24 Oct 2023

Worker Who Criticized Union Official Defeats Attempt to Slap Him with Restraining Order

Posted in News Releases

Worker also challenged unconstitutional Puerto Rico laws mandating union membership and dues payment

San Juan, PR (October 24, 2023) – A Puerto Rico Trial Court has dismissed charges from a chapter president of the Unión Independiente Auténtica De Los Empleados De La Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados (UIA) that sought to foist a restraining order on Reynaldo Cruz, an employee of the Puerto Rican Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA).

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are providing Cruz with free legal services in both this dispute and a lawsuit at the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, in which Cruz is challenging Puerto Rico laws authorizing public corporations and unions to require employees to maintain union membership and pay union dues as a condition of keeping their jobs.

Cruz argues in that ongoing, multi-year suit that various provisions of the Puerto Rico Labor Relations Act violate the First Amendment. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME case that public employees have a First Amendment right to opt-out of dues payments to an unwanted union, and that public employees must waive this right before any dues are deducted from their paychecks.

In the more recent dispute over the restraining order, the UIA chapter president sought such an order against Cruz because he made Facebook posts criticizing the union’s representation of employees and the chapter president’s performance, specifically describing the chapter president as “lazy.” The union official claimed that a restraining order was necessary because Cruz would have to be stalking him to know of his “lazy” behavior. The UIA chapter president identified no evidence other than the Facebook posts themselves.

Foundation attorneys rebutted this outrageous theory. “Reynaldo Cruz’s Facebook posts are protected speech and activity that lawfully criticize and oppose the UIA President’s leadership, not ‘gestures or actions intended to intimidate, threaten, or pursue’ the union president or his family,” Cruz’s motion to dismiss reads. On October 17, 2023, a trial court judge dismissed the UIA official’s charges against Cruz.

“UIA union officials targeted me with a restraining order for daring to speak out against them, which is my free speech right,” commented Cruz. “That’s ridiculous coming from union officials who claim to ‘represent’ me and my coworkers. While I’m glad for this victory against the UIA union’s obvious retaliation, I hope that my other case helps secure workers’ rights against compulsory membership in and dues payments to unions they oppose.”

PRASA Employee Also Challenging Puerto Rico Law Authorizing Unconstitutional Compulsory Union Membership Requirements and Dues Seizures

Cruz’s lawsuit over illegal union membership and dues requirements began in 2017, after UIA officials responded to his request to end his union membership and stop dues payments by telling him that he could only disaffiliate with the union if he left his employment with PRASA or sought employment outside the UIA union’s “bargaining unit.” In addition to naming the UIA, Cruz’s lawsuit also included as a defendant the Governor of Puerto Rico in his official capacity as Cruz was also challenging the constitutionality of Puerto Rico’s laws authorizing mandatory dues and so-called “maintenance of membership” agreements.

While Cruz’s case was ongoing, the Janus case was decided, in which the Justices definitively ruled that requiring public sector employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment violates their First Amendment free association rights.

On October 17, a Puerto Rico District Court judge dubiously ruled that the case was moot. In addition to never declaring the Puerto Rico law authorizing mandatory dues payment and membership unconstitutional, the court also didn’t require the union to modify its contract to nix the provision ordering such mandatory dues deductions. Nor did the Court enter a judgment deciding Cruz’s entitlement to unconstitutionally-seized money that he demanded as part of his lawsuit. Foundation attorneys are currently considering an appeal.

“Mr. Cruz’s situation clearly shows how vindictive union officials will get if workers attempt to go against their agendas,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It’s outrageous that UIA union officials claim to ‘represent’ workers while continuing to take dues money from Mr. Cruz in violation of his Janus rights, and while seeking to saddle him with a restraining order merely for publishing ideas critical of union bosses.”

