SEIU Bosses Refund Dues Seized from Chicago Mental Health Counselor After He Resigned Union Membership
Under unconstitutional ‘escape period’ scheme, healthcare worker paid union dues for months despite resigning SEIU membership
Chicago, IL (September 20, 2021) – Former University of Illinois Healthcare worker Johnathan Shepard won a full refund of money deducted from his paycheck by union officials who refused to stop charging Shepard unless he submitted a request during a fifteen-day annual “escape period.” Union officials returned the money after Shepard filed a federal lawsuit with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Shepard was a mental health counselor for the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System. Shepard sent a letter to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 resigning his membership, but was told union officials would continue seizing union dues from his paycheck unless he waited several months and sent another revocation letter during a narrow 15-day “escape period.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its 2018 Janus decision that public sector workers like Shepard cannot be forced to pay union dues or fees. The High Court agreed with then-Illinois state employee Mark Janus and his National Right to Work Foundation attorneys that taking union dues from public sector workers without their affirmative consent violates the First Amendment by forcing them to subsidize union speech. Shepard argued that he had withdrawn his affirmative consent by resigning from the union, giving union officials no basis to continue seizing his money.
The SEIU officials’ “escape period” scheme is designed to stop employees from exercising their First Amendment rights under Janus for 350 days of the year (351 during leap years). Shepard filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court against SEIU Local 73 and the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Rather than defend their “escape period” scheme, SEIU officials settled with Shepard and returned all the money they seized after he exercised his First Amendment right.
During Shepard’s lawsuit, SEIU Local 73 officials revealed that about two dozen other employees had similarly been blocked from cutting off union dues under the union’s “escape period” scheme. Foundation attorneys are challenging “escape periods” across the country, including in two pending Supreme Court petitions. One petition involves Chicago Public Schools educators Joanne Troesch and Ifeoma Nkemdi, whose ability to cut off union dues was confined to the month of August. Workers who have been victimized by compulsory unionism are encouraged to contact the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid.
“When the Foundation-won Janus decision outlawed compulsory union dues in the public sector – essentially giving Right to Work protections to every government worker – union bosses immediately created new restrictions to make cutting off dues time consuming and confusing,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “We won’t stop fighting until ‘escape period’ schemes everywhere are eliminated and no worker can be forced to pay union dues or fees without their consent.”
Workers had filed two separate petitions since 2020 seeking to end unpopular Teamster union ‘representation’
Ventura, CA (September 17, 2021) – Following Airgas USA employee Angel Herrera and his coworkers’ yearlong effort seeking to end the union’s control at their workplace, Teamsters Local 848 officials have filed documents with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ending their monopoly bargaining power over all workers at the Airgas Glass Welding and Safety Products facility in Ventura. Herrera and his colleagues received free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys in filing a petition for a vote to oust Teamsters union officials.
Airgas Ventura employees’ effort began in 2020, when they submitted a petition asking Airgas management to rescind recognition of Teamsters Local 848. Though Airgas management prepared to withdraw recognition as the majority of employees had requested, Teamsters officials filed unfair labor practice charges against Airgas soon after in an attempt to retain power over the employees at the facility despite the employees’ overwhelming opposition to the union.
What followed was months of litigation at the NLRB, the federal agency charged with enforcing most private sector labor law. Ultimately the NLRB forced Airgas to recognize the Teamsters union and the union’s “representation” was imposed back on the employees.
Herrera and his coworkers tried again to get Teamsters union chiefs out of their workplace this summer by filing a “decertification petition” with the NLRB. Herrera’s petition, filed on August 30, contained signatures from enough of his coworkers to trigger an NLRB-supervised “decertification election,” a secret-ballot election after which union officials lose monopoly bargaining power if a majority of workers vote to remove them.
Before a decertification election was scheduled, however, Teamsters officials instead disclaimed interest in maintaining control over the workplace on September 13, in an apparent attempt to spare themselves the embarrassment of an overwhelming vote by workers to reject the union’s so-called “representation.”
