14 Mar 2019

City of Columbus Worker Brings Class Action Lawsuit Against Union and City to Halt Unconstitutional Forced Union Dues Scheme

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CWA union officials claim workers can be forced to wait years until end of union contract before exercising First Amendment rights to stop dues payments

Columbus, OH (March 14, 2019) – A civil servant in Ohio has filed a federal class action lawsuit with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys against Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 4502 for violating her constitutional rights recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision by continuing to seize forced dues from her paycheck.

Connie Pennington, an employee of the city of Columbus, filed the lawsuit to challenge CWA Local 4502 union officials’ “escape period” policy that blocks her and hundreds of her coworkers from exercising their constitutional right under the National Right to Work Foundation-won Janus Supreme Court decision to refrain from financially supporting the union.

Pennington resigned her union membership and revoked her dues deduction authorization shortly after the landmark Janus decision. However, CWA union officials refused to honor her revocation, instead claiming that she could only stop union dues payments at the end of their collective bargaining agreement with her employer in May 2020, leaving her trapped in forced dues for the entirety of a union monopoly bargaining contract.

Faced with being forced to subsidize the union against her will for more than a year, Pennington sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. Veteran Foundation staff attorney William Messenger, who argued the Janus case at the Supreme Court, sent a letter to CWA Local 4502 union officials for Pennington, reiterating her dues deduction revocation and explaining that a policy blocking her from exercising those rights violated the First Amendment. However, CWA officials continued to refuse to recognize her revocation and continued to deduct union dues from Pennington’s paycheck.

Pennington filed a class action lawsuit with help from Foundation staff attorneys challenging the “escape period” policy as unconstitutional, because the policy limits when she can exercise her First Amendment rights under Janus and allows CWA Local 4502 officials to collect union dues without her affirmative consent. Her lawsuit argues that the “escape period” should be eliminated to allow her and other workers to exercise their Janus rights without restriction.

Pennington also seeks a refund of union dues forcibly seized after she had resigned her union membership, as well as for all other workers whose attempts to exercise their rights under Janus were blocked by the illegal policy.

In Janus, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to require public employees to subsidize a labor union. The Court further held that deducting any union dues or fees without a public employee’s affirmative consent violates the employee’s First Amendment rights.

“Ms. Pennington joins many other public sector workers across the country in standing up to Big Labor’s coercion,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union officials have a long history of creating obstacles such as ‘escape period’ schemes, arbitrary union-enacted limitations trapping workers into forced dues. This case shows that the National Right to Work Foundation must remain vigilant to protect government employees’ rights under Janus.”

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are providing free legal aid to public sector workers in over two dozen cases across the country to enforce the Janus decision. To assist public employees in learning about their First Amendment rights under Janus, the Foundation established a special website: MyJanusRights.org.

8 Mar 2019

NLRB Issues Formal Complaint Against Union for Failure to Disclose Amount of Nonmembers’ Forced Fees

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Unite Here union bosses already backed down from separate charge filed by Lewis & Clark College employee challenging illegal forced fees demands

Portland, OR (March 8, 2019) – After worker Terry Denton sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys to file unfair labor practice charges over forced union dues, Unite Here Local 8 union officials backed down from unlawfully billing nonmembers for union fees they did not owe. Moreover, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint in a separate case brought by Denton and a coworker against Unite Here Local 8 challenging the union’s failure to disclose the amount of reduced compulsory nonmember fees.

The complaint comes after a new memo issued by NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, in which Robb says that union officials under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) should disclose the amount of nonmember fees to enable employees to make an informed choice between full membership dues and reduced compulsory fees.

Terry Denton works for Bon Appetit at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She and her coworkers are under the monopoly bargaining representation of Unite Here Local 8 union officials, who unionized the workplace in May 2017 via a coercive “card check” campaign, an abuse-prone process that circumvents the protections employees have under an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election.

Denton and several of her colleagues are not union members. Because Oregon lacks a Right to Work law, nonmembers can be required to pay union officials in order to work. However, workers cannot be required to fund activities unrelated to union bargaining, such as political action, lobbying, or organizing.