“This conundrum demonstrates why First Amendment Janus protections are so vital: Despite often acting directly against workers’ interests, union officials will often demand worker fealty through coercive or retaliatory means,” Mix added. “Janus lets workers push back against union boss pressure by withholding their hard-earned money from union coffers.”

20 Oct 2023

Seattle Mariners Retail Employee Challenges Seattle NLRB Officials’ Refusal to Certify Overwhelming Vote Against Union

Posted in News Releases

By not certifying vote of over 80+ percent against UFCW, NLRB Region 19 officials permit union to dodge legal consequences of losing vote

Seattle, WA (October 20, 2023) – Following an overwhelming workplace vote to remove United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union officials, Seattle Mariners MLB retail employee Tami Kecherson filed a Request for Review defending the election result at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC. The Request for Review comes after NLRB Region 19 officials in Seattle refused to certify the 50-9 vote result, and instead permitted UFCW union officials to “disclaim” interest in the bargaining unit and avoid restrictions on regaining control over the employees that normally apply to unions that lose elections.

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are providing free legal aid to Kecherson in her effort to defend the election victory. The Request for Review recounts that, after the worker-requested union decertification vote finally took place, UFCW union officials filed “blocking charges” against Mariners management in an attempt to delay the certification of the vote. “Blocking charges” contain unverified and often groundless allegations of employer interference in a union election.

NLRB Region 19’s investigation of UFCW officials’ “blocking charges” delayed the certification of the employees’ vote for months, the Request for Review notes, but in September UFCW bosses withdrew their apparently frivolous blocking charges and instead filed paperwork announcing they were “voluntarily” leaving the facility.

When Foundation attorneys contacted NLRB Region 19 to determine when the vote certification would occur now that the meritless charges were withdrawn, NLRB officials instead declared that certification would not occur, presumably because the union had just disclaimed interest and walked away. Further, NLRB officials effectively stated that the UFCW union would be allowed to skirt the statutory one-year restriction on regaining control in the workplace that applies to unions that lose elections, and would only be barred from the workplace for a much shorter period.

“This is akin to an employee fired for insubordination yelling ‘you can’t fire me, I quit,’ but only much worse,” the Request for Review argues. “That is so because Region 19 is arbitrarily allowing Local 3000 to get away with a rather grotesque form of gamesmanship…This cannot be allowed to occur under the [National Labor Relations Act] and the Board’s rules.”

Union Legal Maneuvering Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Diminish Worker Vote

Foundation-backed reforms that the NLRB adopted in 2020 (also known as the “Election Protection Rule”) permitted the Seattle Mariners employees to challenge UFCW officials’ ascent to power, which the union accomplished via “card check” – a scheme that bypasses the NLRB secret-ballot election process. The Election Protection Rule permitted the employees to petition for a secret ballot decertification election and vote the union out after the card check occurred. However, the Biden NLRB has already announced a proposal to repeal the “Election Protection Rule” and make card check organizing drives much harder for employees to contest.

In light of that, the one-year period of freedom from union control that the NLRB denied the Seattle Mariners workers is absolutely vital. Without it, UFCW officials could move to foist the union back on the employees through card check in less than a year, and, if the Election Protection Rule has been wiped out by then, the workers may be unable to challenge the card check with a secret ballot vote.

“The game UFCW union officials are playing with Seattle Mariners employees’ rights is sinister, but obvious: Game the system to avoid the full consequences of losing an election among the workers they claimed to ‘represent,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It doesn’t help that the Biden NLRB is simultaneously pursuing policies that make it nigh impossible for employees to free themselves of the control of union officials who attempt such manipulation.”

“Refusing to certify an overwhelming worker vote against a union due simply to union legal maneuvering is disrespecting workers’ free choice rights, plain and simple,” Mix added.

