National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for Michigan Construction Workers Impacted by Operating Engineers Union Boss Strike
Recent cases brought by Foundation staff attorneys demonstrate union officials frequently mislead workers about their rights during a strike
Detroit, MI (Aug 1, 2019) – Staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have provided a legal notice to Michigan-based employees of the Rieth-Riley Construction Company in the wake of Operating Engineers Local 324 union boss strike demands.
News reports indicate that the strike order affects hundreds of employees who are operating heavy machinery as part of Michigan state projects to repair the state’s highways. The special legal notice informs these affected workers of the rights union officials won’t tell them about, including that they have the right to keep working and support their families despite the union boss-ordered strike.
“The situation raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the legal notice reads. “Which is why workers frequently contact the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation to learn how they can avoid fines and other vicious union discipline for continuing to work during a strike to support themselves and their families.”
The Foundation’s legal notice informs Rieth-Riley employees of their rights to resign union membership and continue to work during the union-determined strike, complete with example resignation letters. It also notes that workers have the right to revoke their union dues “check-offs,” which authorize their employer to deduct union dues directly from their paychecks. Finally, the notice provides a link to information on how to oust an unwanted union from the workplace, including the process for initiating a National Labor Relations Board-approved decertification vote.
The full notice can be found at www.nrtw.org/rieth-riley/.
The National Right to Work Foundation is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuse. In California earlier this year, the Foundation represented three Sacramento-based mosquito abatement employees who sued Operating Engineers Local 3 for illegally intimidating them simply because they had sought information on their right to decertify a union. The California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) ruled in favor of the workers in May.
The Foundation also aided employees in the aftermath of the high-profile New England Stop & Shop strike which was ordered by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union bosses in April. Foundation staff attorneys filed federal charges against the UFCW for two workers who received threats of illegal retaliation after continuing to work during the strike, and provided many more with information on their rights.
“As demonstrated in California earlier this year, Operating Engineers bosses will stop at nothing to ensure workers don’t discover their rights, and that effort will only intensify during this strike,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation, since its founding in 1968, has been committed to offering free legal aid to workers to protect themselves from union bosses’ coercive tactics which regularly go hand-in-hand with union strike demands.”
National Right to Work Foundation: Federal Agencies Must Stop Deducting Union Dues in Violation of First Amendment Janus Rights
Comments to Federal Labor Relations Authority point out that no union dues can be seized unless a federal employee provides a knowing waiver of their First Amendment rights
Washington, DC (Aug 12, 2019) – Today the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed comments with the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) regarding the need for the federal government to fully protect the First Amendment rights of its employees as recognized in the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME.
The submission comes after the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) asked the FLRA to solicit public comments on how to proceed with union dues deductions in light of the Supreme Court’s decision.
In Janus, the High Court held that requiring public employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment violates their First Amendment rights “by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.” Justice Samuel Alito further ruled for the majority that no union dues or fees could be taken from a public employee “unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay” using a “freely given” waiver of his or her First Amendment rights.
Consistent with that standard, the Foundation urged the FLRA to issue guidance to agencies that they “must cease deducting union dues from the wages of employees who signed a dues deduction form that does not satisfy the [Janus] standard.” Federal employees who signed dues deduction authorizations before the Janus decision did not knowingly waive their Janus rights. Consequently, union dues cannot legally be deducted from their paychecks.
According to the Department of Labor, nearly one million federal employees (or 26.4% of all federal workers) are union members, most of whom are likely having dues deducted from their paychecks despite never having knowingly waived their First Amendment right not to subsidize union activities as protected by Janus.
Workers who want to voluntarily pay union dues must either provide the government with a valid waiver or pay dues on their own without using taxpayer-funded payroll systems to forward the money to union officials. The comments further argue that, even where workers provide a valid authorization for dues deductions that meets the Janus standard, the government should not block them from revoking that authorization if the request is submitted at any time at least a year after the Janus-complaint authorization was obtained.
Though federal workers have never been required to pay union dues or fees to keep a job, agencies and union officials frequently prohibit employees from stopping the seizure of union dues from their wages except during short annual escape periods. The comments filed by the National Right to Work Foundation say that this practice does not comply with Janus either.
“The Janus precedent is not ambiguous on this issue: Without an affirmative and knowing waiver from public workers, the government cannot collect union dues without violating the First Amendment,” explained National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The government is seizing union dues from close to one million federal workers in violation of the First Amendment, and federal agencies have an obligation to act swiftly to ensure that workers’ Janus rights are fully protected.”
Foundation staff attorneys have been hard at work ensuring that public workers’ constitutional rights under the Janus decision are protected, with more than 30 cases active in federal courts across the country to enforce the landmark ruling.
National Labor Relations Board Announces Rules to Limit Union Boss Tactics Trapping Workers in Unions They Oppose
Today the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced rulemaking to change its policies that permit union officials to block workers from holding decertification votes to remove unions. The alterations incorporate standards established in past NLRB cases argued by Foundation staff attorneys, and urged in comments submitted by staff attorneys to the Board.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following comments regarding the NLRB’s move:
“For years union officials have used a wide range of tactics to suppress the right to vote out a union that is opposed by a majority of workers. Today’s announced rules are a good first step in what needs to be a larger series of reforms that put the rights of workers ahead of the coercive legal powers that have been granted to union bosses. That Big Labor will oppose these proposals that simply make it easier for workers to vote for or against unionization in secret ballot elections demonstrates how much their power derives from legal trickery and not from the voluntary support of rank-and-file workers.”
The announced changes include the elimination of a “bar” blocking workers from voting out a union for a period of time after a union has been installed through a controversial “card check” process and reforms to the NLRB’s “blocking charge” policy that permits union officials to file Unfair Labor Practice charges that then block workers’ right to hold a decertification election, sometimes for years. Both of the proposed changes are reforms that Foundation staff attorneys have long pushed for, including in comments to the NLRB on the election rules submitted in April 2018.
Over the years, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated dozens of cases at the NLRB for workers whose petitions for decertification votes were not processed because of the two policies.
In June 2018, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys won the landmark Janus v. AFSMCE case at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Janus decision established that the First Amendment protects public-sector workers from being forced to pay dues or fees to a union against their wishes.
Union bosses have widely blocked public employees from exercising their Janus rights using a variety of coercive tactics, requiring Foundation staff attorneys to pursue dozens of follow-up cases to enforce Janus.
Recently The Wall Street Journal published an article highlighting this ongoing litigation and heavily cited veteran Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger:
The opt-out window is a favorite post-Janus union tactic for retaining members. More than 40 lawsuits against these “escape period” requirements are pending across the country, according to Bill Messenger, an attorney with the National Right to Work Foundation who argued Mark Janus’s case at the Supreme Court. …
Mr. Messenger and lawyers at LJC argue that these opt-out window requirements flout the Janus ruling, which clarified that a worker must give affirmative consent to become a union member. Before Janus, they argue, workers couldn’t give free, knowledgeable consent because they faced an unconstitutional choice between being a member or an agency-fee payer. Unions are violating the free-speech rights of members like Ms. Callaghan, who joined before Janus, by forcing them to wait for opt-out windows to leave. …
More than 80 lawsuits are challenging union efforts to hang on to unwilling members. Often handled by nonprofits like the LJC and NRTW Foundation, these suits fall into four main camps: challenging opt-out window restrictions, seeking compensation for pre-Janus agency fees paid by nonmembers, fighting exclusive union representation, and extending Janus to the private sector. These cases aren’t litigating the merits of unions; they’re seeking to codify workers’ freedom to choose whether they want to be in one.
Read the complete column from The Wall Street Journal here.