Teachers Win Case at Michigan Court of Appeals Against Union Officials for Violating Right to Work Law
Court affirms ruling against union officials who demanded that two Ann Arbor teachers continue to pay union fees after resigning union membership
Ann Arbor, Michigan (March 22, 2019) – Two public school teachers have won a victory at the Michigan Court of Appeals with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys after union officials violated their legal rights.
The court affirmed the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) finding that union officials with the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA) union, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association (MEA) union, violated the rights of teachers Jeffrey Finnan and Cory Merante under Michigan’s Right to Work Law by demanding that they continue to pay union fees even though they had resigned their union membership. The teachers both worked for the Ann Arbor School District.
Michigan’s Right to Work statutes, which went into effect in March 2013, protect workers from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment and allow workers to cut off all union dues or fees after resigning their union membership.
Finnan and Merante each filed unfair labor practice charges against the AAEA because union officials demanded that they continue paying union fees after resigning union membership. An administrative law judge (ALJ) sided with the teachers, finding that union officials had engaged in unfair labor practices by demanding that the teachers continue to pay union fees.
MERC affirmed the ALJ’s findings and ordered the union to cease and desist from demanding payment of union fees from the nonmembers in violation of their rights.
Union officials appealed, but the Michigan Court of Appeals now has affirmed MERC’s decision. The court agreed that union officials had violated the rights of Finnan and Merante under Michigan’s Right to Work Law to refrain from financially supporting the union.
“This ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals upholds Right to Work protections for workers laid out clearly in state law,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Time and again, Michigan union bosses have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to obtain membership dues and union fees from the workers they supposedly represent, regardless of workers’ wishes.”
Since Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan to combat compulsory unionism.
Veteran National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney Glenn Taubman appeared on a Federalist Society Teleforum call to discuss the sweeping NLRB decision in a nine-year-old-case brought by Rhode Island nurse Jeanette Geary.
Click here to listen to the discussion.
To learn more about the case, watch this update by Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation.
NLRB Decision: United Nurses & Allied Professionals (Kent Hospital)
City of Columbus Worker Brings Class Action Lawsuit Against Union and City to Halt Unconstitutional Forced Union Dues Scheme
CWA union officials claim workers can be forced to wait years until end of union contract before exercising First Amendment rights to stop dues payments
Columbus, OH (March 14, 2019) – A civil servant in Ohio has filed a federal class action lawsuit with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys against Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 4502 for violating her constitutional rights recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision by continuing to seize forced dues from her paycheck.
Connie Pennington, an employee of the city of Columbus, filed the lawsuit to challenge CWA Local 4502 union officials’ “escape period” policy that blocks her and hundreds of her coworkers from exercising their constitutional right under the National Right to Work Foundation-won Janus Supreme Court decision to refrain from financially supporting the union.
Pennington resigned her union membership and revoked her dues deduction authorization shortly after the landmark Janus decision. However, CWA union officials refused to honor her revocation, instead claiming that she could only stop union dues payments at the end of their collective bargaining agreement with her employer in May 2020, leaving her trapped in forced dues for the entirety of a union monopoly bargaining contract.
Faced with being forced to subsidize the union against her will for more than a year, Pennington sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. Veteran Foundation staff attorney William Messenger, who argued the Janus case at the Supreme Court, sent a letter to CWA Local 4502 union officials for Pennington, reiterating her dues deduction revocation and explaining that a policy blocking her from exercising those rights violated the First Amendment. However, CWA officials continued to refuse to recognize her revocation and continued to deduct union dues from Pennington’s paycheck.
Pennington filed a class action lawsuit with help from Foundation staff attorneys challenging the “escape period” policy as unconstitutional, because the policy limits when she can exercise her First Amendment rights under Janus and allows CWA Local 4502 officials to collect union dues without her affirmative consent. Her lawsuit argues that the “escape period” should be eliminated to allow her and other workers to exercise their Janus rights without restriction.
Pennington also seeks a refund of union dues forcibly seized after she had resigned her union membership, as well as for all other workers whose attempts to exercise their rights under Janus were blocked by the illegal policy.