Denton exercised her right to object to paying full union dues and funding union activities beyond what can be required. However, Unite Here Local 8 officials demanded that she and similarly situated employees pay more than the reduced compulsory fee required to keep their jobs. Union officials sent her and other nonmembers bills for union fees for months already paid, months not worked, and/or amounts more than or equal to full union membership dues. Union officials threatened the workers that if they did not pay the amount demanded they could be fired.

To protect her rights, Denton sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

In the Foundation-won Beck decision, the United States Supreme Court provided some limited protection by holding that workers cannot be forced to pay union dues for certain union activity.

After Denton filed her charges with the NLRB in January 2019, Unite Here Local 8 backed down from their initial demands by waiving fee payments for all nonmembers until November 2018. Union officials then sent out new bills reflecting the new policy and crediting payments that Denton previously made.

Additional charges brought against Unite Here Local 8 are ongoing. In August 2018, Denton and another employee, Alejandro Martinez Cuevas, filed unfair labor practice charges alleging that Unite Here Local 8 violated their rights by failing to provide employees under their monopoly bargaining contract with sufficient information to allow the workers to make an informed decision about whether to object to paying full union dues. The notices provided to employees who had not yet objected failed to include the amount of the reduction in fees for employees who object to paying full union dues.

The NLRB Regional Director issued a complaint, consolidating Denton’s and Cuevas’ charges, in light of General Counsel Robb’s new memo. The memo urges the NLRB to overturn a ruling made by the Obama NLRB in 2014 that held unions do not have to inform a new employee of the specific amount of nonmember compulsory fees until the worker decides to object to union membership and full union dues.

“Ms. Denton stood up to union bosses’ coercive attempts to take advantage of her and other employees through illegal demands on their hard-earned money,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “However, this shows that stronger legal protections are critical for the future of Oregon’s independent-minded workers. Union bosses incessantly abuse their forced-fees privileges at the expense of the workers they claim to ‘represent.’”

“A clear ruling by the NLRB is needed to protect workers from Big Labor’s tactics, but ultimately Oregon needs to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and financial support completely voluntary,” added Mix.

5 Mar 2019

Michigan Worker Halts Union Bosses’ Illegal Threats Demanding Forced Union Membership Dues

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Teamsters officials refused to honor employee’s union resignation, demanding hundreds in union dues

Grand Rapids, MI (March 5, 2019) – Federal charges brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for Karen Ellis against Teamsters Local 332 have forced union officials to settle. Ellis filed the charges against Local 332 after union officials ignored her union dues deduction authorization revocation and threatened to sue her to force her to pay union dues.

Ellis works at Vocational Independence Program, an adult education school, in Flint, Michigan. Teamsters Local 332’s monopoly bargaining contract over her and her coworkers expired December 31, 2016. In February 2017, during the contractual hiatus, Ellis hand-delivered a letter to Local 332 union officials notifying them that she resigned from union membership and revoked her authorization for union dues deductions from her paycheck. She sent another letter two days later to reiterate her dues deduction revocation, and additionally notified Local 332’s international affiliate of her revocation in a letter two weeks later.

Union officials waited nine months before notifying Ellis in November 2017 that they refused to honor her revocation of dues deduction authorization, claiming that she owed union dues of nearly $300 and threatening to sue her if she did not pay the dues they claimed she owed. Local 332 also filed a grievance against Vocational Independence Program for honoring her revocation and stopping the deduction of union dues from her paycheck.

Even after Ellis reiterated her revocation – in November 2017 and again in February 2018, during another contractual hiatus – union officials refused to honor her revocation and threatened to sue her if she did not give in to their demands and pay the union dues they claimed.

Ellis sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys to challenge the union officials’ demands as a violation of the National Labor Relations Act by blocking her from exercising her right to refrain from union membership and paying union dues.

Rather than face Foundation attorneys in an NLRB hearing, Local 332 officials decided to settle. Under the settlement, they will honor Ellis’ original dues deduction revocation submitted after the monopoly bargaining contract expired in 2016. Additionally, union officials will post a notice informing the school’s employees of their right to choose whether or not to join and support a union.