This is just the latest in a series of successful worker efforts to oust unwanted union officials aided by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. Earlier this summer, maintenance worker Tim Mangia and his coworkers at Chicago’s Rush University filed a decertification petition with free Foundation legal aid and voted out another Teamsters affiliate, Local 743, from their workplace by a more than 70-30 margin.
Relatedly, just last month in Las Vegas, Foundation staff attorneys filed an amicus brief for a Red Rock Casino worker contesting a federal judge’s order that casino management submit to bargaining talks with Culinary Union officials, despite a majority of Red Rock workers voting against unionization.
The Foundation has also fought to break down union boss-created legal barriers to unseating unwanted union officials. Early last year, following detailed formal comments submitted by Foundation attorneys, the NLRB finalized rules eviscerating union bosses’ ability to stop a decertification effort with “blocking charges,” i.e., accusations made against an employer that are often unverified and have no connection to workers’ desire to kick out undesired union officials.
“We at the Foundation are proud to have helped Mr. Herrera and his colleagues in the exercise of their workplace rights, but no American workers should have to file multiple petitions and endure protracted litigation just so they can exercise this basic right of free association,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This is more important than ever given the Biden Administration’s focus on further empowering union officials at the expense of rank-and-file workers’ individual rights.”
“Foundation staff attorneys will not waiver in their defense of workers’ right to dispense with unwanted union so-called ‘representation,’ regardless of which way the political winds blow,” Mix added.
Teamsters Back Down After Refusal to Give UPS Workers Verification of Audit Used to Collect Forced Union Fees
Union officials barred nonmember workers from normal fee payment process and wouldn’t provide financials to prove charges were legal
Commerce City, CO (September 16, 2021) – UPS worker Mark Hamel won a settlement from Teamsters union officials after he filed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charges with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The settlement is a victory for Hamel, who in December 2018 charged Teamsters union officials with violating his rights under federal law by requiring him to subsidize union officials’ activities as a condition of keeping his job.
Under the Supreme Court’s 1988 Beck decision, won by Foundation attorneys, unions cannot require nonmembers to pay fees for certain activities like union boss political lobbying. Despite this longstanding precedent, Teamsters officials failed to provide Hamel with a legally required audited description of how it calculated nonmember fees.
Hamel sent Teamsters officials a letter in October 2018 resigning his membership and requesting an audit of the union’s expenditures. In November 2018 Hamel received a response from union officials that included a one page unaudited breakdown of its expenditures. Hamel then filed charges with NLRB against Teamsters Local 13, Teamsters Joint Council 3, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, contending their response was inadequate because federal law requires nonmembers be given an audited and verified breakdown of how mandatory fees are calculated.
Hamel’s charges argued union officials’ lack of transparency prevents workers from knowing whether their money is being used legally. Union officials are prohibited under Beck from charging nonmembers workers for anything beyond core bargaining and representational activities, but without a breakdown of expenditures audited and verified by a third party, workers cannot know whether their Beck rights were honored. The information the Teamsters provided did not include the audit and verification required under NLRB precedent.
Teamsters officials also refused to allow UPS to process Hamel’s fee payments, even though money was collected this way for other workers. Hamel argued the union requirement that he mail his fees via check unfairly subjected him to additional costs, put him at risk of being fired for missing a union-created and controlled deadline, and was merely an attempt to punish nonmembers.
Teamsters officials eventually backed down and authorized UPS to deduct fees from Hamel’s paycheck, but continued to resist providing a breakdown of how those fees were calculated. The case dragged on for nearly three years before union bosses signed a settlement the NLRB Region 17 director approved last Friday.
The settlement requires Teamsters officials to provide detailed, audited breakdowns of their expenditures, and give Hamel and other nonmembers the opportunity to challenge the calculations. They further are required to post notices at Hamel’s workplace stating that they will not restrict the rights of Beck objectors.