17 Oct 2023

Federal Charge: East Bay-Area Construction Materials Worker Illegally Fired for Refusing to Join Union

Posted in News Releases

NLRB investigating IUOE union bosses for retaliatory termination and seizing dues from employee’s paycheck in violation of longstanding law

Pleasanton, CA (October 17, 2023) – Alexandra Le, an employee of Pleasanton-based materials testing company Construction Testing Services (CTS), has hit International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) officials and CTS with federal charges. The charges state IUOE bosses illegally demanded she join the union as a condition of keeping her job and instigated her firing by CTS when she refused to join. Additionally, Le’s charges maintain that company and union officials violated the law by deducting union dues directly from her paycheck without her permission.

Le, a firestop inspector, filed the charges at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 32 in Oakland, CA, with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. She notes in her charges that IUOE officials not only failed to inform her of her right to abstain from union membership, but also never notified her of her right to pay a reduced amount of union dues as a nonmember.

Because California lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, Le and her coworkers can be forced to pay some dues to the union as a condition of keeping their jobs, even if they’ve abstained from formal union membership. However, as per the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision, even in non-Right to Work states union officials can’t force nonmember employees to pay for union expenses beyond what the union claims goes to bargaining, such as union politics. Other Supreme Court precedents and federal labor laws protect workers’ right to refrain from formal union membership and require union bosses to seek workers’ express consent before deducting dues directly from their paychecks.

In Right to Work states, union membership and all union financial support are fully voluntary.

“It’s outrageous that IUOE union officials believe they can get me fired simply because I don’t agree with their organization and don’t want to support or affiliate with them,” Le said. “IUOE union officials have been far more concerned with consolidating power in the workplace and collecting dues than caring about me and my coworkers, and I hope the NLRB will hold them responsible for their illegal actions.”

Worker Demands NLRB Step in to Reverse Union-Instigated Firing, Illegal Demands

Le’s charge against the IUOE union states that, after she refused to affiliate with the union, IUOE bosses “caused Charging Party to be removed from the work schedule by her Employer as of October 2nd.” The NLRB v. General Motors Corp. U.S. Supreme Court decision protects the right of workers to refuse formal union membership, even in a non-Right to Work state.

As a remedy, the charge asks the NLRB Regional Director in Oakland to “invoke its authority under Section 10(j)” of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which empowers the Board to seek an injunction from a federal court to stop IUOE and CTS management from committing the unfair labor practices.

“Le’s charges show that IUOE union officials, in their apparent greed for forced dues, have ignored numerous longstanding legal protections for workers opposed to union affiliation,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While the union’s anti-worker actions would be wildly unlawful in any state in the country, they reveal the importance of state Right to Work protections: No worker should be forced to give any amount of their hard-earned paycheck to union officials who threaten and misinform the employees they claim to ‘represent,’ or simply haven’t earned workers’ support.”

10 Oct 2023

Oklahoma City Starbucks Employees Latest to Demand Vote to Remove SBWU Union from Workplace

Posted in News Releases

One year after highly publicized unionization efforts, workers from coffee shops in at least seven different states move to remove SBWU

Oklahoma City, OK (October 10, 2023) – An employee of a Starbucks store in the Nichols Hills neighborhood of Oklahoma City has submitted a petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) asking the federal agency to hold a vote among her colleagues to remove the Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) union from the workplace. The employee, Amy Smith, is receiving free legal representation from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

Smith’s petition contains signatures from enough of her coworkers to prompt a union decertification election under the NLRB’s rules. While Oklahoma is a Right to Work state, meaning SBWU bosses cannot compel Smith or her coworkers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of staying employed, SBWU is still empowered by federal law to impose a union contract on all employees of the coffee shop, including those who oppose the union. A successful decertification vote would strip union officials of that power.

Oklahoma City Starbucks Workers Join Burgeoning Worker Movement Against SBWU

Smith and her coworkers’ effort is the latest in a chain of SBWU decertification pushes across the country. Since May, Starbucks employees in Manhattan, NY; Buffalo, NY; Pittsburgh, PA; Bloomington, MN; Salt Lake City, UT; and Greenville, SC, have all sought free Foundation legal aid in pursuing their decertification petitions at the NLRB. Last month, workers at Good Karma Café, an independent coffee shop in Philadelphia, successfully voted out the SBWU union with Foundation help.

