30 Jan 2024

Warehouse Workers and Drivers at Keurig Dr. Pepper Facilities Across Wisconsin Vote Out Teamsters Union

Posted in News Releases

Unit of over 70 employees from Keurig Dr. Pepper locations in Eau Claire, Oshkosh, and Tomah will now be free from unwanted union “representation”

Wisconsin (January 30, 2024) – Workers from Keurig Dr. Pepper facilities across the Badger State have exercised their right to remove unwanted Teamsters Local 200 union officials from power at their workplaces. The ouster follows the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) January 26 certification of an election in which nearly 60% of participating drivers and warehouse workers from facilities in Oshkosh, Eau Claire, and Tomah voted to end the union’s bargaining power.

Oshkosh-based Keurig Dr. Pepper driver Ray Cotts spearheaded the effort to remove the union by submitting a union decertification petition to the NLRB in November 2023 with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. His petition contained more than enough employee signatures to trigger a union decertification vote under NLRB rules. The NLRB held the election beginning December 22, 2023, and counted ballots on January 16.

Wisconsin is a Right to Work state, meaning union officials cannot impose contracts that force workers to pay union dues just to get or keep a job. However, even in Right to Work states, union officials in a unionized workplace are empowered by federal law to impose a union contract on all employees in a work unit, including those who oppose the union. A successful decertification vote strips union officials of that power.

Employees Across U.S. Seeking Freedom from Union Control

Across the country, workers are increasingly attempting to exercise their right to vote out union officials they disapprove of. According to NLRB data, since 2020 decertification petitions filings have gone up by over 40 percent. Despite this trend, the Biden NLRB is attempting to make it substantially more difficult for workers to decertify unions, and could soon issue a final rule invalidating the Election Protection Rule, a policy which contains multiple important safeguards regarding employees’ right to decertify unions they oppose.

The Biden NLRB’s proposed rule, among other things, will give union bosses the power to use “blocking charges,” or unproven allegations of employer misconduct, to prevent workers from voting to decertify a union. The proposed rule will also strip workers of the ability to file for a secret ballot election after a union installs itself via “card check,” a coercive process that bypasses the NLRB’s standard election process and instead permits union bosses to collect cards from workers (often through strong-arm tactics) that are counted as “votes” for the union.

“We are proud to help Mr. Cotts, his coworkers, and a growing number of employees around the country exercise their right to vote out union officials that don’t serve their interests,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It’s concerning, however, to see the Biden NLRB marching forward its scheme to grant union officials more power to trap workers under union control, while cutting back on employees’ rights to resist union influence.”

“The 23 flavors in Dr. Pepper may always be a mystery, but the Biden NLRB’s forced-unionism agenda is clear for everyone to see. At every turn this Board has sought to rewrite the law to give the Administration’s union political allies more coercive power while limiting the rights of independent-minded workers opposed to union affiliation,” Mix added.

24 Jan 2024

Texas Starbucks Employee Challenges Federal Labor Board Structure as Unconstitutional in New Federal Lawsuit

Posted in News Releases

Regional NLRB blocked employee and his coworkers from voting out union, new lawsuit now second pending worker-backed challenge to agency’s authority

Fort Worth, TX (January 24, 2024) – Reed Busler, an employee at the “Military Highway” Starbucks in Shavano Park, TX, is hitting the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with a federal lawsuit arguing the federal agency’s structure violates the separation of powers. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, argues that the agency violates Article II of the Constitution by insulating NLRB Board Members from at-will removal by the President.

Busler’s lawsuit stems from an NLRB Regional Director’s dismissal of a petition he filed on behalf of his coworkers seeking an election to remove the Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) union from power at the coffee shop. Busler is receiving free legal aid in both proceedings from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the law that established the NLRB, restricts a president’s ability to remove Board members except for neglect of duty or malfeasance. Busler’s complaint contends that these restraints violate “the fundamental separation of powers principle that the President must be free to remove executive officers at will,” as dictated by Supreme Court cases like Seila Law LLC v. CFPB (2020) and Collins v. Yellen (2021).

