16 Jun 2020

Labor Board Issues Complaint Against West Virginia Teamsters Union Local for Pay Discrimination

Posted in News Releases

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.”

13 Jun 2020

Rhode Island Officers Win Over $110,000 in Lawsuits Ending Forced-Dues Scheme

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Foundation-won settlements also reinstate officers fired after challenging outrageous dues deductions

IBPO union bosses and Town of Westerly officials thought they could get away with seizing $5 per hour illegally from five non-union officers. As the result of Foundation-won settlements, all five officers have now had their rights vindicated.

WESTERLY, RI – Reserve Officers Scott Ferrigno, Darrell Koza, Raymond Morrone, Anthony Falcone and Thomas Cimalore have won favorable settlements in their cases challenging a forced union dues scheme between International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) Local 503 union bosses and Town of Westerly officials. The officers also won favorable settlements for retaliation claims they brought after publicly challenging the unlawful arrangement.

The lawsuits were filed with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Rhode Island-based Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights. Under the settlements, IBPO and the Town of Westerly agreed to pay almost $65,000 in refunds of union fees seized from the officers through the illegal scheme and compensation for the officers’ other claims. Officers Koza and Ferrigno will also be reinstated as police officers and receive nearly $48,000 in back pay from the Town for the period after they were terminated.

“The Foundation is proud to stand with Officers Ferrigno, Koza, Morrone, Falcone, Cimalore, and all public servants who are targeted with intimidation, misinformation, threats of firing, and other illegal tactics simply to keep dues money flowing into the bank accounts of self-interested union officials,” commented National Right to Work President Mark Mix.

According to the lawsuits, IBPO bosses and the Town of Westerly began seizing $5 per hour from each of the five officers’ hourly pay without authorization in April 2014. IBPO and the Town perpetrated this scheme against the officers even though they were classified as “nonpermanent police officers” outside the so-called “representation” of union bosses.

Lawsuit: IBPO Union Bosses and Town Officials Violated First Amendment Rights

Over the next six months, in an attempt to stop the flow of illegal fees in this “backroom deal,” the officers repeatedly sought meetings with Town officials, including the Town of Westerly’s payroll department, the Westerly Chief of Police, the Town Manager and the Town Council, only to be rebuffed. According to the lawsuit, the Chief of Police warned the officers they could be “easily replaced” if they sought publicity for their cause.

The Reserve Officers finally managed to present their objections to the Town Council, but it refused to stop the compulsory fees. On October 20, 2014, within a week of hearing that the Reserve Officers arranged a meeting with the Town Council to argue their objections to the forced-fee scheme, the chief emailed the Town Manager informing her of his plan to terminate Koza and downgrade reserve officers’ priority level for taking on new traffic detail assignments. The five officers contended that this limited the hours they could work and the pay they could earn.

Town Official Assumed Officers Wouldn’t Have Money to Pursue Cases

Records disclosed during the litigation revealed that during a November 2014 meeting between the Town Council and other town and union officials to discuss the potential of litigation in this situation, one official opined, “It’s going to cost thousands and thousands of dollars . . . They’d have to take this money out of their pockets. I don’t think [their attorney] is going to represent them for free.” Another official at the time asserted, “If we say no, they’re probably going to back down.” When the officials considered whether the Reserve Officers would keep working for the Town, one council member commented, “They can always go to McDonald’s.”

In December 2014, the Town fired Koza, who had never been disciplined by the Town before these events. According to Koza’s lawsuit, the Town attempted to justify his termination on the grounds that he had not immediately left his position directing traffic in a busy intersection to move his police cruiser for an officer attempting to drive through a restricted lane. The Town also cited Koza’s calling himself a “police officer” rather than a “reserve police officer” in his application for a handgun carry permit. Koza’s lawsuit points out that the Town’s charter then gave “nonpermanent police officers” like Koza the powers of regular police officers while on duty, and all of Koza’s references in his application called him a “reserve officer,” “reserve police officer,” and “reserve officer with the Westerly Police Department.”