The flurry of decertification attempts is occurring roughly one year after SBWU union agents engaged in an aggressive unionization campaign against Starbucks employees. Federal labor law forbids workers from decertifying a union for a year after its installation, meaning many workers are seizing on the earliest possible opportunity to rid themselves of the SBWU union’s “representation.”

Outside of Starbucks, union decertification efforts are becoming much more common. Currently, the NLRB’s data shows two consecutive years of increased decertification efforts, with a nearly 30% increase in decertification petitions last year versus 2021.

However, union officials have many ways to manipulate federal labor law to prevent workers from voting them out, including by filing unrelated or unverified charges against management. Foundation attorneys are assisting workers who have been targeted with such tactics by union officials.

“SBWU union officials are leveraging their legal privileges and the deep pockets of their affiliate, the Service Employees International Union, to try to install union control over as many Starbucks employees as they can as quickly as they can,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “But as Starbucks and other coffee employees across the country continue to try to flee the union’s power, it’s becoming clearer that the SBWU’s campaign is rooted more in generating political buzz and expanding union power than actually standing up for workers’ interests.”

“Such union behavior is precisely why workers’ right to vote to remove unwanted union officials is so vital, and Foundation attorneys will continue to fight alongside Ms. Smith and numerous other coffee employees across the country to defend this right,” Mix added.

10 Oct 2023
9 Oct 2023

Foundation Defends Michigan Workers with Forced Dues Looming

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, July/August 2023 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

With Right to Work repeal law passed, workers seek to escape mandatory payments

Michigan legislators’ unpopular decision to repeal the state’s Right to Work law helped prompt Mary Soltysiak and her coworkers’ move to vote out the IAM union.

LANSING, MI – Despite poll after poll showing 70 percent of Michiganders wanted Michigan’s decade-old Right to Work law left in place, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and union cronies in the Michigan Legislature voted to strip Wolverine State workers of their right to refrain from funding unwanted union bosses in March. In response, the Foundation sprang into action, issuing a Special Legal Notice to Michigan workers advising them of their legal options as the state transitions to a forced-dues regime. The notice reminded workers that, despite what union bosses may claim, the state’s Right to Work law remains in effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends later this year — and also what they can do in advance of forced dues being legal again. Unsurprisingly, given Right to Work’s popularity even among union households, Michigan workers are stepping up and taking action to defend their rights against coercive unionism.

Michigan Workers Battle Forced-Dues Schemes Ahead of Repeal

For example, Foundation attorneys are currently assisting Grand Rapids-area Kroger employee Roger Cornett’s challenge to an illegal dues scheme perpetrated by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union officials. Cornett hit UFCW bosses with federal charges this May, accusing them of ignoring a letter in which he exercised his right to cut off dues deductions from his paycheck. Cornett’s charges also maintained that UFCW bosses sought to seize money from him using a form that blatantly violates existing federal law. Cornett’s charge says the form is illegal because of its “dual purpose” nature, meaning just one signature confusingly locks a worker into both membership and dues deductions. Federal law requires any authorization for union dues deductions to be voluntary and separate from a union membership application. UFCW bosses’ contempt for longstanding federal protections in Cornett’s case likely indicates how aggressively union officials will pursue forced dues under a non-Right to Work regime. The Foundation’s legal notice also counsels workers that they can avoid forced-dues arrangements entirely by petitioning the NLRB to hold “decertification elections” at their workplaces, in which workers can vote unpopular unions out.

Legal Notice Counsels Workers of Right to Vote Out Unwanted Unions

Mary Soltysiak, who opposes forced dues, heard news of the upcoming repeal and filed a petition to decertify the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District Lodge 60/Local Lodge 475 union with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. Soltysiak and her colleagues work at Terryberry, a manufacturing firm in Grand Rapids, MI.