In Janus, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to require public employees to subsidize a labor union. The Court further held that deducting any union dues or fees without a public employee’s affirmative consent violates the employee’s First Amendment rights.
“Ms. Pennington joins many other public sector workers across the country in standing up to Big Labor’s coercion,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union officials have a long history of creating obstacles such as ‘escape period’ schemes, arbitrary union-enacted limitations trapping workers into forced dues. This case shows that the National Right to Work Foundation must remain vigilant to protect government employees’ rights under Janus.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are providing free legal aid to public sector workers in over two dozen cases across the country to enforce the Janus decision. To assist public employees in learning about their First Amendment rights under Janus, the Foundation established a special website: MyJanusRights.org.
NLRB Issues Formal Complaint Against Union for Failure to Disclose Amount of Nonmembers’ Forced Fees
Unite Here union bosses already backed down from separate charge filed by Lewis & Clark College employee challenging illegal forced fees demands
Portland, OR (March 8, 2019) – After worker Terry Denton sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys to file unfair labor practice charges over forced union dues, Unite Here Local 8 union officials backed down from unlawfully billing nonmembers for union fees they did not owe. Moreover, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint in a separate case brought by Denton and a coworker against Unite Here Local 8 challenging the union’s failure to disclose the amount of reduced compulsory nonmember fees.
The complaint comes after a new memo issued by NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, in which Robb says that union officials under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) should disclose the amount of nonmember fees to enable employees to make an informed choice between full membership dues and reduced compulsory fees.
Terry Denton works for Bon Appetit at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She and her coworkers are under the monopoly bargaining representation of Unite Here Local 8 union officials, who unionized the workplace in May 2017 via a coercive “card check” campaign, an abuse-prone process that circumvents the protections employees have under an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election.
Denton and several of her colleagues are not union members. Because Oregon lacks a Right to Work law, nonmembers can be required to pay union officials in order to work. However, workers cannot be required to fund activities unrelated to union bargaining, such as political action, lobbying, or organizing.
Denton exercised her right to object to paying full union dues and funding union activities beyond what can be required. However, Unite Here Local 8 officials demanded that she and similarly situated employees pay more than the reduced compulsory fee required to keep their jobs. Union officials sent her and other nonmembers bills for union fees for months already paid, months not worked, and/or amounts more than or equal to full union membership dues. Union officials threatened the workers that if they did not pay the amount demanded they could be fired.
To protect her rights, Denton sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
In the Foundation-won Beck decision, the United States Supreme Court provided some limited protection by holding that workers cannot be forced to pay union dues for certain union activity.
After Denton filed her charges with the NLRB in January 2019, Unite Here Local 8 backed down from their initial demands by waiving fee payments for all nonmembers until November 2018. Union officials then sent out new bills reflecting the new policy and crediting payments that Denton previously made.
Additional charges brought against Unite Here Local 8 are ongoing. In August 2018, Denton and another employee, Alejandro Martinez Cuevas, filed unfair labor practice charges alleging that Unite Here Local 8 violated their rights by failing to provide employees under their monopoly bargaining contract with sufficient information to allow the workers to make an informed decision about whether to object to paying full union dues. The notices provided to employees who had not yet objected failed to include the amount of the reduction in fees for employees who object to paying full union dues.
The NLRB Regional Director issued a complaint, consolidating Denton’s and Cuevas’ charges, in light of General Counsel Robb’s new memo. The memo urges the NLRB to overturn a ruling made by the Obama NLRB in 2014 that held unions do not have to inform a new employee of the specific amount of nonmember compulsory fees until the worker decides to object to union membership and full union dues.
“Ms. Denton stood up to union bosses’ coercive attempts to take advantage of her and other employees through illegal demands on their hard-earned money,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “However, this shows that stronger legal protections are critical for the future of Oregon’s independent-minded workers. Union bosses incessantly abuse their forced-fees privileges at the expense of the workers they claim to ‘represent.’”
“A clear ruling by the NLRB is needed to protect workers from Big Labor’s tactics, but ultimately Oregon needs to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and financial support completely voluntary,” added Mix.