“Though Colorado and 22 other non-Right to Work states still outrageously allow nonmember workers to be forced to pay money to a union they do not support, the Supreme Court ruled in Beck that workers can only be compelled to pay union fees for union monopoly bargaining, not other activities like union boss political lobbying,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “Instead of choosing transparency, Teamsters officials resisted their legal obligations for nearly three years, demonstrating their contempt for the rights of the very rank-and-file workers they claim to represent.”
Every year the National Right to Work Foundation uses Labor Day to remind Americans that celebrating workers must include respecting their individual rights by opposing the injustices of forced unionism. This year, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix’s opinion pieces calling out union coercion and extolling the vital freedoms and opportunity secured by Right to Work reached the public through dozens of outlets. Here are some of the highlights:
On Right to Work’s Freedom and Prosperity
“With help from the same National Right to Work Foundation attorney who argued and won the Janus case, [Chicago teachers Ifeoma Nkemdi and Joanne Troesch] appealed to the Supreme Court. Sixteen states and 4 separate legal foundations filed amicus briefs supporting the educators’ petition, which the Supreme Court is set to take up in October.
“The educators are riding the momentum from a historic decade of wins against compulsory unionism. Since 2012, five states – Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Kentucky – passed Right to Work protections, ensuring union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.”
-Mark Mix in The Washington Times, 9/6/2021
“And so, a year after the COVID-19-induced economic slump hit its lowest point in April 2020, Right to Work states led the way in getting jobs back on track. In Right to Work states, the number of manufacturing payroll employees had rebounded 10.1 percent just one year after its 2020 lows, a bump 63 percent greater than what forced-unionism states experienced, according to Labor Department statistics from July.”
-Mark Mix in Fox Business, 9/6/2021
“Sluggish job growth in forced-unionism states was not limited to just the pandemic recovery. A National Institute for Labor Relations Research analysis points out that, from 2020 back to 2010, employment in states lacking Right to Work protections increased by only 2.4%, paling in comparison to Right to Work states’ 11.0% jump in the same decade.
“It’s no surprise, then, that Right to Work states passed the milestone just last year of now playing host to the majority of employed people in the United States, according to the Department of Labor’s Household Survey.”
-Mark Mix in the Boston Herald, 9/6/2021
On Union Boss Attempts to Expand their Coercive Powers over Rank-and-File Workers
“It’s no wonder polls consistently show that more than 80% of Americans support the right-to-work principle that no worker should be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Union members, too, overwhelmingly agree.
“When union membership and financial support are voluntary, union officials are held accountable by workers who can cut off support if these officials aren’t meeting their needs.
“Instead of rising to the challenge and seeking workers’ voluntary support, union bosses continually resort to attacking the right to work.”
-Mark Mix in the Washington Examiner, 9/3/2021
“Union officials attempt to justify their use of coercion by claiming that forced association and forced dues are good for workers, but even Vice President Kamala Harris has admitted that’s not true. As California’s Attorney General she filed a Supreme Court brief acknowledging that ‘unions do have substantial latitude to advance bargaining positions that … run counter to the economic interests of some employees.’”
-Mark Mix in Newsmax, 8/31/2021
“Why do teachers’ unions across the country have the power to dictate the terms of school districts’ reopening, while the tax dollars of parents—nearly 80 percent of whom supported in-person instruction—continue to flow towards those districts?
“The answer is that, in nearly every state, the heads of public-sector unions have at least some power to force teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees into one-size-fits-all contracts that make public services more responsive to the interests of union bosses than to those of the public…
“In the devastating wake of COVID-19 and the misguided policies that came with it, now is a better time than ever to take a close look at how public-sector unions became the entrenched special interest group they are today. Ending union officials’ monopoly bargaining privileges would strike at the root of the problem while protecting the freedom of association of teachers and other public employees who do not feel that these unions represent them.”