Soltysiak stated that she and some of her colleagues “contacted [a Foundation attorney] and filled out paperwork to get out of paying union dues around  the year 2018 because of the Right to Work . . . law.”

“The union has done nothing but hurt my paycheck and my vacation hours,” Soltysiak added.

Soltysiak and her coworkers achieved victory this May, when the NLRB certified their majority vote ousting the IAM union. Hopefully, their success portends the future success of the growing number of workers in Michigan and across the country looking to decertify the unions in their workplaces.

Foundation Also Defending Public Sector Right to Work Protections

As noted in the Foundation’s legal notice, the Michigan Right to Work repeal does not affect public sector Michigan employees. Under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, no public worker in America can be forced to subsidize a union as a condition of employment. But, as the repeal is looming, Michigan public sector union officials are nonetheless seeking to undermine public employees’ freedom to refrain from union support through so-called “fee-for-grievance” schemes.

This April, the Foundation submitted a brief in the Michigan Supreme Court case Technical, Professional and Officeworkers Association of Michigan (TPOAM) v. Renner, in which TPOAM officials are trying to enforce a “fee-for-grievance” policy against Saginaw County employee Daniel Renner. Under it, union bosses strip nonmember public employees of any power to file grievances themselves, and instead mandate that they pay fees sometimes exceeding yearly union dues to use the union’s grievance system.

Michigan legislators’ unpopular decision to repeal the state’s Right to Work law helped prompt Mary Soltysiak and her coworkers’ move to vote out the IAM union.

In the brief, Foundation staff attorneys refute the union’s claims for this newfound power, stating that “fee-for-grievance” schemes were never authorized by the Michigan Legislature and are inconsistent with federal law.

Foundation Attorneys Will Defend Worker Freedom in Michigan

“Michigan union officials and their allies in the state legislature have contempt for workers’ individual rights that knows no bounds,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director William Messenger. “That was made clear by the repeal of the popular Right to Work law, and the attempt to undermine Right to Work protections for public sector employees which are safeguarded by the First Amendment under the Foundation’s Janus U.S. Supreme Court victory.”

“Michigan workers have a long road ahead to restore their rights against union coercion, but Foundation attorneys are fighting alongside these workers, and will continue to fight until no Michigan worker can be forced to pay union bosses they disapprove of just to keep a job,” Messenger added.

6 Oct 2023

Employee Advocate Issues Legal Notice After Labor Board Fast-Tracks Union Control Over Workers Without Secret Ballot Votes

Posted in News Releases

“Employees who are the targets of union organizing campaigns, and who do not want to be subject to monopoly union representation, must be vigilant about their rights after Cemex.”

Washington, DC (October 6, 2023) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has released a special legal notice informing workers across the country about the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) significant rollback of workers’ right to vote in secret ballot elections to determine whether or not to unionize. The Biden NLRB’s August ruling in the Cemex Construction Materials Pacific case effectively mandates the “card check” method of union installation, which lets union officials seize power in a workplace without winning an election, or even after workers vote against union affiliation in a secret ballot vote.

“Employees who are the targets of union organizing campaigns, and who do not want to be subject to monopoly union representation, must be vigilant about their rights after Cemex,” the notice warns. “Under Cemex, unions can impose their mandatory representation on employees quickly and without employees being able to vote on whether they want union representation.”

The card check process is a union organizing tactic in which a union becomes the monopoly representative of all employees in a unit—including employees who want nothing to do with the union—by collecting union authorization cards directly from a majority of workers. The lack of privacy during a card check exposes workers to coercive tactics from union officials, including misinformation about the true purpose of the cards or threats made against workers who refuse to sign.