“Board Members are principal officers wielding substantial executive power. This includes the power to promulgate binding rules, to enforce the law through adjudicating unfair labor practice disputes and issuing remedies, to issue subpoenas, and to enforce the law through adjudicating representation proceedings,” reads the complaint. “By adjudicating Busler’s petition notwithstanding its unconstitutional structure, the Board is violating his right to have his petition adjudicated by politically accountable officials.”

Regional NLRB Trapped Workers in Union Despite Reports of Abrasive Behavior

Busler submitted his union decertification petition on November 16, 2023. The petition contained signatures from enough of his coworkers to trigger a vote to remove the union under NLRB rules. However, the NLRB Regional Director still blocked the vote based on unfair labor practice charges SBWU union officials filed against Starbucks, despite there being no proven connection between those allegations and Busler’s decertification petition.

The NLRB’s refusal to hold a union decertification vote means that Busler and his coworkers are still trapped under the “representation” of the SBWU union, despite numerous reports of SBWU agents’ combative and abrasive behavior at the store. In other filings in the NLRB case, Busler and his colleagues reported that SBWU officials ordered a divisive strike in which “[union] supporters outside the store were loud, boisterous, and were screaming at customers” and “would sometimes yell at other employees or tell partners that if they did not support Workers United they would be personally ostracized by other partners.”

“Moreover, I believe the other employees who signed my decertification petition did not do so because they were coerced or duped by anything Starbucks allegedly did wrong, but because the Union was a divisive force in our store and has now ignored our location for several months,” Busler stated in an NLRB filing.

Lawsuit Seeks to Stop NLRB from Exercising Unconstitutional Power Over Workers’ Case

Busler’s 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 his decertification case until his federal lawsuit is resolved. Busler now joins Buffalo, NY-based Starbucks worker Ariana Cortes in challenging the structure of the NLRB with free Foundation legal aid.

“The National Labor Relations Board should not be a union boss-friendly kangaroo court run by powerful bureaucrats who exercise unaccountable power in violation of the Constitution,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Mr. Busler seeks to remove a union he and his colleagues oppose, and he is entitled to pursue that statutory right before an agency whose structure complies with the Constitution.”

18 Jan 2024

Second Group of Philly Ultimo Coffee Employees Successfully Remove Unwanted “Workers United” Union

Posted in News Releases

Employees submitted nearly unanimous petition seeking union decertification vote, become fourth recent group of Philly coffee workers to kick out unwanted union

Philadelphia, PA (January 18, 2024) – Ultimo Coffee employee Jacob Johnston and his coworkers have successfully removed unwanted “Workers United” (WU) union officials from the Southwest Center City location of the coffee shop. Johnston and his coworkers’ effort, which comes on the heels of WU’s ouster by employees at Ultimo’s Germantown-area shop, received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation.

Johnston initiated the effort by filing a petition earlier this week asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a vote to remove the union among his colleagues. The petition contained signatures from nearly all the employees (“full-time and regular part-time Baristas, Bakers, Coffee Quality Managers, Inventory Coordinators/Baristas, and Trainers”) at the shop, greatly exceeding the required threshold to trigger a union decertification vote under federal law. However, before the NLRB could schedule a vote, union officials instead filed a “disclaimer of interest” in continuing their control of the store, likely to avoid an embarrassing loss at the ballot box. Pending the NLRB’s approval of the disclaimer, Johnston and his colleagues are free of the union.

Because Pennsylvania lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, WU union bosses could compel Johnston and his coworkers to pay union dues and fees as a condition of keeping their jobs. In Right to Work states, in contrast, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary. However, in both Right to Work and non-Right to Work states, union officials are empowered by federal law to impose union representation on all employees in a work unit, including those who oppose the union. A successful decertification vote strips union officials of that monopoly power.

“Workers United union officials have had over a year in power in our workplace, and in that time have made it increasingly clear that our interests are not aligned,” commented Johnston. “That’s why we’re joining other Ultimo employees in exercising our right to remove this union.”