Teamsters officials refused to honor employee’s union resignation, demanding hundreds in union dues
Grand Rapids, MI (March 5, 2019) – Federal charges brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for Karen Ellis against Teamsters Local 332 have forced union officials to settle. Ellis filed the charges against Local 332 after union officials ignored her union dues deduction authorization revocation and threatened to sue her to force her to pay union dues.
Ellis works at Vocational Independence Program, an adult education school, in Flint, Michigan. Teamsters Local 332’s monopoly bargaining contract over her and her coworkers expired December 31, 2016. In February 2017, during the contractual hiatus, Ellis hand-delivered a letter to Local 332 union officials notifying them that she resigned from union membership and revoked her authorization for union dues deductions from her paycheck. She sent another letter two days later to reiterate her dues deduction revocation, and additionally notified Local 332’s international affiliate of her revocation in a letter two weeks later.
Union officials waited nine months before notifying Ellis in November 2017 that they refused to honor her revocation of dues deduction authorization, claiming that she owed union dues of nearly $300 and threatening to sue her if she did not pay the dues they claimed she owed. Local 332 also filed a grievance against Vocational Independence Program for honoring her revocation and stopping the deduction of union dues from her paycheck.
Even after Ellis reiterated her revocation – in November 2017 and again in February 2018, during another contractual hiatus – union officials refused to honor her revocation and threatened to sue her if she did not give in to their demands and pay the union dues they claimed.
Ellis sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys to challenge the union officials’ demands as a violation of the National Labor Relations Act by blocking her from exercising her right to refrain from union membership and paying union dues.
Rather than face Foundation attorneys in an NLRB hearing, Local 332 officials decided to settle. Under the settlement, they will honor Ellis’ original dues deduction revocation submitted after the monopoly bargaining contract expired in 2016. Additionally, union officials will post a notice informing the school’s employees of their right to choose whether or not to join and support a union.
“Ms. Ellis defended her rights against union bosses’ under-handed attempts to coerce and threaten her into paying union dues against her wishes,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Unfortunately, this case is one of many that shows that union bosses will trample on the rights of the workers they claim to ‘represent’ to pander to their forced-dues greed. The Foundation must remain vigilant to protect employees from compulsory unionism’s abuses, even in Right to Work states like Michigan.”
Michigan’s popular Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012 and ended any requirement that workers must pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Since the legislation was passed, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan combating compulsory unionism.
NLRB Rules Union Officials Violated Federal Law by Forcing Nonmember Workers to Pay for Union Lobbying Activities
Labor Board ruling also found union violated Rhode Island nurse’s rights by not providing independent verification that its compulsory fee calculation was audited
Washington, DC (March 1, 2019) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a sweeping decision in a nine-year-old case brought by Rhode Island nurse Jeanette Geary, ruling that union officials unlawfully spent Geary’s forced union fees and failed to meet a financial disclosure requirement on the amount of compulsory fees required as a condition of employment.
Geary, then a nurse at Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) union in 2009 with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
She filed the charges after UNAP officials failed to provide evidence of a legally required independent audit of its breakdown of expenditures. She also challenged the union’s forcing of her and other employees to pay for union lobbying activities in violation of the National Right to Work Foundation-won 1988 U.S. Supreme Court Beck decision.
The NLRB had issued a decision in 2012, but that decision was invalidated by the Supreme Court’s holding in NLRB v. Noel Canning that the Board lacked a valid quorum because of three unconstitutional “recess appointments” then President Obama made. Seven years later, Geary’s case was the only remaining case invalidated by Noel Canning that was still pending without a decision by the NLRB.
In January 2019 Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking a court order that the NLRB promptly decide Geary’s case. The Appeals Court then ordered the NLRB to respond to the mandamus petition by March 4, which ultimately caused the NLRB to issue its decision on March 1, just ahead of the deadline.
The NLRB’s 3-1 decision held that union officials violate workers’ rights by forcing nonmembers to fund union lobbying activities. It also ruled that union officials must provide independent verification that the union expenses they charge to nonmembers have been audited.