-Mark Mix in Newsweek, 9/3/2021
On Union Corruption
“If Pantoja’s account correctly depicts the facts, the culture of union corruption must be deeply ingrained in the IAM. If even a union vice president can’t attempt to combat embezzlement and lies by a fellow union officer without facing a vicious campaign of retaliation, imagine what would happen to a rank-and-file worker who tried to do the same…
“Unfortunately, under current federal policies, many if not most IAM-‘represented’ workers in all 50 states, including the 27 Right to Work states, may currently be forced to bankroll a union, or be fired, as a consequence of the federally-imposed railroad/airline-industry loophole in state bans on forced union dues and fees.”
-Mark Mix in Newsmax, 9/10/2021
“Workers in Michigan are now free to decide for themselves whether union officials deserve their support. Meanwhile, [Bob] King’s UAW has been engulfed in a massive corruption scandal including the misuse of workers’ dues money…
“Had King and other union bosses had their way, workers in Michigan would be forced to not only fund union officials’ opulent lifestyles, but also their salaries and the legal bills associated with the scandal. In states without right-to-work protections, workers in UAW shops continue to bear those costs.”
-Mark Mix in The Detroit News, 9/6/2021
Worker Freedom Group Defends WV Law Preventing Unconstitutional Union Dues Seizures from Public Workers
Law protects employees’ First Amendment rights; Kanawha Circuit judge blocked law at union lawyers’ behest
Charleston, WV (September 9, 2021) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a charitable nonprofit dedicated to protecting workers’ legal rights from compulsory unionism, have just filed an amicus brief defending the legality of a state law that protects the First Amendment right of West Virginia public employees to refrain from funding a union. The brief comes during a legal battle by union bosses against the law, in which a Kanawha County Circuit Court judge issued a preliminary injunction at the behest of union lawyers stopping the bill from going into effect.
Foundation staff attorneys urge the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to undo the injunction, arguing that West Virginia’s Paycheck Protection Act is not only valid, but essential to protect West Virginia public sector workers’ rights under the Foundation-won 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In Janus, the justices ruled that forcing public sector workers to subsidize union activities as a condition of keeping their jobs violates the First Amendment. The Court also held that no union dues or fees can be taken from a public worker’s wages without a knowing and intelligent waiver of that employee’s First Amendment right not to pay, and that such a waiver “cannot be presumed.”
The justices reasoned in Janus that, because all public sector union activities involve lobbying the government, forcing public sector workers to pay any money to a union amounts to forced political speech forbidden by the First Amendment.
“The Act prevents the government from unwittingly violating their employees’ First Amendment rights by seizing union dues from them without their voluntary, affirmative consent and knowing, intelligent waiver of those rights, as required under Janus,” the brief reads. “The State’s protection of its employees’ First Amendment rights does not violate the constitutional rights of Respondents West Virginia AFL-CIO, et. al. (‘the Unions’), because the Unions have no constitutional entitlement to employees’ money or to the employer’s administration of union dues deduction schemes.”
Because West Virginia has a legitimate interest in protecting its employees’ First Amendment rights, and because union officials’ lawsuit against the Paycheck Protection Act has no chance of success on the merits, Foundation attorneys argue, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals should overturn the preliminary injunction.
This is not the first time the Foundation has supported state policy that protects public employees’ First Amendment Janus rights. Last year, Foundation staff attorneys filed detailed comments backing a Michigan Civil Service Commission (MiCSC) policy that required public employers to obtain annual consent from their workers before taking union payments out of their wages. Officials from the United Auto Workers (UAW) and other unions abandoned a lawsuit contesting the rule in October 2020.
Foundation staff attorneys also filed 10 legal briefs defending West Virginia’s Right to Work law, which was the target of a legal attack by union officials from 2016 until last year. Among the Foundation’s filings were amicus briefs for Reginald Gibbs, who worked as a lead slot machine technician with the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, WV, and Donna Harper, who worked as a laundry aide and nursing assistant at the Genesis HealthCare Tygart Center in Fairmont, WV. Both workers opposed paying money to the union bosses in power at their workplaces.
