the basis of race.

Discriminatory Policy Shuts Union Nonmembers Out of Better Health Insurance

According to the lawsuit, the employee plaintiffs are nonmembers who have exercised their right under Janus to end union membership and cut off union dues deductions. When they exercised that right at various points after the 2018 Janus decision, each noticed that as soon as dues ceased coming out of their paycheck they also stopped receiving a $25-a-month employer-paid benefit intended to help employees pay for health insurance.

“[T]he Union, through its president, Jorge Méndez Cotto, asked PRPB to stop awarding the $25 monthly additional employer contribution to any bargaining unit member who objected to [forced] membership…,” the complaint says.

“Plaintiffs are ready, willing, and able to purchase additional and higher quality health insurance benefits with the additional employer contribution that is being denied to them,” the complaint points out. “But for the above-described discriminatory policy, they would purchase better quality health insurance.”

The employees contend in the lawsuit that the rescission of the health benefit is a gambit to restrict their First Amendment Janus rights. “The policy and practice…of withholding the additional employer contribution from nonunion bargaining unit members, violates the employees’ constitutional rights by coercing them to join the Union,” the lawsuit says.

Suit Demands Union and the Bureau Disburse Inappropriately Withheld Money to All Targeted by Scheme

The eight employees seek a judgment requiring the union and PRPB to stop holding back the health benefit from their paychecks, and also to pay to them all money that has been unlawfully withheld under the scheme, plus interest. The plaintiffs also demand the same relief for all their colleagues who also refrained from union membership and have been denied the health benefit as a result.

Last year, Foundation attorneys scored a victory in a similar situation for University of Puerto Rico (UPR) employees Jose Ramos and Orlando Mendez, who reported being denied permanent health insurance cards because they refused to retroactively “authorize” dues seizures UPR Workers Union officials had already made from the workers’ paychecks in violation of the First Amendment. After Foundation attorneys filed a motion for injunction against the union, Mendez and Ramos received their permanent health insurance cards.

“Diminishing employees’ access to healthcare because they are not union members is a serious violation of the workers’ right to freely abstain from union membership Janus recognized,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Ms. Carbonell and her coworkers should not be forced to join or fund a union they oppose just so they can work alongside Puerto Rico’s law enforcement officers, and we’re proud to help them defend that freedom.”