“Jeanette Geary bravely fought against Big Labor’s workplace coercion for years to stand up against a blatant refusal to respect her rights and those of the workers union officials claim to represent,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Although this is an overdue victory for Jeanette Geary, ultimately these types of forced union abuses will never be eliminated until Big Labor’s power to force workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment are completely eliminated.”
Learn more about the case here.
Worker Victory: NLRB Overturns Region’s Order Forcing Hospital Employees into Union they Never Supported and Overwhelmingly Opposed
Washington, DC (March 1, 2019) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a decision overturning a Regional Director’s decision forcing employees at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill East in Pennsylvania under the so-called “representation” of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) bosses even though the workers opposed the union and rejected an SEIU organizing drive targeting them.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys represented a group of employees in the case, providing free legal assistance to hospital employees challenging the Regional Director’s ruling.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix released the following statement regarding the decision:
“This ruling is a much needed victory for workers over a shameful union power grab aided and abetted by a demonstrably partisan Regional Director who only a few years ago was suspended for his pro-union conduct that violated NLRB ethics rules. Despite the workers in this case successfully resisting an SEIU organizing drive, union bosses attempted to game the NLRB system to force these workers into union forced-dues ranks. The unanimous Board decision overturning the Regional Director’s order is evidence of just how radical the accretion in this case was, and how the accretion doctrine undermines the premise of the National Labor Relations Act which is supposedly based on the idea that workers have a say in whether or not they are unionized.”
Learn more about the case here.
Union Bosses Back Down after Workers Challenge ‘Window Period’ Scheme Undermining Michigan’s Right to Work Law
MEA union settles, pays refunds, and agrees to recognize employees’ membership resignations and stop demanding forced union dues
Lansing, MI (February 28, 2019) – Unfair labor practice charges brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for several Michigan public school employees against the Michigan Education Association (MEA) have forced union officials to settle. The charges were originally filed between October 2013 and November 2014 with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC).
The settlements free the workers from union officials’ “window period” policy, under which union officials claimed they owed union dues despite the facts that each worker had resigned his or her membership and that Michigan’s popular Right to Work Law ended any requirement that workers must pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
After Michigan’s Right to Work Law went into effect in 2013, public school employees Lindsey Bentley, Mary Derks, Sarah Evon, Jeffery Hauswirth, Becky Lapham, Shannon Rochon, and Michael Rochon each resigned their membership in the MEA and its local affiliates.
However, union officials refused to acknowledge the resignations, citing a “window period” policy that limited members to exercising their right to resign union membership during the month of August. Union officials claimed that the workers owed membership dues until the next “window period” to resign came around in August 2014, which was for many of the workers nearly a full year after their resignation. MEA officials also threatened to use collection agencies to collect dues the union claimed to be owed.
The workers all sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, who assisted them in filing unfair labor practice charges at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission against MEA and its local affiliates. Their charges were held in abeyance pending the result of another case, Saginaw, in which National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys provided legal aid to public school employees challenging the MEA’s “window period” policy.
The MERC ruled in Saginaw that the MEA and its affiliates violated the state’s Right to Work protections for public employees by illegally restricting employees’ right to resign union membership and by attempting to collect dues under the unlawful policy. Union lawyers appealed MERC’s rulings, but the Court of Appeals affirmed that the “window period” policy and the demands for forced dues were illegal. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the union lawyers’ request for review of the rulings, leaving the Foundation-won victory for employees in place.
After losing to Foundation staff attorneys in court in Saginaw, MEA officials decided to settle these cases. The MEA officials have acknowledged each employee’s union membership resignation, stopped demanding union dues, and will refund with interest the union dues that two of the employees paid after his or her resignation. One employee will receive a refund of more than $250 while the other will receive nearly $500 in back dues and interest.
“These workers bravely challenged union bosses’ attempts to bully them into paying tribute to a union against their wishes,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “However, these cases also show that workers need to keep fighting against coercion, as Michigan union bosses have repeatedly proven their willingness to violate employees’ protections under Michigan’s Right to Work laws to keep Big Labor’s forced dues money stream flowing. Foundation staff attorneys continue to assist independent-minded workers across the state in fighting back against Big Labor’s campaign to undermine Right to Work in Michigan.”
Since Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan combating compulsory unionism.