The notice emphasizes that the Cemex ruling forces employers to make a decision after union bosses simply claim majority support that will often result in the union gaining power without a worker vote. Under Cemex, if a union claims a majority of workers signed union cards, within two weeks the employer must either “[r]ecognize the union as the monopoly representative of its employees without allowing employees to vote,” or petition the board to hold an election – though the NLRB can strip workers of their right to vote under this option if it believes the employer has committed an unfair labor practice, even if the employees themselves have done nothing wrong.

The full notice is available at: www.nrtw.org/Cemex

Workers Have Right to Campaign Against Unwanted Unions and Can Refuse to Sign Union Cards 

The notice explains that all employees have the right to refuse to sign a union authorization card, and to revoke any union authorization card they previously signed. It also reminds workers that “it is a good practice to inform both the union and your employer in writing that you revoked the card so that the union and your employer do not wrongfully count you as a supporter of union representation during a card check.”

Workers also have the right to “sign and circulate cards or petitions against union representation, on non-work time and in non-work areas,” the notice states. Such petitions or cards can be used later to request the NLRB hold an election at the workplace to remove (or “decertify”) the union, and can also be provided to the employer as evidence to contest union claims of majority support.

The notice provides links to sample letters revoking union authorization cards and sample union decertification petitions. “If you have questions about your rights during a union organizing campaign, you can contact Foundation staff attorneys for more information and assistance with exercising your rights,” the notice concludes.

“Not that long ago, bipartisan opposition in Congress blocked legislation to mandate coercive card check unionization. In an unprecedented move, the Biden NLRB is bypassing Congress to mandate this abuse-prone process all on its own by federal fiat,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Make no mistake, this is not about the rights or freedom of rank-and-file workers, but empowering union bosses to the detriment of regular workers and their freedom of choice.”

“While this is a significant blow to the rights of independent-minded workers, they still have options to oppose unwanted union representation. It’s vital that they know those rights going into this new legal landscape, and National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys stand ready to defend their rights,” added Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys have a long history of helping employees challenge union card check schemes, and workers should not hesitate to contact the Foundation for free legal aid if they believe union organizers are attempting to use Cemex to impose a union in their workplace.”

4 Oct 2023

Buffalo Starbucks Worker Files Groundbreaking Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of NLRB Structure

Posted in News Releases

Regional NLRB blocked employee and her coworkers from voting out union majority disapproved of, new lawsuit challenges agency’s authority

Buffalo, NY (October 4, 2023) – Buffalo “Del-Chip” Starbucks employee Ariana Cortes has hit the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with a federal lawsuit, arguing that the federal agency’s current structure violates the separation of powers. The lawsuit, filed with the District Court for the District of Columbia, follows Cortes’ challenge to an NLRB Regional Director’s dismissal of her and her coworkers’ petition seeking a vote to remove Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) union officials from their store.

Cortes is receiving free legal aid in both proceedings from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The lawsuit contends that, because NLRB Board Members cannot be removed at-will by the President, the NLRB’s structure violates Article II of the Constitution.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the law which established the Board, restricts a president’s ability to remove Board members except for neglect of duty or malfeasance. The complaint argues that “[t]hese restrictions are impermissible limitations on the President’s ability to remove Board members and violates the Constitution’s separation of powers. Thus, the Board, as currently constituted, is unconstitutional.”

“The Supreme Court made clear in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB, 140 S. Ct. 2183 (2020) and Collins v. Yellen, 141 S. Ct. 1761 (2021) that under Article II of the Constitution, the President must be able to remove federal officials who exercise substantial executive power,” the complaint states. “The five-member NLRB exercises substantial executive power because it issues binding rules, adjudicates unfair labor practices and representation disputes, issues subpoenas, and decides whether and how to direct and conduct elections in representation cases.”

Regional NLRB Dismisses Starbucks Employees’ Request to Vote Out Union

On April 28, Cortes filed a petition, backed by the majority of her coworkers, that requests the NLRB conduct a decertification election at her workplace to end the monopoly bargaining power of SBWU union officials. NLRB Region 3 dismissed Cortes’ petition based on unfair labor practice charges SBWU union officials filed against Starbucks, despite there being no proven connection between those allegations and the decertification petition.