The Town fired Ferrigno in May 2016. According to Ferrigno’s lawsuit, the Town alleged that he left a bicycle race detail assignment early. But Ferrigno contended that he actually stayed five minutes later than he was instructed to by his supervisor while waiting for his replacement to arrive. As further evidence that his firing was unconstitutional retaliation, Ferrigno’s lawsuit also noted that the officer who arrived late to relieve him was a union official, who was never even disciplined for his lateness.

The five filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, arguing that IBPO and Town of Westerly officials had violated their First Amendment rights by forcing them to financially support the union when they were outside its contract. The officers’ lawsuit also alleged that Town officials seized union dues without their individual written authorization in violation of Rhode Island’s wage deduction laws. The lawsuit additionally charged that the town retaliated against them when they spoke out publicly about the malfeasance.

Reserve Officers Win Refunds of Seized Dues and Reinstatement

Officers Koza and Ferrigno filed their own complaints in the same court, charging the Town with firing them for exercising their First Amendment rights. All the lawsuits also sought punitive damages. Ultimately, rather than face the officers and their attorneys at trial, Town and Union officials agreed to settle the cases. The settlements order union officials to compensate the officers almost $20,000 and Town officials to pay $45,000 for dues that were seized illegally under the “$5 per hour” policy and for other damages and claims. The settlements in Koza’s and Ferrigno’s cases, on top of requiring the Town to reinstate the two officers and pay back wages, require that all references related to the discipline forming the basis of their lawsuits be removed from their personnel records.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island later entered a consent judgment in the case which forbids IBPO Local 503 from forcing any constable or reserve officer to pay union dues or fees without his or her affirmative consent.

“The Town and the IBPO could have avoided the years and expense of litigation if they had only listened in 2014 when we first tried to tell them that they cannot just take $5 per hour from our pay and give it to the Union without our permission,” Officer Cimalore said. “After unsuccessfully trying more than a year to resolve the matter, we were forced to go to federal court.”

10 Jun 2020

Gompers Preparatory Academy Educators Appeal Decision Allowing Union to Block Workers’ Right to Vote Out Union

Posted in News Releases

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.”

9 Jun 2020

Foundation Asks Supreme Court to Hear Janus Case Again, Seeking Return of Forced Fees

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Case could set precedent for hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds to Big Labor’s victims

Mark Janus’ second Foundation-backed appeal to the Supreme Court landed the top spot on Fox News’ website. If Janus prevails again, hundreds of millions of dollars in unconstitutional union dues could be returned to public sector employees.

WASHINGTON, DC – Mark Janus is returning to the U.S. Supreme Court, this time asking the Justices to hear the continuation of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31. Janus seeks repayment of the thousands of dollars in fees the union took from his paycheck in violation of his First Amendment rights. Another Supreme Court victory for Janus could set a precedent resulting in the return of hundreds of millions of dollars seized by union officials in violation of workers’ constitutional rights.

The original Janus v. AFSCME was argued successfully before the Supreme Court by veteran National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger. In a landmark victory, the Court sided with Janus on June 27, 2018, and declared it illegal to force public employees to subsidize a union as a condition of employment. The Court recognized that compelling public workers to pay fees to a union violates their First Amendment rights.

Illinois Child Support Public Servant Intervenes in Lawsuit with Foundation Aid

As a result of Janus, more than five million public sector employees across the country are no longer required to pay union dues or fees to keep their jobs. However, Janus’ case continues as he seeks the return of the fees that AFSCME seized from his paycheck without his permission from June 27, 2018, to  March 23, 2013, representing the two-year statute of limitations from the date his case started in March 2015 through the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in his favor.

The Janus case began in February 2015, when then-newly elected Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies from requiring employees who had abstained from formal union membership to pay union fees, based on a Right to Work Foundation U.S. Supreme Court victory in 2014 in another Illinois case. Rauner also filed a federal lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that forced union fees violate the First Amendment rights of public workers.