Coffee Employees Across Philly and U.S. Seeking Freedom from Union Control

Johnston and his colleagues join Starbucks workers and other coffee employees across the country in banding together to oust the WU union (also referred to as “Starbucks Workers United,” or SBWU), which has targeted coffee shops nationwide for unionization. WU’s unionization activities are funded and directed in significant part by the large Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Within the last year, Starbucks employees in Manhattan, NY; two Buffalo, NY locations; Pittsburgh, PA; Bloomington, MN; Salt Lake City, UT; Greenville, SC; Oklahoma City, OK; and San Antonio, TX, have all sought free Foundation legal aid in navigating NLRB processes to decertify the WU union. Workers from a Center City Starbucks in Philadelphia are also pursuing a decertification petition against WU with Foundation legal assistance.

Coffee employees in the Philadelphia area have scored a string of recent victories in removing unpopular union officials. In May 2023, workers at Guava and Java’s location at Philadelphia International Airport successfully voted to oust UNITE HERE union officials, and a few months later Good Karma Café employees cast ballots to remove the WU union. This month, Ultimo Coffee barista Samuel Tarasenko and his colleagues successfully forced WU out of the coffee shop’s Germantown-area location.

Many workers targeted by this campaign are demanding decertification votes roughly one year after a WU union was installed at their store, which is the earliest possible opportunity afforded by federal law to do so.

WU Officials Using Legal Maneuvers to Stop Coffee Employees from Removing Union

Unfortunately, union officials have many ways to manipulate federal labor law to prevent workers from voting them out, including by filing unverified charges. Currently, WU union officials are attempting to block Starbucks workers nationwide (including at the Center City Starbucks in Philadelphia) from exercising their right to decertify the union by filing a blizzard of charges against company management.

“The ‘Workers United’ union’s aggressive unionization campaign may have generated plenty of headlines, but the growing number of decertification efforts by coffee workers in Philadelphia and around the country demonstrates that many rank-and-file workers have come to the conclusion that remaining unionized is contrary to their best interests,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While it’s encouraging that some coffee shop employees have been successful after fighting for their right to remove WU union bosses, others are being trapped by union legal tactics which only demonstrate further that the union is more concerned with maintaining power than respecting worker rights.”

“Workers who encounter coercive maneuvers from WU union officials should contact Foundation attorneys for free legal aid in defending their free choice rights,” Mix added.

10 Jan 2024

Brooklyn Electrical Workers Win Year-Long Legal Battle to Remove Unwanted Union from Workplace

Posted in News Releases

After Horsepower Electric employees voted to remove IUJAT union, Labor Board refused to count ballots for months based on empty union charges of misconduct

New York, NY (January 10, 2024) – Following a year-long legal battle, Brooklyn-based Horsepower Electric employee Shloime Spira and his colleagues are finally free of unwanted IUJAT (International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades) representation. IUJAT union officials worked with the NLRB to manipulate the legal process with unproven claims against Horsepower Electric management to avoid the results of the workers’ union decertification vote. However, union officials have now chosen to renounce their so-called “representation” of the unit instead of facing a likely losing vote tally.

Spira received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in defending his coworkers’ right under federal law to remove the union, both before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York. On December 31, 2023, IUJAT union officials’ “disclaimer of interest” became effective, and the union is no longer in the workplace. As a result, a federal case to demand the NLRB stop delaying the decertification effort has been voluntarily dismissed as moot.

“While my colleagues and I are pleased with this result, it’s simply ridiculous that the NLRB sat on our ballots for so long over union charges that were apparently meritless,” Spira commented. “The NLRB is supposed to protect employees’ right to choose whether or not they want a union, not delay that process indefinitely to maintain union officials’ power.”

NLRB Bureaucrats Sat On Case to Delay Counting Worker Votes, Necessitating Lawsuit

Spira first submitted a petition to the NLRB seeking an employee vote to remove the union in December 2022. Under NLRB rules, a petition requesting a union decertification vote must contain the signatures of at least 30 percent of the employees in a work unit to trigger a vote, a threshold which Spira’s petition met. The election took place in March 2023, but the NLRB ruled that the ballots could not be tallied because it had issued a complaint against Horsepower Electric based on allegations of employer misconduct (or “blocking charges”) filed by IUJAT union officials.