“West Virginia union bosses’ aggressive opposition to this commonsense law shows that they care more about finding ways to keep employee money flowing into their pockets than they do about respecting the First Amendment rights of those they claim to ‘represent,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This law just ensures that public employees maintain full control over whether their money is going to support a union.”
“By opposing this simple protection, West Virginia union bosses are doubling down on coercion instead of focusing on ways to win over the voluntary support of public servants,” Mix added.
Decertification vote finally scheduled at Gompers Preparatory Academy after nearly two years of union-created legal delays stalled teachers’ petition
San Diego, CA (September 7, 2021) – Teachers at Gompers Preparatory Academy in San Diego will have a long-awaited chance to remove San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union bosses from their school. State labor board officials had refused to schedule the teachers’ requested election until the board resolved “blocking charges” union officials filed against the school.
Gompers teachers petitioned the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) for a decertification election back in January 2020, but union officials filed strategically-timed unfair labor practice charges against the school to block the vote. Under PERB’s rules, any pending litigation against an employer is automatically presumed to affect employees’ desire to remove a union, so PERB blocked the teacher’s vote.
The petitioners obtained free representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys, who argued the behavior alleged by the union’s charges had not affected the teachers’ desire to remove the union. A PERB administrator refused to grant the teachers a vote without even holding a hearing on the merits of the union’s blocking charges.
Foundation attorneys appealed that decision, arguing the policy of automatically accepting union blocking charges without investigation was an unacceptable infringement on workers’ freedom to choose their own workplace representatives.
The Board refused to overturn its policy. As a result, the teachers were forced to wait nearly two years for the charges to be dropped. Now that the union has dropped the charges as part of a settlement agreement among the parties, PERB finally scheduled a decertification election. Ballots will be mailed to Gompers teachers on September 8, and the teachers will have until October 4 to return them.
This is the first time in recent years the SDEA will be subject to a secret ballot vote at Gompers. The union took over in January 2019 through a “card check” unionization drive. During a card check drive, professional union organizers approach employees, often in the presence of union militants, and demand they sign cards that count as official “votes” for unionization.
Card Check is notoriously a far less reliable way of gauging employee support for unionization, as pressure from coworkers and union organizers often force workers to sign off on unionization they would not have accepted had their decision been private. According to Gompers teacher Jessica Chapman, the union “got signatures using deceptive tactics…unionization was forced upon us – we were never even given the respect of a vote.”
“Finally, the teachers at Gompers Preparatory Academy will get their long-sought-after vote to remove union officials, but the PERB should never have allowed union officials to manipulate the process for so long just to avoid a secret ballot vote,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “The PERB’s no-evidence-required rule for union blocking charges is just one of many examples of biased labor laws and regulations that benefit union officials looking to shield themselves from accountability from the workers they supposedly represent.”
“Now that they finally get their vote, the teachers of GPA should be on guard against union misinformation and coercive tactics during the mail ballot election,” added Mix. “Unfortunately, there is a long and documented history of union bosses’ willingness to say or do anything just to maintain their own power, even if it means selling out the very people they claim to represent.”
Workplace Advocacy Groups Tout Successes for Worker Liberty on Labor Day 2021, Warn of Continuing Anti-Freedom Efforts
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee, issued the following statement on the occasion of Labor Day 2021:
“On this Labor Day, workers’ freedoms are at a crossroads. Though union officials and their allies in government use this day to claim to speak for America’s workers, they are simultaneously hard at work trying to undermine the individual liberty of those same American workers.
“The last decade saw record advances for workers’ right to free association, with five new states enacting Right to Work protections which defend a worker from being fired merely for refusal to pay dues to a labor union he or she does not support. Twenty-seven states now protect this basic, fundamental freedom, and, as of last year, a majority of America’s working men and women now work in Right to Work states. That’s on top of the National Right to Work Foundation-won 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court victory, which recognized the First Amendment right of every public worker to choose for him or herself whether or not to fund a labor union.