Staff attorneys from the Foundation, in partnership with the Illinois-based Liberty Justice Center, filed a motion for Mark Janus and two other plaintiffs to intervene in the case in March 2015, and have represented Janus ever since. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted Janus’ motion to file a complaint in intervention, which allowed the suit to move forward even after the court ruled that Rauner lacked standing to pursue the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court permitted union bosses to impose forced union fees on public workers in the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision. However, before the Janus victory, Foundation staff attorneys secured several victories for workers which called the constitutionality of forced fees into question. In 2012, the court ruled in Knox v. SEIU that union officials must obtain affirmative consent from workers before using workers’ forced union fees for special assessments or risk infringing on their First Amendment rights. In 2014, the court ruled in Harris v. Quinn that requiring home healthcare providers who receive a subsidy from the government to pay union dues is a First Amendment violation.

Following Janus’ groundbreaking win at the Supreme Court in June 2018, Foundation attorneys continued his case in Illinois federal courts, arguing that the Supreme Court’s ruling is retroactive and that AFSCME should be required to return dues they seized unconstitutionally before the decision. In this and similar cases, union bosses have made a so-called “good faith” argument to defend their seizing of dues before Janus was issued. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled in 2019 that AFSCME could keep the unconstitutional dues, prompting Janus’ petition to the Supreme Court.

Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Potentially At Stake

“The Supreme Court agreed that the union taking money from non-members was wrong but the union still has the money it illegally garnished from my paycheck,” commented Janus. “It’s time for AFSCME to give me back the money they wrongfully took.”

Foundation staff attorneys are currently fighting for thousands of workers in about 20 cases which seek refunds of dues seized unconstitutionally before Janus was decided. While Janus is seeking the return of $3,000 of his own money, a favorable decision for him would set a precedent that could result in the return of over $120 million to public servants just in Foundation-backed cases. Other cases brought by workers could bring that total to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Workers Already Winning Refunds of Illegal Dues with Foundation Legal Aid

“The Supreme Court has already sided with the Foundation arguments for Mark Janus and ruled that forcing public employees to fund union activities violates the First Amendment,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse. “The Supreme Court should take this case again to ensure that public sector union bosses are not permitted to profit from their widespread violation of workers’ First Amendment rights.”

Foundation staff attorneys in July 2018 secured the nation’s first-ever refund of dues seized unconstitutionally before Janus for Debora Nearman, an Oregon state wildlife employee. SEIU bosses were forced to settle and give back to Nearman over $3,000 in illegal fees they had seized from her over two years, during which they had sponsored an aggressive political campaign against her own husband, who ran successfully for the Oregon Legislature in 2016.

4 Jun 2020

Video Spotlight: Charter School Teacher Challenging Coercive Unionism with Foundation Legal Aid

Posted in Blog

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.”

3 Jun 2020

Wall Street Journal: Texas AG Seeks to Enforce Government Employees’ First Amendment Rights Under Janus v AFSCME

Posted in In the News

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.

1 Jun 2020

West Virginia Supreme Court Cites Foundation-Won Janus Case in Decision to Uphold Right to Work Law

Posted in In the News

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.

 

 

31 May 2020

San Diego Charter School Teachers Demand Election to Oust Union Bosses

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union bosses attempt to block educators from voting to escape controversial union

Dr. Kristie Chiscano

Dr. Kristie Chiscano, chemistry teacher at GPA, spearheaded the effort for a vote to remove SDEA union bosses from the school. Despite having the signatures of more than enough teachers, union bosses are trying to block the vote.

SAN DIEGO, CA – Teachers at San Diego’s Gompers Preparatory Academy (GPA) have collected enough signatures to trigger a vote to remove the San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union from monopoly bargaining power at the school.

Dr. Kristie Chiscano, a chemistry teacher at the charter school, submitted the decertification petition at the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. However, rather than allow the teachers to vote in a secret ballot election whether to remove the union, SDEA bosses have filed “blocking charges” at the PERB in an attempt to block the election.

Teachers and Parents Oppose Union Power Grab at School

Controversy has surrounded the SDEA’s presence at GPA, as the union installed itself in January 2019 after conducting a “Card Check” drive. In the abuse-prone “Card Check” process, union organizers bypass a secret-ballot election and instead rely on a variety of pressure tactics to get employees to sign union cards that are later counted as “votes” for unionization.

GPA transitioned from being a regular public school to a charter preparatory academy in 2005 as the result of a campaign by parents, teachers, and administrators who believed that school district and union bureaucracies were not serving the students’ interests. Specifically, many in the community felt the old regime was failing to combat gang violence and teacher attrition at the school.