“Ms. Ellis defended her rights against union bosses’ under-handed attempts to coerce and threaten her into paying union dues against her wishes,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Unfortunately, this case is one of many that shows that union bosses will trample on the rights of the workers they claim to ‘represent’ to pander to their forced-dues greed. The Foundation must remain vigilant to protect employees from compulsory unionism’s abuses, even in Right to Work states like Michigan.”

Michigan’s popular Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012 and ended any requirement that workers must pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Since the legislation was passed, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan combating compulsory unionism.

1 Mar 2019

NLRB Rules Union Officials Violated Federal Law by Forcing Nonmember Workers to Pay for Union Lobbying Activities

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Labor Board ruling also found union violated Rhode Island nurse’s rights by not providing independent verification that its compulsory fee calculation was audited

Washington, DC (March 1, 2019) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a sweeping decision in a nine-year-old case brought by Rhode Island nurse Jeanette Geary, ruling that union officials unlawfully spent Geary’s forced union fees and failed to meet a financial disclosure requirement on the amount of compulsory fees required as a condition of employment.

Geary, then a nurse at Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, filed an unfair labor practice charge against the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) union in 2009 with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

She filed the charges after UNAP officials failed to provide evidence of a legally required independent audit of its breakdown of expenditures. She also challenged the union’s forcing of her and other employees to pay for union lobbying activities in violation of the National Right to Work Foundation-won 1988 U.S. Supreme Court Beck decision.

The NLRB had issued a decision in 2012, but that decision was invalidated by the Supreme Court’s holding in NLRB v. Noel Canning that the Board lacked a valid quorum because of three unconstitutional “recess appointments” then President Obama made. Seven years later, Geary’s case was the only remaining case invalidated by Noel Canning that was still pending without a decision by the NLRB.

In January 2019 Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking a court order that the NLRB promptly decide Geary’s case. The Appeals Court then ordered the NLRB to respond to the mandamus petition by March 4, which ultimately caused the NLRB to issue its decision on March 1, just ahead of the deadline.

The NLRB’s 3-1 decision held that union officials violate workers’ rights by forcing nonmembers to fund union lobbying activities. It also ruled that union officials must provide independent verification that the union expenses they charge to nonmembers have been audited.

“Jeanette Geary bravely fought against Big Labor’s workplace coercion for years to stand up against a blatant refusal to respect her rights and those of the workers union officials claim to represent,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Although this is an overdue victory for Jeanette Geary, ultimately these types of forced union abuses will never be eliminated until Big Labor’s power to force workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment are completely eliminated.”

Learn more about the case here.

1 Mar 2019

Worker Victory: NLRB Overturns Region’s Order Forcing Hospital Employees into Union they Never Supported and Overwhelmingly Opposed

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Washington, DC (March 1, 2019) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a decision overturning a Regional Director’s decision forcing employees at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill East in Pennsylvania under the so-called “representation” of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) bosses even though the workers opposed the union and rejected an SEIU organizing drive targeting them.

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys represented a group of employees in the case, providing free legal assistance to hospital employees challenging the Regional Director’s ruling.

National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix released the following statement regarding the decision:

“This ruling is a much needed victory for workers over a shameful union power grab aided and abetted by a demonstrably partisan Regional Director who only a few years ago was suspended for his pro-union conduct that violated NLRB ethics rules. Despite the workers in this case successfully resisting an SEIU organizing drive, union bosses attempted to game the NLRB system to force these workers into union forced-dues ranks. The unanimous Board decision overturning the Regional Director’s order is evidence of just how radical the accretion in this case was, and how the accretion doctrine undermines the premise of the National Labor Relations Act which is supposedly based on the idea that workers have a say in whether or not they are unionized.”

Learn more about the case here.