Cortes’ Foundation-provided attorneys filed a Request for Review with the Board challenging this dismissal order. That appeal contrasted the standard the NLRB often applies to petitions to certify unions, which usually proceed with little to no delay, with the standard the NLRB applies to petitions to decertify unions, which are often hamstrung and delayed.

New Federal Lawsuit Seeks to Temporarily Enjoin Unconstitutional Proceedings

Cortes’ new federal lawsuit seeks a declaration from the District Court that the structure of the NLRB as it currently exists is unconstitutional, and an injunction halting the NLRB from proceeding with her decertification case until her federal lawsuit is resolved.

“For too long the NLRB, especially the current Board, has operated as a union boss-friendly kangaroo court, complete with powerful bureaucrats who exercise unaccountable power in violation of the Constitution,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As the story of Ms. Cortes shows, the NLRB’s unchecked power creates real harms for workers’ rights, especially when workers seek to free themselves from the control of union bosses they disagree with.”

29 Sep 2023

National Right to Work Foundation Files SCOTUS Brief Defending Alaska’s Protections Against Forced Union Dues

Posted in News Releases

Alaska facing ASEA union lawsuit over arrangement which requires union bosses to obtain affirmative consent from employees before deducting dues

Washington, DC (September 29, 2023) – Today, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Alaska v. Alaska State Employees Association. The brief supports the State of Alaska’s attempt to safeguard public sector workers’ First Amendment right to refrain from paying dues to a union they disapprove of. This right was first recognized in the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, which was successfully argued at the High Court by Foundation Legal Director William Messenger.

In the 2018 Janus decision, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects public sector employees from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of getting or keeping a job. The High Court further recognized that unions must obtain a worker’s freely given waiver of his or her Janus rights before deducting union dues or fees from his or her paycheck.

In an attempt to ensure his state wasn’t violating its employees’ constitutional rights, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued an executive order to protect workers’ Janus rights: The order requires the state to obtain consent from workers each year to deduct union dues from their paychecks. This arrangement ensures that the “freely given consent” element of Janus is satisfied, while also preventing union bosses from continuing to deduct money from a worker’s wages based on a “yes” given years ago.

However, Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA) union bosses sued the State of Alaska over its Janus protections, and were able to get the state’s highest court to block the arrangement. Even worse, as Foundation staff attorneys point out in the amicus brief, “five Circuit Courts have now held that states and unions can constitutionally seize payments for union speech from dissenting employees without proof they waived their constitutional rights.”

Amicus Brief: Lower Courts and States Are Letting Unions Seize Dues Without Workers’ Consent

The Foundation’s amicus brief maintains that, after the Janus decision, at least seventeen states either “amended their dues deduction laws…to require government employers to enforce restrictions on when employees can stop payroll deductions of union dues,” or “enforced restrictions on stopping payroll deductions under preexisting state laws.” Both lead to unacceptable restraints on public sector workers’ Janus rights, the amicus brief argues.

The amicus brief further contends that lower courts, especially the Ninth Circuit, have misinterpreted Janus to not require public employers to notify public workers of their Janus rights before collecting dues, which dips below the “waiver” standard mandated by the decision. Additionally, the amicus brief points out that the Ninth Circuit has issued decisions that free public employers from any obligation to prove that union bosses obtained authentic consent from workers before dues are taken from their wages.

“Unless the Court grants review and breathes new life into Janus’ waiver requirement, unions and their government allies will continue to severely restrict the right of millions of employees to stop subsidizing union speech,” the amicus brief concludes. “The Court should not tolerate this resistance to its holding in Janus.”