Since the school’s unionization without a secret ballot vote in January 2019, 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.

“It all changed once the union started,” GPA parent Theressah Rodriguez told the San Diego Union-Tribune about the union in January. “Now, whenever you come in, you feel the hostility.”

Foundation Aids Educators in Filing Popular Petition to Remove Union

Dr. Chiscano, who teaches chemistry to 10th and 11th grade students, began circulating the decertification petition last October. 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. The petition was filed with PERB immediately following the one-year anniversary of the union’s installation, the soonest she could file the petition under California law.

However, last December, union officials preemptively filed a charge at PERB seeking “that the certification year be extended.” That would block the educators’ right to remove the union from their workplace for another year despite no evidence or even an allegation that any educator violated the law. Such “blocking charges” are a tactic union lawyers frequently use to block rank-and-file employees from holding secret-ballot elections that could result in the removal of union officials from power as the employees’ designated monopoly representative.

With an impending legal battle over the union’s attempt to block her decertification petition, Dr. Chiscano turned to the National Right to Work Foundation to challenge this attempt by union officials to stymie her and her coworkers’ right to hold a decertification vote to oust a union they believe lacks the support of a majority of the school’s educators.

“Rather than face a secretballot vote of the rank-and-file educators they claim to represent, SDEA union bosses are resorting to legal trickery to trap teachers in a union they oppose by blocking their right to hold a decertification election,” observed National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “By using these coercive tactics to attempt to trap teachers in union ranks, SDEA union officials do wrong by GPA’s namesake, AFL-CIO union founder Samuel Gompers, who himself urged devotion to ‘the principles of voluntarism’ and reminded all American workers that ‘no lasting gain has ever come from compulsion.’”

31 May 2020

Foundation Aids Workers Nationwide in Cases to Vindicate Janus Rights

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Workers seek rulings ordering union bosses to refund dues taken in violation of landmark decision

Connecticut public employees Kiernan Wholean (left) and James Grillo are fighting SEIU bosses at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, demanding years of dues seized in violation of their Janus rights.

NEW YORK, NY – The Foundation’s victory at the Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME set a groundbreaking precedent. The High Court finally recognized that requiring public sector workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment violates their First Amendment rights, and that “affirmative and knowing” consent is required before deducting dues from any employee.

But union bosses from AFSCME and other public sector unions still refuse to relinquish dues money that they seized from employee paychecks without their consent before the Janus decision came down. While Mark Janus continues his case  to get back seized dues, Foundation staff attorneys are also arguing in federal Courts of Appeals for other public servants from Connecticut and New Hampshire seeking the return of dues seized from thousands of workers in violation of the Janus precedent.

Connecticut, New Hampshire Public Workers Demand Refunds for Thousands

At the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) employees Kiernan Wholean and James Grillo seek a ruling that will make Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2001 bosses give back at least two years’ worth of fees exacted from their paychecks in violation of Janus, plus interest. Because their lawsuit is a class action, a favorable ruling could result in refunds for hundreds of Connecticut public employees.

At the First Circuit Court of Appeals, Foundation staff attorneys are litigating another class action lawsuit for New Hampshire public employees Patrick Doughty and Randy Severance. Doughty and Severance are asking the court to make New Hampshire SEIU bosses return three years of unconstitutionally seized fees, as permitted by the statute of limitations.

All four employees are not members of their respective SEIU local unions. In these and similar cases, union bosses have used a dubious “good faith” argument to defend their seizing of dues before Janus came down. Foundation staff attorney Jeffrey Jennings points out in his argument for Wholean and Grillo that, on top of the Janus ruling making those deductions illegal, union bosses certainly have “no reasonable grounds for believing [they] could keep their money” after the Janus decision.

In Connecticut, Foundation staff attorneys in 2019 successfully secured a refund of dues seized before Janus for UConn accounting professor Steven Utke, whom American Association of University Professors (AAUP) bosses targeted with illegal dues deductions since he was hired in 2015. When AAUP officials chose to settle the case in 2019 after Foundation staff attorneys filed a lawsuit, Utke received back over $5,000 in refunds.