28 Feb 2019

Union Bosses Back Down after Workers Challenge ‘Window Period’ Scheme Undermining Michigan’s Right to Work Law

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MEA union settles, pays refunds, and agrees to recognize employees’ membership resignations and stop demanding forced union dues

Lansing, MI (February 28, 2019) – Unfair labor practice charges brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for several Michigan public school employees against the Michigan Education Association (MEA) have forced union officials to settle. The charges were originally filed between October 2013 and November 2014 with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC).

The settlements free the workers from union officials’ “window period” policy, under which union officials claimed they owed union dues despite the facts that each worker had resigned his or her membership and that Michigan’s popular Right to Work Law ended any requirement that workers must pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

After Michigan’s Right to Work Law went into effect in 2013, public school employees Lindsey Bentley, Mary Derks, Sarah Evon, Jeffery Hauswirth, Becky Lapham, Shannon Rochon, and Michael Rochon each resigned their membership in the MEA and its local affiliates.

However, union officials refused to acknowledge the resignations, citing a “window period” policy that limited members to exercising their right to resign union membership during the month of August. Union officials claimed that the workers owed membership dues until the next “window period” to resign came around in August 2014, which was for many of the workers nearly a full year after their resignation. MEA officials also threatened to use collection agencies to collect dues the union claimed to be owed.

The workers all sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, who assisted them in filing unfair labor practice charges at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission against MEA and its local affiliates. Their charges were held in abeyance pending the result of another case, Saginaw, in which National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys provided legal aid to public school employees challenging the MEA’s “window period” policy.

The MERC ruled in Saginaw that the MEA and its affiliates violated the state’s Right to Work protections for public employees by illegally restricting employees’ right to resign union membership and by attempting to collect dues under the unlawful policy. Union lawyers appealed MERC’s rulings, but the Court of Appeals affirmed that the “window period” policy and the demands for forced dues were illegal. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the union lawyers’ request for review of the rulings, leaving the Foundation-won victory for employees in place.

After losing to Foundation staff attorneys in court in Saginaw, MEA officials decided to settle these cases. The MEA officials have acknowledged each employee’s union membership resignation, stopped demanding union dues, and will refund with interest the union dues that two of the employees paid after his or her resignation. One employee will receive a refund of more than $250 while the other will receive nearly $500 in back dues and interest.

“These workers bravely challenged union bosses’ attempts to bully them into paying tribute to a union against their wishes,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “However, these cases also show that workers need to keep fighting against coercion, as Michigan union bosses have repeatedly proven their willingness to violate employees’ protections under Michigan’s Right to Work laws to keep Big Labor’s forced dues money stream flowing. Foundation staff attorneys continue to assist independent-minded workers across the state in fighting back against Big Labor’s campaign to undermine Right to Work in Michigan.”

Since Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan combating compulsory unionism.

26 Feb 2019

Labor Board Judge Rules UAW Violated Ford Worker’s Rights by Seizing Union Dues

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NLRB finding: Seizure of dues by union officials from Ford employee was a violation of his rights and “more than mere negligence”

Washington, D.C. (February 26, 2019) – Ford Motor Company employee Lloyd Stoner won a ruling against the United Automobile Workers (UAW) Local 600 in Dearborn, Michigan, in his federal labor case with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Rosas ruled that UAW Local 600 engaged in unfair labor practices, prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act, by accepting union dues deducted from Stoner’s wages for two-and-a-half months after he resigned union membership and revoked his authorization to deduct dues. The union also failed to refund any of the dues taken without Stoner’s consent for nearly five months after his revocation and then belatedly failed to refund the entire amount owed him.

Stoner had already won a favorable settlement last month from Ford, which was charged in a separate complaint for deducting the unauthorized dues from his paycheck.

ALJ Rosas found that union officials restrained Stoner from exercising his legal rights. Workers are entitled to resign union membership at any time under federal law. Furthermore, Michigan’s Right to Work Law passed in 2012 states that nonmembers cannot be required to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of their employment. So, failing to promptly allow Stoner to resign his union membership and stop paying union dues constituted an unfair labor practice.