Union “blocking charges” contain claims of employer misconduct that are usually unverified and often have no connection to employees’ desire to vote out the union. NLRB officials inexplicably refused to hold a hearing or otherwise advance the “blocking charge” case for months, effectively using it as a pretense for delaying the vote count.

This delay meant Spira and his colleagues were trapped under the power of IUJAT union bosses without knowing the results of their vote. Because New York lacks Right to Work protections that make union affiliation and financial support strictly voluntary, IUJAT union bosses continued to collect forced dues from the workers, paid under threat of termination, while the vote count was indefinitely delayed.

No Witnesses Could Back Up Union’s Allegations Meant to Stymie Election

Pressure increased on the NLRB after the agency faced a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York alleging due process violations. To defend his and his coworkers’ right to have their votes counted, Spira joined Horsepower Electric’s suit in the District Court and also intervened in the NLRB case to challenge the “blocking charges.”

Faced with this threat of federal litigation, including a “show cause” order from the judge in the federal case against the NLRB, Board officials finally moved forward on the NLRB “blocking charge” case and scheduled a hearing to take place on December 5, 2023. This was nearly a year after Spira had requested the vote to remove the union.

Spira’s legal team traveled to New York to defend his rights against the union’s allegations in the NLRB case. Minutes before the hearing was scheduled to begin before an NLRB Administrative Law Judge, NLRB lawyers conceded they could produce no witnesses to testify in favor of the union’s charges against Horsepower Electric. Soon after, the NLRB formally dropped its complaint against Horsepower Electric, thus clearing the way for the ballots to be counted.

Finally, on December 12, 2023, IUJAT union officials issued a disclaimer of interest effectively announcing they were departing the workplace. This was presumably done to avoid a vote count the union figured it would lose. The NLRB case ended on January 2, 2024, and the District Court declared the federal case dismissed on January 5, 2024.

“That union officials were so easily able to manipulate NLRB processes to block Mr. Spira and his colleagues from exercising their basic right to choose whether they want union representation shows that the agency is desperately in need of reform,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It is outrageous that it took a federal court case to force the NLRB to admit that it had no evidence to back up union officials’ allegations that were being used to trap workers in a union they opposed.”

“Worker free choice is supposed to be the center of the National Labor Relations Act, but as this case shows, too often the Board has contorted the law into a shield to insulate union bosses from workers’ choices,” added Mix. “The Biden Labor Board is taking this bias to more and more extreme levels every day, granting union officials sweeping new powers to coerce workers into union ranks, while systematically undermining the rights of workers opposed to union affiliation.”

8 Jan 2024

Philadelphia Ultimo Coffee Workers Win Bid to Remove So-Called “Workers United” Union

Posted in News Releases

Ultimo employees are third recent group of coffee shop workers in Philly to kick out an unwanted union, as Center City Starbucks workers await vote to remove SBWU

Philadelphia, PA (January 8, 2024) – Following Ultimo Coffee employee Samuel Tarasenko’s submission of a petition seeking an employee vote to remove the union, “Workers United” (WU) union officials filed paperwork announcing they will give up control of the Germantown-area coffee shop. Pending certification of the union’s disclaimer of interest, Tarasenko and his fellow Ultimo employees will be free of the control of the WU union.

Tarasenko’s petition, which he filed with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, contained signatures from a majority of employees at his workplace, more than enough to trigger a vote under NLRB rules. Because Pennsylvania lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, SBWU union bosses can compel Tarasenko and his coworkers to pay union dues as a condition of keeping their jobs. In Right to Work states, in contrast, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.

However, in both Right to Work and non-Right to Work states, union officials in a unionized workplace are empowered by federal law to impose a union contract on all employees in a work unit, including those who oppose the union. A successful decertification vote strips union officials of that power. However, WU union officials, likely fearing a losing vote tally, disclaimed interest in the unit of Ultimo employees before a vote could occur.

