Teamsters Local 175 bosses illegally cut deal in which union stewards got pay raise unavailable to other workers
Fairmont, WV (June 16, 2020) – A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional office based in Pittsburgh issued a complaint against Teamsters Local 175 for discriminating against employees by giving a pay increase only to union stewards. NLRB Region 6’s complaint was issued in response to unfair labor practice charges from a former employee at Genesis HealthCare Tygart Center in Fairmont, WV. The former nursing assistant is receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
This new NLRB Region 6 complaint comes while an appeal to an imposed settlement in a linked case against the Tygart Center on the grounds that it fails to compensate the employees who were denied the additional pay per hour given to union stewards is pending.
According to this new complaint from NLRB Region 6 against Local 175, Donna Harper and her coworkers signed Teamsters membership and dues checkoff authorization forms that contained confusing language and failed to “clearly inform signers that they are permitted to revoke dues deduction authorization” when a union bargaining contract expires or whenever there is no such contract in effect.
Harper submitted a letter to the Teamsters union exercising her right to end her membership and cease union dues deductions in February 2019. Teamsters officials rejected this request, telling Harper that her submission was “untimely” and would need to be sent again at a later date to be accepted. Though Harper had asked the union for the time frame when she could tender her request to end membership and cut off dues, Teamsters officials never informed her of this, according to the complaint. The complaint says that Teamsters officials also did not timely reply to a second request Harper sent in March of 2019.
The union contract imposed by the Teamsters and Tygart Center contained a clause which read that employees who were union stewards as of July 2017 would “receive twenty-five cents ($0.25) per hour above their classified rate.” The complaint contends that Teamsters officials violated employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) through the pay discrimination, the treatment of Ms. Harper’s resignation and revocation, and the confusing checkoff language.
The complaint comes after the West Virginia Supreme Court unanimously upheld the state’s Right to Work protections, which ensure that no private or public sector worker can be forced to join or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. The law was the subject of a years-long legal attack by West Virginia union lawyers, including the West Virginia AFL-CIO. Foundation staff attorneys submitted ten legal briefs defending the law, including one for Harper.
“Teamsters union bosses, who misinformed Ms. Harper and her coworkers and were then caught red-handed discriminating against those in her workplace who were not union stewards, serve as just one more example of why Right to Work protections are necessary to safeguard employee rights in the Mountain State,” commented National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “Although the discrimination Ms. Harper charged Teamsters honchos with was blatantly illegal long before West Virginia enacted Right to Work, requiring union bosses to use persuasion and not coercion to win worker support will make them think twice before trying to enforce an illegal scheme under the radar.”
Mix added: “While the West Virginia Supreme Court was right in upholding the Right to Work law, it will take vigorous enforcement to ensure that rank-and-file employees like Ms. Harper are not subjected to these kinds of coercive tactics.”
Gompers Preparatory Academy Educators Appeal Decision Allowing Union to Block Workers’ Right to Vote Out Union
Appeal asks PERB to eliminate standard which lets union bosses use unsubstantiated allegations to block employee votes
San Diego, CA (June 10, 2020) – Educators at Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA) charter school are appealing a decision by a California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) regional attorney, which let San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union bosses block the educators’ right to vote on whether the union should remain at the school. The educators, who submitted a valid petition to initiate a vote to remove the union, are led by chemistry teacher Dr. Kristie Chiscano. Dr. Chiscano and her fellow educators are receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The appeal follows SDEA union officials’ so-called filing of “blocking charges” against the charter school. The union charges allege that school leadership committed unfair labor practices, and were accepted by the PERB administrator as a reason to stop the election to remove the union. This happened despite the union not alleging or proving any wrongdoing on the educators’ part, and despite the PERB never holding a hearing into whether the charges had any merit. The appeal seeks to overturn PERB Regulation 32752, which allows union bosses to “plead unproven ‘facts’ that a Board agent or attorney must accept as true” which “will almost always guarantee a secret-ballot election will be stayed (stopped).”
SDEA union officials were installed at the school in January 2019 after conducting a controversial “card check” union drive, bypassing the more reliable method of a secret-ballot election whether to certify a union as the monopoly representative of all educators in the school. Since the school’s unionization, no monopoly bargaining contract has been approved and educators and parents have accused union agents of divisive activity, including supporting anti-charter school legislation.
Dr. Chiscano began circulating the decertification petition in October 2019. She soon obtained the signatures of well over the number of her fellow educators necessary to trigger a PERB-supervised secret-ballot vote to remove the union. However, the appeal notes, SDEA union officials “filed a strategically-timed unfair practice charge against GPA in December 2019” to block the educators from exercising their right to vote on whether to remove the union. Despite the educators’ Foundation-provided attorneys submitting a brief explaining why SDEA bosses’ unsubstantiated allegations had nothing to do with the employees’ desire to vote, the PERB attorney stayed the election in May 2020.
The appeal asks that the PERB alter the standard used to process employee petitions for a decertification election because the current practice “is the antithesis of employee free choice” in that it grants union bosses the privilege to “block a secret-ballot election based on mere strategic pleading in an unproven unfair practice charge.”
Also pointed out is that, after a “blocking charge” is filed, “it becomes the employees’ and employer’s burden to show why the unproven allegations in the unfair practice charge would not affect the election process.”
The appeal proposes that the PERB adopt a new standard that requires union officials who file “blocking charges” to, during a hearing, prove a “causal nexus” between the unfair employer conduct they allege and “any effect on employees that would prevent them from making a free choice in a secret-ballot election.” Dr. Chiscano’s case, the appeal says, should be reconsidered under that standard.