Moreover, ALJ Rosas found that upon receiving Stoner’s resignation and dues deduction authorization revocation, UAW Local 600 Financial Secretary Mark DePaoli “decided to sit on it for a while” instead of providing a timely notice to Ford about Stoner’s resignation and dues deduction authorization revocation. This resulted in Ford deducting dues from Stoner’s paycheck without authorization for an additional 10 weeks, which constituted an additional unfair labor practice under federal labor law.

DePaoli “provided a vague and less than credible explanation” for his failure to properly notify Ford to stop remitting dues to the union, Rosas explained, adding that DePaoli’s inaction represented “more than mere negligence.”

ALJ Rosas ruled that the dues deduction card that Stoner signed did not require workers to pay any dues or fees after resigning membership in the union. Union officials therefore had no legal authorization to accept any further dues deducted from Stoner’s wages after his resignation.

Under the ruling, UAW Local 600 must refund all dues taken from Stoner after his resignation, with interest. In addition, union officials must post notices at Ford’s Dearborn factory acknowledging that the union violated federal labor law and will honor all requests to resign union membership and cut off dues deductions.

“This decision in favor of Mr. Stoner is a victory for all Michiganders who wish to exercise their rights under the state’s Right to Work Law,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union bosses are officially on notice that they cannot continue seizing dues from employees after they resign their union membership.”

“Big Labor has consistently refused to acknowledge the rights of workers it claims to represent, requiring Foundation staff attorneys to litigate more than 100 cases for Michigan workers since the state’s Right to Work Law was passed in 2012,” added Mix. “As long as Michigan union bosses continue their forced unionism abuses, the National Right to Work Foundation will assist workers seeking to free themselves from these coercive tactics.”

25 Feb 2019

U.S. Supreme Court Asked Again to Hear Case of Homecare Providers Seeking to Recover Seized Union Fees

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Care providers ask High Court to overturn ruling denying refunds of $32 million in forced union fees seized from 80,000 providers in violation of First Amendment

Washington, D.C. (February 25, 2019) – Today, with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Illinois homecare providers filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case in which providers seek the return of more than $32 million in union fees seized by SEIU officials in a scheme the High Court already declared unconstitutional.

The case, Riffey v. Pritzker, is a continuation of the 2014 Foundation-won Supreme Court Harris v. Quinn case. In Harris, the Court ruled that a scheme imposed by the State of Illinois, in which more than 80,000 individual homecare providers were forced to pay union fees out of the state funding they receive, violated the providers’ First Amendment rights.

In 2014, the case was re-designated Riffey v. Rauner (now Riffey v. Pritzker) and remanded to the District Court to settle remaining issues, including whether or not tens of thousands of providers who had not joined the union would receive refunds of the money taken from them unlawfully by the SEIU.

In June 2016, the District Court denied a motion for class certification. The ruling allowed the SEIU to keep more than $32 million in unconstitutional fees confiscated from union nonmembers who had not consented to their money being taken for union fees. Foundation staff attorneys appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which also denied class certification.

In 2018, Foundation staff attorneys successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to review and reverse the Appeals Court’s ruling. The High Court did so the day after it issued the landmark Janus v. AFSCME decision, ordering the Appeals Court to reconsider the case in light of the Janus ruling, which struck down public sector forced union fees as violating the First Amendment.

In Janus, which was argued by the same National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney who is lead counsel in Riffey, the Supreme Court clarified that any union fees taken without an individual’s prior informed consent violate the First Amendment. That standard supports the Riffey plaintiffs’ claim that all providers who had money seized without their consent are entitled to refunds.

However, on December 6 a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court affirmed its previous ruling that no class can be certified for the more than 80,000 providers whose money was seized in violation of their First Amendment rights. The majority opinion, signed by two of the judges, denied class on the grounds that each individual homecare provider would have to prove that he or she objected to the taking of the fees when the seizures occurred.

In their petition for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to hear their case, the providers argue that Janus requires that the lower court’s class certification order be reversed. Foundation staff attorneys point out that the Janus precedent does not require a worker to prove his or her subjective opposition to forced union fees but held that the First Amendment is violated anytime union dues or fees are seized without clear affirmative consent.