Coffee Employees Across Philly and U.S. Seeking Freedom from Union Control

Tarasenko and his colleagues join Starbucks workers and other coffee employees across the country in banding together to vote out WU union officials, who have targeted coffee shops nationwide for unionization. This year, Starbucks employees in Manhattan, NY; two Buffalo, NY locations; Pittsburgh, PA; Bloomington, MN; Salt Lake City, UT; Greenville, SC; Oklahoma City, OK; and San Antonio, TX, have all sought free Foundation legal aid in filing or defending decertification petitions at the NLRB.

In Philadelphia, workers at Guava and Java’s location at Philadelphia International Airport successfully voted in May 2023 to oust UNITE HERE union officials, and a few months later Good Karma Café employees voted out WU union officials. Tarasenko and his colleagues are now the third recent group of Philadelphia coffee employees to successfully remove union representation with Foundation aid. Currently, workers from a Center City Starbucks are pursuing a decertification petition with Foundation legal assistance, also against the Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) union.

This growing wave of decertification attempts is occurring after WU union agents engaged in a multi-year, aggressive unionization campaign against Starbucks employees. As part of the campaign, WU (an affiliate of the large Service Employees International Union) spent over $2 million to target the coffee chain with paid union agents – including “salts” who obtained jobs at Starbucks locations with the covert mission of installing union power. After achieving this goal, many “salts” abandoned the stores.

Many workers targeted by this campaign are demanding decertification votes roughly one year after a WU union was installed at their store, which is the earliest possible opportunity afforded by federal law to do so.

WU Officials Using Legal Maneuvers to Stop Coffee Employees from Removing Union

Unfortunately, union officials have many ways to manipulate federal labor law to prevent workers from voting them out, including by filing unverified charges. Currently, WU union officials are attempting to block Starbucks workers nationwide (including at the Center City Starbucks in Philadelphia) from exercising their right to decertify the union by filing charges against company management.

“While we’re happy that Mr. Tarasenko and his coworkers successfully sent the WU union packing, it’s unfortunate that many others in Philadelphia and across the country are unable to exercise this right due to union legal tactics,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “That WU union officials spent millions to extend their power over Starbucks and other coffee employees and are now stopping those same employees from exercising their rights indicates their campaign is about union power, not workers’ concerns.”

“Workers who encounter coercive maneuvers from WU union officials should contact Foundation attorneys for free legal aid in defending their free choice rights,” Mix added.

8 Jan 2024

DC-Area Union Kitchen Employees Overwhelmingly Vote to Remove UFCW Union

Posted in News Releases

Workers requested decertification vote amid contentious boycott and picket ordered by union officials against rank-and-file workers

Washington, DC (January 8, 2024) – Employees of five Union Kitchen locations in the Washington, DC, metro area have voted to remove United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 union officials from power at the chain. The final vote tally was 24-1 in favor of ending UFCW Local 400’s monopoly bargaining power over the workers. Pending certification of the vote result by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 5 in Baltimore, the employees will be free of the union.

The effort to oust the UFCW union began in July 2023 when Union Kitchen employee Ashley Silva submitted a petition asking the NLRB to hold a union decertification vote among her coworkers, the vast majority of whom backed the petition. She received free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

Because the District of Columbia lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, UFCW union officials had the power to force Silva and her coworkers at the four DC Union Kitchen locations to pay union dues or fees as a condition of keeping their jobs. In contrast, in Right to Work jurisdictions like Virginia (home to one of the affected Union Kitchen locations), union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary. However, in both Right to Work and non-Right to Work jurisdictions, union officials can use their monopoly bargaining power to dictate the work conditions of all employees in a work unit, even those who voted against or otherwise oppose the union. A union decertification vote ends that union monopoly power.

Employees Voted to Remove Divisive Union Despite Union Attempts to Delay Vote Count

Silva and her coworkers’ effort began amid union boss-ordered pickets and boycotts against Union Kitchen Grocery locations, which inflamed tensions among workers. In some instances, union picketers endangered workers by blocking exits, requiring the intervention of police.