“Public sector union bosses, who prize their own dues-funded political influence far above the individual rights of the employees they claim to ‘represent,’ have tried everything in their power to dodge the Janus ruling and keep siphoning money from workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “The Supreme Court has an opportunity in the State of Alaska’s case to set the record straight and ensure that workers’ free association rights can’t simply be molded according to their own schemes.”

26 Sep 2023

Foundation-Backed Workers Notch Victories Over Dues-Hungry UAW Bosses

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, July/August 2023 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

UAW caught using threats and coercion to illegally seize workers’ dues

Shiphrah Green Louisville Courier Journal Foundation Action

Ford employee Shiphrah Green excoriated UAW bosses in the Louisville Courier Journal over their blatant disregard for her rights. Foundation attorneys are helping her and others battle the notoriously corrupt union.

LOUISVILLE, KY – United Auto Workers (UAW) union officials have a well-deserved reputation for looking out for their own interests while throwing rank-and-file workers under the bus. The most prominent recent example is the corruption and embezzlement scandal, in which federal investigators revealed that UAW officials had siphoned millions of dollars in workers’ money to fund opulent golf vacations in luxury condos and private villas, spa and amusement park visits, $60,000 cigar-buying sprees, and much more.

But the federal corruption probe that led to eleven top UAW bosses pleading guilty, including former union presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams, is hardly the only time greedy UAW bosses abused their government-granted monopoly bargaining powers.

In a series of recent cases brought by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys against the UAW, workers are utilizing the Foundation’s free legal aid to vindicate their rights in the face of illegal dues demands by UAW officials.

Foundation-won Settlements Force UAW to Return Money to KY, IA Workers

Shiphrah Green, an employee of Ford Motor Company’s Louisville Assembly Plant, prevailed over UAW Local 862 bosses with free Foundation legal aid in April. UAW bosses were forced to settle and return money they had unlawfully taken from Green’s pay.

Green’s federal charges against the union maintained not only that UAW officials had made her jump through unnecessary hoops to exercise her right to cut off union dues, but also that UAW bosses made threats against her job when she tried to resign, with one union official warning her “if it were up to me, you’d lose your job for leaving the union.” Green’s settlement also forced UAW officials to refrain from such illegal threats in the future.

Meanwhile in Iowa, four employees of air filter manufacturer Donaldson won a recent settlement in which UAW officials were required to return over $1,000 in illegally-seized dues.

In each Donaldson worker’s case, UAW bosses had either refused to stop dues deductions despite producing no original documentation showing the workers had consented to such deductions in the first place, or had kept seizing money after an employee resigned union membership and revoked authorization to deduct dues, which should have been effective in stopping the flow of dues.

Because Ms. Green and the Donaldson workers reside in Right to Work states, the Foundation-won cases mean they will be free from all union financial support going forward.

Philly Public Defender Hits UAW with Charges

Even in non-Right to Work states where union officials have the power to compel workers to pay some fees under threat of termination, UAW bosses still go far beyond what is legal in their greedy forced-dues demands.

For example, Foundation staff attorneys recently filed a case for Philadelphia public defender Brunilda Vargas. Vargas, a vocal opponent of the UAW’s unionization drive, was told by UAW organizers that the union would reduce her and her coworkers’ wages if they did not grant the union the power to automatically deduct union dues directly from their paychecks.

Not only is the threat illegal, but further, employees can never be required to authorize automatic dues deductions from their paychecks under long-established federal law. This is true even in a state like Pennsylvania where workers lack the protection of a Right to Work law. Vargas’ charge, filed in June, is now being investigated.

“American workers likely have a plethora of reasons for wanting nothing to do with UAW union officials, including but not limited to the dizzying corruption in the union that has led to so many union officials going to prison,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “As Foundation attorneys have experienced, UAW officials will often resort to clearly illegal methods to squeeze money out of dissenting workers in violation of federal law.”

“Union bosses who cannot convince workers to pay union dues voluntarily should not be allowed to seize union dues under threat of termination,” Semmens added.