Foundation attorneys argue that the case is of exceptional importance not only because it concerns the return of more than $32 million seized from some 80,000 homecare providers in violation of their First Amendment rights, but also because the lower courts’ ruling sets a precedent that could result in the denial of relief for millions of public employee victims of forced unionism.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that SEIU had illegally confiscated union dues from thousands of Illinois homecare providers, but those individuals are forced to jump through legal hoops for years to reclaim their money that should never have been taken from them in the first place,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “If the Supreme Court agrees to hear Riffey, these providers will be one step closer to relief in their fight to provide homecare – many to their own children in their own homes – without being forced to satiate union bosses’ greed.”

“Already the US Supreme Court has ruled for these providers twice in this case, now one more trip is necessary for the victims of this illegal union scheme to finally have their rights vindicated,” added Mix.

15 Feb 2019

Hospital Employees Successfully Remove SEIU after NLRB Denies Union Officials’ Objections

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USC Verdugo Hills workers’ vote to oust union certified by Labor Board after union’s lawyers ignore rules to challenge outcome

Los Angeles, CA (February 15, 2019) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Regional Director in Los Angeles has rejected union officials’ objections to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital employees’ election to remove the union as their monopoly bargaining representatives. The NLRB Regional Director ordered that the result of the election, in which a majority of the workers voted to oust the union, be certified.

After Andrew Brown, a surgical buyer, and his coworkers at USC Verdugo Hills in Glendale, California, successfully held a decertification election to remove the unwanted Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU), union officials tried to challenge the employees’ 118-107 victory. However, the NLRB Regional Director ruled that SEIU officials failed to follow the proper procedures by not serving their objections on all parties, as required by NLRB rules.

Ironically, SEIU lawyers had blocked an earlier petition filed by Brown for a decertification election on the grounds that, although he followed the misleading language on the NLRB’s website, his petition was technically filed two days late.

In October 2018, Brown petitioned for a vote to remove the SEIU as monopoly bargaining agent for him and his coworkers. Despite having followed the NLRB website’s instructions on union decertification petitions, including collecting signatures from over 30 percent of his colleagues as required, union officials claimed Brown’s decertification petition was untimely.

Brown then sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys to request a review. Foundation staff attorneys asked the NLRB to overturn the Regional Director’s decision and permit Brown and his coworkers to vote on whether to oust the union. Before an appeal of the decision to reject the petition as untimely could be ruled on by the NLRB, it was made moot by a subsequent petition for a decertification vote that was clearly timely under the Board’s rules.

The NLRB conducted a secret ballot decertification election in January, in which a majority of the workers voted to remove the union. After the SEIU’s objections were denied by the NLRB Regional Director as untimely, the Regional Director issued an order officially certifying the election results.

“We congratulate Mr. Brown and his colleagues on exercising their right to remove an unwanted union,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “However, this vote would have taken place months earlier without the red tape and restrictions hindering independent-minded employees and tipping the scales in favor of union bosses’ gamesmanship. This shows that union officials should spend less energy trying to trap workers and instead focus on respecting the wishes and needs of the employees they claim to ‘represent.’”

11 Feb 2019

Judge Rules Southwest Flight Attendant’s Federal Lawsuit Against Airline and Union for Illegal Firing Will Continue

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Flight attendant was fired after voicing her religious and political beliefs, including opposition to union leadership and support of Right to Work

Dallas, TX (February 11, 2019) – A federal judge has ordered that Southwest Airlines flight attendant Charlene Carter’s lawsuit against her employer and a union will continue, ruling that Carter’s charges are sufficient to establish a case that she was fired for voicing her religious and political beliefs, including her support of a National Right to Work law.

Carter filed her lawsuit with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys against Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) and Transport Workers Union of America (TWUA) Local 556. Although Southwest and TWUA Local 556 attempted to have her charges dismissed, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas has ruled that her lawsuit will continue.

As a Southwest employee, Carter joined TWUA Local 556 in September 1996. A pro-life Christian, she resigned her membership in September 2013 after learning that her union dues were being used to promote causes that violate her conscience, such as abortion.