“The vast majority of the workers at Union Kitchen are sick and tired of the UFCW’s picketing, harassment of employees, and constant disruptions of our day-to-day work life,” Silva said at the time. “If the union cares at all about what we want, they will respect our wishes and immediately disclaim their interest in representing workers who have overwhelmingly rejected them.”

While Silva and her coworkers cast ballots in the union decertification election in October 2023, tension increased when UFCW union officials used “blocking charges” to stop the votes from being counted. “Blocking charges” are often unverified or unrelated charges of employer misconduct that union officials can manipulate to stall a ballot tally in a union decertification case.

However, as per NLRB rules, if the NLRB does not issue a complaint based on union officials’ allegations within 60 days of a decertification election, the ballots must be counted. NLRB Region 5 did not issue a complaint based on UFCW lawyers’ allegations within the 60-day window, thus allowing the ballot count to proceed.

However, despite the overwhelming 24-1 vote against the union, UFCW officials may still try to manipulate their charges to stop certification of the vote result. The union also challenged eight employee ballots (meaning that 32 workers total likely voted against further union presence), but the number of challenged ballots is not enough to alter the final result of the vote.

“We’re happy that Ms. Silva and her coworkers were finally able to exercise their right to vote out a union that actively worked against their interests,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “What’s concerning, however, is the fact that UFCW union officials could still prop up questionable allegations to stall the certification of an election that the very employees they claim to ‘represent’ asked for.”

“That, combined with the fact that UFCW officials’ combative tactics made life harder for Union Kitchen employees, again shows why all American employees deserve the freedom to abstain from funding a union they disapprove of,” Mix added.

“We call on union officials to withdraw their allegations and let the decision of the Union Kitchen workers stand,” Mix concluded.

4 Jan 2024

East Bay-Area Fire Safety Inspector Prevails in Case Against IUOE Union for Illegal Firing

Posted in News Releases

Employee wins reinstatement and back pay after being unlawfully fired for exercising right to reject formal union membership

Pleasanton, CA (January 4, 2024) – After being fired over her refusal to formally become a formal union member, Construction Testing Services employee Alexandra Le won a settlement against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) and her employer. The settlement, won with free legal representation from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, requires CTS to reinstate Le and requires CTS and the IUOE union to jointly pay back to her over $9,000 in back wages and benefits. Le will also receive back hundreds in union fees that were deducted from her paycheck without her authorization.

In October, Le filed federal charges at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 32 in Oakland, CA, stating that IUOE union officials illegally demanded she join the union as a condition of keeping her job and instigated her firing by CTS when she refused to join. Le, who works in fire and life safety as a firestop inspector, also noted in her charges that IUOE officials failed to inform her of her right to abstain from formal union membership, and never notified her of her right to pay a reduced amount of union dues as a nonmember.

According to her charges, company and union officials began deducting full union dues directly from her paycheck without her permission, and deducted a dues amount that included union political expenses and other costs not legally chargeable to workers who aren’t formal union members.

IUOE Union Officials Ignored Supreme Court Precedents in Effort to Force Worker into Union Membership

Because California lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, Le and her coworkers can be forced to pay some fees to the union as a condition of keeping their jobs, even if they’ve abstained from formal union membership. However, as per the National Right to Work 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 politics and other activities outside the union’s bargaining functions. 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 contrast, in Right to Work states, union membership and all union financial support are fully voluntary. As Le’s case was ongoing, she submitted written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce for a hearing on a federal law to expand Right to Work protections for employees nationwide.

In her testimony, she described the impact the illegal union-instigated firing had on her life: “My absence significantly set me back from a financial standpoint and has led to the stressful process of having to fight for my rights via the legal process…And while the union fees cause a notable decrease in my hard-earned take-home pay, the time lost and stress incurred by asserting rights that I had to discover independently has been equally detrimental.”