“Unfortunately, rather than embrace voluntarism and worker choice, union officials have instead doubled down on coercion. Their top priority in Congress, the so-called “PRO-Act,” would add tens of millions of workers to union bosses’ “pay up or be fired” ranks by wiping out all state Right to Work laws by federal fiat. Meanwhile, despite the Janus ruling, government union bosses have continued to undermine and outright ignore the First Amendment right of public employees to cease all funding of the political activities of all government unions. This has resulted in dozens of Janus enforcement lawsuits nationwide, including two Foundation cases currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Yet Big Labor’s push for more power to impose their so-called “representation” and mandatory dues payments on workers remains at odds with an overwhelming majority of Americans. Polls show Americans still overwhelmingly oppose forced unionism – consistently finding that around 80% of Americans agree with the Right to Work principle that union membership and dues payment should be voluntary, not coerced.
“On this Labor Day, as hardworking rank-and-file workers continue to grapple with economic uncertainty and lingering COVID disruptions, it is more important now than ever that we reject Big Labor’s schemes to expand forced unionism over more workers, and instead respect the individual freedom to decide whether or not a union deserves their support.”
Cameraman already won charge against NABET officials for seizing money illegally, now full board in DC cites union lawyers for misconduct
Portland, OR (August 27, 2021) – Portland-area ABC cameraman Jeremy Brown has just prevailed decisively in his National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case against the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) union. He first charged the union in July 2019 with demanding and seizing illegal dues from him, and for ignoring his multiple attempts to exercise his right to refrain from union membership and not pay for union political activities. Following his original charge, he submitted another charge asserting NABET lawyers had sent him threatening and over-the-top demand letters.
Brown received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF). A unanimous NLRB decision has now vindicated every charge he made against the union, and refers NABET’s lawyers for disciplinary sanctions on account of unprofessional conduct.
An NLRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled in December 2020 that NABET union officials had illegally snubbed Brown’s attempts to stop paying for union politics among other activities and had seized dues from him in excess of the amount they could compel nonmembers to pay by law. Brown had invoked his rights under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision, which mandates that in states like Oregon lacking Right to Work protections nonmember workers can’t be forced to pay dues for anything beyond certain union core activities. Brown’s charges detailed that union officials had failed to inform him that requests to reduce dues as per Beck had to be directed to the union’s national headquarters.
However, the ALJ let NABET off the hook for the union lawyers’ intimidating evidence preservation letters sent during the litigation, despite the fact that they illegally threatened to seek “damages” from Brown if he didn’t comply with their demands, and absurdly ordered that he hold onto things like pedometer and GPS data.
Brown’s Foundation provided attorneys urged the NLRB to prosecute the NABET lawyers for the outrageous demands. Peter Robb, the NLRB General Counsel at the time, also filed a brief supporting Brown’s attempt to put the issue before the full Board. This effort met resistance when Peter Ohr, whom President Biden in January 2021 installed as NLRB Acting General Counsel after a hasty and premature ouster of Robb, sought to withdraw the brief that Robb had filed. Foundation attorneys opposed Ohr’s motion, arguing that he had no legal authority to rescind Robb’s brief.
Despite Ohr’s opposition, the NLRB took up Brown’s case challenging the NABET lawyers’ evidence preservation letters. In a decision this week, three current Board members, including the Biden-appointed Chairman, agreed that “the threatened aggressive pursuit of sanctions and penalties” in the letters “viewed in conjunction with the breadth of the information covered by the letters, sends the message that the Respondent is willing to go to extreme—and perhaps harassing—lengths to penalize the Charging Party, placing the letters outside the bounds of legitimate efforts to ensure evidence preservation.”
In addition to demanding that NABET officials stop failing to respond to workers’ Beck requests and that they return the dues seized from Brown in excess of the limit established by Beck, the NLRB also orders the union and its agents to cease sending “charging-party employees evidence preservation letters that reasonably tend to restrain or coerce them in the exercise of their right to avail themselves of the Board’s processes.”