“The Supreme Court was crystal clear in Janus:  All union fees seized from a public worker without his or her consent violate the First Amendment,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Despite that clarity, union hierarchies around the country are still flush with dues money that was seized in violation of public employees’ First Amendment rights.”

Since the Janus decision in 2018, Foundation attorneys have litigated more than 30 cases seeking to enforce and expand the Janus victory. Ten of those have already resulted in refunds of seized dues for employees, including Oregon wildlife employee Debora Nearman’s case, the first case in the nation to result in a refund of dues seized in violation of the Janus precedent. SEIU bosses were forced to settle and give back to Nearman nearly $3,000 in illegal fees they had seized from her over two years, during which they sponsored an aggressive political campaign against Nearman’s own husband, who ran successfully for the Oregon Legislature in 2016.

30 May 2020

NLRB Cases Challenge Coercive ‘Neutrality Agreements’ Used to Impose Forced Unionism

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2020 edition. To view other editions or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Housekeepers demand NLRB block unionization resulting from back-room “Card Check” deals

From left, housekeepers Lady Laura Javier, Cindy J. Alarcon Vasquez, and Yesica Perez Barrios are charging hotel officials and union bosses with illegally corralling workers into union ranks with a corrupted “Card Check” recognition.

SEATTLE, WA – Housekeeper Gladys Bryant was granted an appeal by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in her case challenging the use of a so-called “neutrality agreement” between UNITE HERE union officials and her employer to impose a union on the hotel’s workers.

Meanwhile, four Boston housekeepers have filed similar NLRB charges against their employer Yotel Boston and UNITE HERE Local 26, alleging that union officials violated federal law by imposing union representation on workers through a coercive “Card Check” drive with their employer’s assistance.

General Counsel Finds That UNITE HERE “Card Check” Unionization Was Tainted

Bryant filed the unfair labor practice charges after the UNITE HERE Local 8 union was installed at the Embassy Suites hotel in May 2018 through an oft-abused “Card Check” drive which bypassed the NLRB’s secret ballot election process.

As part of its so-called “neutrality agreement,”  Embassy Suites agreed to give union organizers access to the hotel to meet and solicit employees. The agreement also provided union officials with a list of all employees’ names, jobs, and contact information to assist the union in collecting authorization cards from employees.

After NLRB Region 19 officials declined to prosecute the union or employer for violations of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), Bryant appealed the case to the NLRB General Counsel in January 2019. The NLRB General Counsel agreed with Bryant’s Foundation attorneys that Embassy Suites provided UNITE HERE’s organizing campaign with more than “ministerial aid” and thus violated the NLRA.

The NLRB has long held that an employer taints employees’ efforts to remove a union if it gives the employees support such as providing a list of bargaining unit employees or use of company resources. Bryant’s appeal successfully argued that the “ministerial aid” standard must also apply when an employer aids union officials’ efforts to gain monopoly bargaining power over workers.

Boston Housekeepers Argue Union “Card Check” Must Be Overturned

Faced with a similar situation, Boston-area housekeepers Cindy J. Alarcon Vasquez, Lady Laura Javier, Yesica Perez Barrios, and Danela Guzman filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, the housekeepers argue that UNITE HERE union officials violated federal law by imposing union representation on workers through a coercive “Card Check” drive with the assistance of their employer, Yotel Boston.

As in the Seattle case, they charge that Yotel Boston company officials provided UNITE HERE’s organizing campaign with more than “ministerial aid” and therefore illegally tainted the union’s installation as the employees’ exclusive representative in the workplace. The housekeepers charge union officials with violating the NLRA by requesting and accepting the illegal assistance, and the hotel for providing it.

“It is long past time that the NLRB put an end to this biased double standard that allows union bosses to abuse workers’ rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse. “The General Counsel is correct to finally recognize that what qualifies as more than ‘ministerial assistance and support,’ and thus violates the National Labor Relations Act, cannot depend on whether the employer is helping outside union organizers impose unionization on workers or assisting workers in exercising their right to remove an unwanted union.”

“These cases represent another breakthrough in the Foundation’s challenges to the pro-forced unionism skew at the NLRB,” added LaJeunesse.