“Simply put, nobody should be forced to join or pay any dues or fees to a union that they do not want to join,” Le concluded. Two other workers who had received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation also testified in the hearing about their experiences with illegal union forced-dues demands as a result of lacking the protection of Right to Work laws.

Worker Will Receive Back Pay and Repayments of Union Dues and Fees as Part of Settlement

Le’s Foundation-won settlement completely vindicates her rights. In addition to reinstatement and repayments of back wages and illegally-seized union fees, the settlement dictates that the company will only deduct the reduced Beck amount of union dues from Le’s paycheck going forward. The union will also waive fees totaling roughly $1,700 that its officials tried to force Le to pay from the time her case began back to the date of her hiring.

“Ms. Le’s battle to protect her freedom of association from IUOE union officials is courageous, but no worker should ever have to fight this hard to protect their livelihood from dues-hungry union officials,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix.

“While we’re proud to help Ms. Le prevail in her case, the fact is that the very IUOE bosses who so callously instigated her illegal firing are still authorized to collect mandatory union fees from her because California workers lack the protection of a Right to Work law,” Mix added. “Workers themselves – not union bosses – should be in charge of determining whether a union is worthy of receiving their hard-earned cash, which is why all Americans deserve the protection of Right to Work.”

31 Dec 2023
26 Dec 2023

Philly Public Defender Beats Illegal UAW Dues Deduction Scheme

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

UAW boss threatened to reduce workers’ wages for not signing dues card

Philly Public Defender Brunilda Vargas surely didn’t feel “represented” by UAW bosses when they sought to reduce her and her colleagues’ pay just for not signing dues cards. Mark Mix expressed the outrageousness of this scheme to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philly Public Defender Brunilda Vargas surely didn’t feel “represented” by UAW bosses when they sought to reduce her and her colleagues’ pay just for not signing dues cards. Mark Mix expressed the outrageousness of this scheme to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Brunilda Vargas, a public defender for the City of Philadelphia, staunchly objected when United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 5502 union bosses sought to gain power over her and her colleagues at the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

After UAW union officials were installed in her workplace, things only got worse for her. A UAW union official threatened Vargas and her coworkers that, if they didn’t sign cards authorizing the direct deduction of union dues from their paychecks, their wages would be reduced. This threat was a blatant violation of federal law.

Vargas challenged UAW officials’ illegal demands with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Union bosses quickly backed down, and in June entered into a settlement approved by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 4 which fully vindicates Vargas’ and her coworkers’ rights.

Public Defender Hits UAW with Federal Charges Following Intimidation

On April 18, 2023, Vargas filed her federal unfair labor practice charge with NLRB Region 4 for the threats made against her and her colleagues at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. UAW officials issued these threats against public defenders who chose not to sign automatic dues deduction authorization forms.

Even though Vargas works in the non-Right to Work state of Pennsylvania and can be forced to pay some union dues as a condition of employment, federal law prohibits forcing workers to authorize automatic dues deductions from their paychecks. Had Vargas lived in a Right to Work state, not only would she have the right to refrain from automatic dues deductions from her paycheck, but she could also refrain from financially supporting the union altogether. In Right to Work states, workers are fully protected from mandatory union membership and financial support, both of which must be completely voluntary.

Settlement Forces Union Bosses to Fully Abandon Illegal Threats

Now, pursuant to settlements, the UAW must email and post notices informing workers that the union will not work with the workers’ employer to reduce wages of nonmembers that do not sign automatic dues deductions forms. The union must also not suggest failure to sign a dues deduction card could lead to a worker’s termination. Finally, the union must not coerce or restrain individuals from expressing their rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.

“[UAW] will not threaten objecting non-members that we will notify the Employer it can seek refunds of their contractual salary increases if they do not sign a dues deduction authorization form. Neither employees nor members are legally required to execute a dues deduction authorization form,” the notice reads.

“While we are happy that we were able to help Vargas and her coworkers fight UAW misconduct, this instance is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to UAW malfeasance,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “The recent federal probe into UAW officials stealing and misusing workers’ money has sent multiple top UAW bosses to jail, and uncovered a shocking culture of contempt for workers’ rights.”