Moreover, the Board in its decision found that the record in the case suggests that NABET’s lawyers “have not conformed their conduct to the standards of ethical and professional conduct required of practitioners appearing before the Agency,” i.e., by “repeatedly misidentifying NRTWLDF in [their] filings with the Board.” The Board decision therefore referred the union counsels’ conduct “to the attention of the Investigating Officer for investigation and such disciplinary action as may be appropriate.”
“NABET officials and lawyers subjected Jeremy Brown to layers upon layers of union malfeasance and intimidation just because he exercised his right to remain a nonmember and didn’t want to pay for union bosses’ political expenditures,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “He courageously stood up for his rights for well over two years, and we at the National Right to Work Foundation were proud to support him in a case where his rights have now been fully vindicated.”
Mix continued: “The fact that NABET officials and lawyers’ behavior elicited condemnation from even Biden-selected Chairman Lauren McFerran demonstrates how radical former NLRB Acting General Counsel Peter Ohr’s throwing of obstacles in Brown’s case was.”
Cuyahoga County Probation Officer Hits Union with Federal Lawsuit for Years of Unconstitutional Dues Seizures
Union officials took full union dues from nonmember officer without consent, then ignored requests to return illegally-seized money
Cleveland, OH (August 25, 2021) – Cuyahoga County probation officer Kimberlee Warren is suing the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) union in her workplace, charging union officials with breaching her First Amendment right as a public employee to refuse to support union activities. She is receiving free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, in partnership with attorneys with the Ohio-based Buckeye Institute.
Foundation staff attorneys contend that FOP union officials ignored her constitutional rights recognized in the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision, which was argued and won by Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
In Janus, the Justices declared it a First Amendment violation to force any public sector employee to pay union dues or fees as a condition of keeping his or her job. The Court also ruled that public employers and unions cannot take union dues or fees from a public sector employee unless they obtain that employee’s affirmative consent.
The federal lawsuit says that Warren was not a member of the FOP union before the Janus decision in June 2018, but FOP union bosses collected union dues from her wages without her consent. According to the complaint, this continued until around December 2020, when Warren notified union officials that they were violating her First Amendment rights by taking the money and demanded that the union stop the coerced deductions and return all money that they had taken from her paycheck since the Janus decision.
When the deductions ended, FOP chiefs refused to give back the money that they had already seized from Warren in violation of her First Amendment rights. They claimed the deductions had appeared on her check stub and thus any responsibility to cease the deductions fell on her – even though to her knowledge they had never obtained permission to opt her into membership or to take cash from her paycheck in the first place.
According to the lawsuit, Warren also asked FOP bosses to provide any dues deduction authorization document she might have signed. FOP officials rebuffed this request as well.
The High Court ruled in Janus that, because all activities public sector unions undertake involve lobbying the government and thus are political speech, forcing a public employee to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of keeping his or her job is forced political speech the First Amendment forbids.
Union bosses were permitted by state law before the Janus ruling to seize from nonmember workers’ paychecks only the part of dues they claimed went toward “representational” activities. FOP union officials took this amount from Warren prior to Janus. However, they furtively designated her as a member following the decision, and began taking full dues, deducting even more money from her wages than they did before Janus despite the complete lack of any consent.
Warren is now suing the FOP union in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Her lawsuit seeks the return of all dues that FOP union officials garnished from her paycheck since the Janus decision was handed down. It also seeks punitive damages because FOP showed “reckless, callous” indifference toward her First Amendment rights by snubbing her refund requests.
Warren’s lawsuit comes as other Foundation-backed lawsuits for employees defending their First Amendment Janus rights seek writs of certiorari from the Supreme Court. This includes cases brought for Chicago and New Jersey public educators which challenge “window periods” that severely limit when they and their fellow educators can exercise their First Amendment right to stop union dues deductions, sometimes to periods as short as ten days per year. In a California federal court, Foundation staff attorneys are also aiding a University of California Irvine lab assistant in fighting an anti-Janus state law that gives union bosses full control over whether employers can stop sending an employee’s money to the union after that employee exercises his or her Janus rights.