“Dr. Chiscano and her coworkers just want to be able to exercise their right to vote, free of coercion, on whether or not SDEA union bosses deserve to maintain power at their school,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Instead of letting them vote, power-hungry SDEA union bosses who, ironically, oppose charter schools like GPA, have exploited the PERB’s anti-worker choice standards to hold these educators captive under their so-called ‘representation’ for more than 17 months.”
Mix added: “The PERB should immediately reform its standards to stop allowing union officials to use totally unproven allegations to block employees’ right to free themselves of an unwanted union.”
Chemistry teacher Dr. Kristie Chiscano shared in a newly released video about how National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are assisting her and her fellow teachers at her school to challenge coercive union bosses.
After a career as a surgeon, Dr. Chiscano decided to become a high school teacher at Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA), a charter school in San Diego, California. She chose GPA in part because there was no coercive union presence at the school.
But that changed when the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union installed itself in January 2019 after conducting a coercive “Card Check” drive, depriving school employees of the right to decide for themselves whether to join the union.
In the video, Dr. Chiscano explained the situation:
“The families and the teachers were quite upset that this had been started without any discussion whatsoever. So there was a riff, for lack of a better word, between those who wanted to have the union to come in and those who felt like this was very unfair, it was very against the mission of the school, and that we didn’t have a choice in the matter. …
“I asked over and over again: In California, what rights do I have? Because this union has taken over my work environment without my choice. I chose to work at a school without a union and now they come in and they’re running everything about my contract and my work. How can that be fair? I didn’t want this. How can it be fair?”
Since the school’s unionization without a secret ballot vote, no monopoly bargaining contract has been approved. All the while, GPA parents and educators have accused SDEA agents of sowing division at the school, including by supporting anti-charter school legislation, making unnecessary and disparaging comments to school leadership during bargaining sessions, and plotting to prevent the California NAACP from giving the school’s director, Vincent Riveroll, an award for helping minority students succeed.
Despite this appalling situation, Dr. Chiscano and her fellow teachers could not find anyone to help them until they contacted the National Right to Work Foundation to request free legal assistance.
With this impending legal battle over the union’s attempt to block her decertification petition, Foundation staff attorneys are now providing Dr. Chiscano and her fellow teachers with free legal aid to challenge union officials’ attempt to stymie their right to hold a decertification vote to oust a union they believe lacks the support of a majority of the school’s educators.
Dr. Chiscano concluded her video by saying how important the Foundation’s legal aid was to her and her fellow teachers: “No matter the outcome, at least we had someone to guide us in our fight, because we had nobody.”
Wall Street Journal: Texas AG Seeks to Enforce Government Employees’ First Amendment Rights Under Janus v AFSCME
The Editorial Board at The Wall Street Journal published a column on May 31, 2020, detailing efforts in Texas to enforce the landmark Janus v AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision argued and won by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys:
The Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, plans to release an advisory opinion soon that could help free public employees who are fed up with their union. In 2018 in Janus v. Afscme, the Supreme Court said that union fees couldn’t be deducted from the paycheck of a government worker who didn’t ‘affirmatively consent.’
“The question is what flows from this logic. Last fall Alaska Governor Michael Dunleavy, citing Janus, signed an order to let state workers quit the union anytime, instead of only during 10 enchanted days once each year. Union members also would have to refresh their consent forms periodically.
The move by Attorney General Paxton came after Foundation President Mark Mix and staff attorney William Messenger — who argued the Janus case at the Supreme Court — called on states like Texas to emulate Alaska. They wrote that “state officials, along with federal agencies, should follow Alaska’s example” in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal last August.
In addition, Mix and Messenger highlighted how Janus requires that government workers must voluntarily waive their First Amendment rights before union dues or fees can be deducted from their paycheck through a voluntary waiver:
Fourteen months ago the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects government employees from being forced to subsidize unions. Janus v. Afscme affirmed that some five million state and local workers have the legal right to stop such payments.
Another aspect of Janus, however, has been overshadowed. The decision requires that the government obtain proof that workers voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waived their First Amendment rights not to subsidize union speech before deducting union dues or fees from their paychecks. “To be effective, the waiver must be freely given and shown by ‘clear and compelling’ evidence,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote. “Unless employees clearly and affirmatively consent before any money is taken from them, this standard cannot be met.”
Yet the federal government and many states and localities continue to deduct union dues without evidence that workers waived their speech rights, usually based on pre-Janus authorization forms that come nowhere close to demonstrating a waiver. Labor Department figures suggest unconstitutional deductions could be coming out of the paychecks of as many as 7.2 million government employees nationwide. The fix is simple: Governments must cease transferring wages to unions until they amend their dues-deduction policies to comply with Janus.
In April the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld West Virginia’s Right to Work law, ending a multi-year union boss legal challenge.
National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse wrote an article for The Federalist Society analyzing the decision in the case: Morrisey v. West Virginia AFL-CIO. LaJeunesse just published piece highlights how the justices relied heavily on the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the law protecting workers against being forced to subsidize union activities:
“Four of the five Justices concluded in Morrisey that the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018), required that result. Janus held that forcing nonmembers to pay union fees as a condition of public employment violates the First Amendment. As Justice Workman put it, concurring in the judgment of the Court in Morrisey, ‘there is no principled basis on which to conclude that under the legal analysis upon which Janus is based, a prohibition on the collection of agency fees is constitutional for public employees’ unions but unconstitutional for private employees’ unions.'”
Foundation staff attorneys filed 10 legal briefs in Morrisey in defense of West Virginia’s Right to Work law. Foundation President Mark Mix hailed the decision as a “a great victory for Mountain State employees.”
Since 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have defended and enforced five newly passed Right to Work in states including West Virginia.