Carter resigned from union membership but was still forced to pay fees to TWUA Local 556 as a condition of her employment. State Right to Work laws do not protect her from forced union fees because airline and railway employees are covered by the federal Railway Labor Act (RLA). The RLA allows union officials to have a worker fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees. But it does protect the rights of employees to remain nonmembers of the union, to criticize the union and its leadership, and advocate in favor of changing the union’s current leadership.

Carter became a vocal supporter of a campaign to recall the TWUA Local 556 Executive Board, including its president, Audrey Stone.

Carter’s pleadings describe how, in the year leading up to the lawsuit, Southwest subjected 13 supporters of the recall campaign to disciplinary measures, including fact-findings, suspension, and even termination of employment, many times at the request of TWUA Local 556 members and officials.

The lawsuit alleges that, in contrast, when complaints were filed against the Executive Board’s supporters for their social media activity, including death threats, threats of violence, obscene language, and sexual harassment, those employees were either not disciplined or were allowed to keep their jobs.

In January 2017, Carter learned that President Stone and other TWUA Local 556 officials used union dues to attend the “Women’s March on Washington D.C.,” which was sponsored by political groups she opposed, including Planned Parenthood. Carter’s lawsuit alleges that Southwest knew of the TWUA Local 556 activities and participation in the Women’s March and helped accommodate TWUA Local 556 members wishing to attend the protest by allowing them to give their work shifts to other employees not attending the protest. Carter sent President Stone private Facebook messages sharply criticizing the union and its support for pro-abortion activity. President Stone never responded to Carter.

Shortly thereafter, in February 2017, Carter received an email from TWUA Local 556 urging her to oppose a National Right to Work Bill. Carter responded with an email to President Stone declaring her support for Right to Work and the Executive Board recall effort.

Days after sending Stone that email, Carter was notified by Southwest managers that they needed to have a mandatory meeting as soon as possible about “Facebook posts they had seen.” During this meeting, Southwest presented Carter screenshots of her pro-life posts and messages and questioned why she did them. Carter explained her religious beliefs and opposition to the union’s political activities. Carter said that, by participating in the Women’s March, President Stone and TWUA Local 556 members purported to be representing all Southwest flight attendants. Southwest authorities told Carter that President Stone claimed to be harassed by these messages.

A week after this meeting, Southwest fired Carter. Southwest said she violated its “Workplace Bullying and Hazing Policy” and “Social Media Policy,” because her pro-life Facebook posts were “highly offensive” and her Facebook messages to President Stone were “harassing and inappropriate.” Prior to her termination Carter had never received any discipline in her 20-year career with Southwest.

In 2017, Carter filed her federal lawsuit with help from Foundation staff attorneys to challenge the firing as an abuse of her rights, alleging she lost her job because she stood up to TWUA Local 556 and criticized the union for its political activities and how it spent employees’ money.

Southwest and TWUA Local 556 moved to dismiss her claims, but the federal district court ruled that Carter’s allegations establish “more than a sheer possibility” that union officials retaliated against her and that Southwest fired her for opposing union leadership and engaging in activities the RLA protects.

The Court also denied Southwest’s motion to dismiss Carter’s claim that Southwest discriminated against her religious beliefs in violation of Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964, as Carter has established “more than a sheer possibility” that her religious beliefs and practices were a factor in Southwest’s decision to fire her. Carter also claims that TWUA Local 556 discriminated against her religious beliefs by complaining about her pro-life messages in order to get Southwest to fire her, but union officials did not ask the court to dismiss that claim.

“This case shows the extent to which union officials will wield their power over employers to violate the rights’ of the workers they claim to represent,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Charlene Carter merely voiced her opinion and opposition to her money being used for causes she opposes, expressing her protected religious beliefs.

“A victory in this lawsuit would send a strong message that this type of abuse of union monopoly power will not go unchallenged, but ultimately it is up to Congress to end Big Labor’s power to force its representation on workers who oppose it and then add insult to injury by forcing workers under threat of termination to pay money to a union they oppose,” added Mix.