“All over the country, union officials are stopping at nothing to ensure they can continue ignoring workers’ First Amendment Janus rights and continue siphoning money from the paychecks of dissenting employees,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “After Janus was handed down, FOP union officials in Warren’s workplace could have come to her to attempt to get her to support the union voluntarily, but tellingly instead they began surreptitiously siphoning full dues out of her paycheck without her consent in direct contravention of the Supreme Court.”
“Despite her repeated requests, FOP bosses have continued to trample Warren’s Janus rights, and Foundation staff attorneys are fighting to stop this gross injustice against her and punish FOP bosses for their brazen behavior,” Mix added.
Opposition Filed to Judge’s Order Imposing Culinary Union on Workers who Rejected Union in Secret Ballot Vote
Red Rock Casino workers vote against unionization, but nearly 2 years later judge ordered employer to bargain with union officials
Las Vegas, NV (August 24, 2021) – A large majority of the workers at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada voted “no” to unionization, but a federal district court judge is forcing their employer to bargain with union officials anyway.
The Casino is appealing the judge’s order at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Now Red Rock employee Raynell Teske has filed an amicus brief arguing the judge was wrong to impose the union on the workers, given the rejection of the union in the election. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys assisted Teske for free in filing the amicus brief with the appellate court.
In December 2019, the National Labor Relations Board held a secret ballot election whether to unionize Red Rock. A sizable majority of those voting rejected union officials’ effort to become their monopoly bargaining representatives. Despite that vote, NLRB Region 28 Director Cornele Overstreet filed a federal court injunction action seeking to have the union imposed over the workers’ objections.
On July 20, 2021, Judge Gloria Navarro agreed with the NLRB Director’s request, and issued a “Gissel” order forcing Red Rock to bargain with union officials despite the employees’ vote against unionization. The judge said the order was justified because, prior to the vote, union officials claimed that a majority of workers had signed union authorization cards.
Teske’s amicus brief argues those “card check” signatures are unreliable, and not reason enough to conclude the union ever had majority support. She contends the level of union support was tested fairly by the secret-ballot election, in which workers voted 627-534 against unionization. Secret ballots are a far more reliable way of gauging worker support for a union, because workers are often pressured, harassed, or misled by union organizers into signing cards.
Unions themselves know that “card check” signatures do not indicate solid worker support. The AFL-CIO admitted in its 1989 organizing handbook that it needed at least 75% card check support before having even a 50-50 chance of winning a secret ballot election. An earlier guidebook acknowledged that some workers sign cards just to “get the union off my back.”
Teske’s brief argues the union’s possession of so-called “cards” is an insufficient legal basis for imposing unionization, especially after a secret ballot election in which the union lost. It agrees with the employer that the “Gissel” order should be overturned, and that Teske and her coworkers should not be subjected to monopoly bargaining by a union they rejected in an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election.
This is not the only case in which union bosses are battling casino employees in court. Red Rock’s parent company, Station Casinos, also owns Palms Casino in Las Vegas, where employees filed a petition to decertify union officials in March, 2021. Union lawyers blocked the petition with a slew of charges that were accepted by NLRB bureaucrats as reason to block the workers’ petition. The Palms Casino worker represented by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys who filed the petition is appealing the decision to block the vote he requested.
“Ms. Teske and her coworkers had good reasons to reject the union. It is outrageous that the judge’s order imposing unwanted unionization brushes aside the workers’ contrary preference clearly demonstrated in the secret ballot vote,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “There have been countless examples of workers being pressured, misled and even bribed to sign union cards, which is why ‘Card Check’ is widely accepted as unreliable, especially compared to an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election.”
“If federal labor law is to be about defending the rights and freedoms of rank-and-file workers, then the Court of Appeals should promptly overturn Judge Navarro’s order substituting the wishes of NLRB bureaucrats for the actual choice workers made at the ballot box,” added Mix.