“Fortunately, the numerous victims of UAW boss abuses need not fight alone,” continued Semmens. “They have an ally in the National Right to Work Foundation.”

22 Dec 2023

Victory: San Diego Charter School Educators Vote Out Teacher Union Bosses

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

SDEA officials stonewalled vote at charter school for years with “blocking charges” and pressure from elected officials

Kristie Chiscano kick-started the first effort at charter school Gompers Preparatory Academy to remove the SDEA teacher union

Kristie Chiscano kick-started the first effort at Gompers to remove the SDEA union. She witnessed firsthand that union control was ruining the independent nature of the charter school.

SAN DIEGO, CA – When San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union officials rose to power in 2019 at Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA), educators and parents were rightfully concerned about what impact it would have on students’ progress and well-being.

Gompers had made an impressive transition to being a union-free charter school in 2005 after years of being plagued by unresponsive union bureaucracies, violence, high teacher turnover, and poor academic achievement. Teachers who feared that union monopoly control would allow such problems to creep back into Gompers quickly began an effort to vote out the union.

“I chose to work at a school that didn’t have a union, and now they’ve come in and they’re running everything about my contract and my work,” Kristie Chiscano, then a Gompers chemistry teacher and proponent of the decertification effort, said at the time.

While union stall tactics derailed Gompers educators’ 2019 effort to oust the union, Gompers educators didn’t give up. A majority of Gompers teachers backed another petition asking the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) for a vote to remove the union in 2023. Now, after years of legal maneuvers from union officials, Gompers educators have successfully ousted the SDEA with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation.

SDEA Officials Used Spurious Charges to Block Earlier Teacher Effort

“There is definitely a lot more joy that’s going to be in classrooms now, instead of a burden with the union,” Cynthia Ornelas, a sixth grade Gompers teacher, told KPBS. “The union was making decisions for us, oh my goodness! We never knew what they were deciding because they didn’t communicate with teachers.”

Gompers teachers’ first effort to eliminate the SDEA union stemmed from an October 2019 petition that had the backing of a significant number of teachers, more than required by state law. However, SDEA union bosses averted the election by filing so-called “blocking charges” containing allegations of employer misconduct.

Union officials often manipulate “blocking charges” at the PERB and other state and federal labor relations agencies to stifle worker attempts to eliminate unpopular union “representation.”

As Foundation attorneys defended Gompers educators’ first petition, they also challenged a regulation requiring PERB agents and attorneys to accept union bosses’ “blocking charge” allegations as true. This regulation almost guarantees union defeat of any worker attempt to vote a union out.

Despite the PERB never holding a hearing into whether SDEA union bosses’ claims had any merit or whether they were related to the workers’ dissatisfaction with the union, PERB officials denied a decertification election to Gompers educators in October 2020.

Aside from legal maneuvers, union officials used intimidation and pressure to avoid being voted out. Chiscano and another Gompers educator filed charges maintaining that SDEA agents targeted them on social media for opposing the union hierarchy. California law makes it illegal for union officials to intimidate or retaliate against employees who exercise their right to refrain from union membership. Union-label California legislator Lorena Gonzalez, then an assemblywoman and now a top California AFL-CIO official, even wrote a screed to Gompers management that attacked the National Right to Work Foundation for simply providing legal aid to Gompers educators.

Teachers’ Long Struggle Exposes Massive Power of CA Public Sector Unions

Gompers educators submitted the March 2023 petition at the earliest time permitted by California labor regulations, which immunize union officials from employee-led decertification efforts for all but a tiny window while union contracts are active. Now, nearly four years after their original effort began, Gompers educators are finally free from union control.

“Gompers educators witnessed that SDEA union officials were not acting in the best interests of the students or the school community at large, and they fought courageously to bring back the independent environment that made Gompers a success,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, Gompers teachers shouldn’t have had to fight as long or as hard as they did simply to exercise their rights. No special interest group in California, or in America, should wield this kind of power over teachers and the public education system.