Workers had filed two separate petitions since 2020 seeking to end unpopular Teamster union ‘representation’
Ventura, CA (September 17, 2021) – Following Airgas USA employee Angel Herrera and his coworkers’ yearlong effort seeking to end the union’s control at their workplace, Teamsters Local 848 officials have filed documents with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ending their monopoly bargaining power over all workers at the Airgas Glass Welding and Safety Products facility in Ventura. Herrera and his colleagues received free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys in filing a petition for a vote to oust Teamsters union officials.
Airgas Ventura employees’ effort began in 2020, when they submitted a petition asking Airgas management to rescind recognition of Teamsters Local 848. Though Airgas management prepared to withdraw recognition as the majority of employees had requested, Teamsters officials filed unfair labor practice charges against Airgas soon after in an attempt to retain power over the employees at the facility despite the employees’ overwhelming opposition to the union.
What followed was months of litigation at the NLRB, the federal agency charged with enforcing most private sector labor law. Ultimately the NLRB forced Airgas to recognize the Teamsters union and the union’s “representation” was imposed back on the employees.
Herrera and his coworkers tried again to get Teamsters union chiefs out of their workplace this summer by filing a “decertification petition” with the NLRB. Herrera’s petition, filed on August 30, contained signatures from enough of his coworkers to trigger an NLRB-supervised “decertification election,” a secret-ballot election after which union officials lose monopoly bargaining power if a majority of workers vote to remove them.
Before a decertification election was scheduled, however, Teamsters officials instead disclaimed interest in maintaining control over the workplace on September 13, in an apparent attempt to spare themselves the embarrassment of an overwhelming vote by workers to reject the union’s so-called “representation.”
This is just the latest in a series of successful worker efforts to oust unwanted union officials aided by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. Earlier this summer, maintenance worker Tim Mangia and his coworkers at Chicago’s Rush University filed a decertification petition with free Foundation legal aid and voted out another Teamsters affiliate, Local 743, from their workplace by a more than 70-30 margin.
Relatedly, just last month in Las Vegas, Foundation staff attorneys filed an amicus brief for a Red Rock Casino worker contesting a federal judge’s order that casino management submit to bargaining talks with Culinary Union officials, despite a majority of Red Rock workers voting against unionization.
The Foundation has also fought to break down union boss-created legal barriers to unseating unwanted union officials. Early last year, following detailed formal comments submitted by Foundation attorneys, the NLRB finalized rules eviscerating union bosses’ ability to stop a decertification effort with “blocking charges,” i.e., accusations made against an employer that are often unverified and have no connection to workers’ desire to kick out undesired union officials.
“We at the Foundation are proud to have helped Mr. Herrera and his colleagues in the exercise of their workplace rights, but no American workers should have to file multiple petitions and endure protracted litigation just so they can exercise this basic right of free association,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This is more important than ever given the Biden Administration’s focus on further empowering union officials at the expense of rank-and-file workers’ individual rights.”
“Foundation staff attorneys will not waiver in their defense of workers’ right to dispense with unwanted union so-called ‘representation,’ regardless of which way the political winds blow,” Mix added.
Every year the National Right to Work Foundation uses Labor Day to remind Americans that celebrating workers must include respecting their individual rights by opposing the injustices of forced unionism. This year, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix’s opinion pieces calling out union coercion and extolling the vital freedoms and opportunity secured by Right to Work reached the public through dozens of outlets. Here are some of the highlights:
On Right to Work’s Freedom and Prosperity
“With help from the same National Right to Work Foundation attorney who argued and won the Janus case, [Chicago teachers Ifeoma Nkemdi and Joanne Troesch] appealed to the Supreme Court. Sixteen states and 4 separate legal foundations filed amicus briefs supporting the educators’ petition, which the Supreme Court is set to take up in October.
“The educators are riding the momentum from a historic decade of wins against compulsory unionism. Since 2012, five states – Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Kentucky – passed Right to Work protections, ensuring union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.”
-Mark Mix in The Washington Times, 9/6/2021
“And so, a year after the COVID-19-induced economic slump hit its lowest point in April 2020, Right to Work states led the way in getting jobs back on track. In Right to Work states, the number of manufacturing payroll employees had rebounded 10.1 percent just one year after its 2020 lows, a bump 63 percent greater than what forced-unionism states experienced, according to Labor Department statistics from July.”
-Mark Mix in Fox Business, 9/6/2021
“Sluggish job growth in forced-unionism states was not limited to just the pandemic recovery. A National Institute for Labor Relations Research analysis points out that, from 2020 back to 2010, employment in states lacking Right to Work protections increased by only 2.4%, paling in comparison to Right to Work states’ 11.0% jump in the same decade.
“It’s no surprise, then, that Right to Work states passed the milestone just last year of now playing host to the majority of employed people in the United States, according to the Department of Labor’s Household Survey.”
-Mark Mix in the Boston Herald, 9/6/2021
On Union Boss Attempts to Expand their Coercive Powers over Rank-and-File Workers
“It’s no wonder polls consistently show that more than 80% of Americans support the right-to-work principle that no worker should be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Union members, too, overwhelmingly agree.
“When union membership and financial support are voluntary, union officials are held accountable by workers who can cut off support if these officials aren’t meeting their needs.
“Instead of rising to the challenge and seeking workers’ voluntary support, union bosses continually resort to attacking the right to work.”
-Mark Mix in the Washington Examiner, 9/3/2021
“Union officials attempt to justify their use of coercion by claiming that forced association and forced dues are good for workers, but even Vice President Kamala Harris has admitted that’s not true. As California’s Attorney General she filed a Supreme Court brief acknowledging that ‘unions do have substantial latitude to advance bargaining positions that … run counter to the economic interests of some employees.’”
-Mark Mix in Newsmax, 8/31/2021
“Why do teachers’ unions across the country have the power to dictate the terms of school districts’ reopening, while the tax dollars of parents—nearly 80 percent of whom supported in-person instruction—continue to flow towards those districts?
“The answer is that, in nearly every state, the heads of public-sector unions have at least some power to force teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees into one-size-fits-all contracts that make public services more responsive to the interests of union bosses than to those of the public…
“In the devastating wake of COVID-19 and the misguided policies that came with it, now is a better time than ever to take a close look at how public-sector unions became the entrenched special interest group they are today. Ending union officials’ monopoly bargaining privileges would strike at the root of the problem while protecting the freedom of association of teachers and other public employees who do not feel that these unions represent them.”
-Mark Mix in Newsweek, 9/3/2021
On Union Corruption
“If Pantoja’s account correctly depicts the facts, the culture of union corruption must be deeply ingrained in the IAM. If even a union vice president can’t attempt to combat embezzlement and lies by a fellow union officer without facing a vicious campaign of retaliation, imagine what would happen to a rank-and-file worker who tried to do the same…
“Unfortunately, under current federal policies, many if not most IAM-‘represented’ workers in all 50 states, including the 27 Right to Work states, may currently be forced to bankroll a union, or be fired, as a consequence of the federally-imposed railroad/airline-industry loophole in state bans on forced union dues and fees.”
-Mark Mix in Newsmax, 9/10/2021
“Workers in Michigan are now free to decide for themselves whether union officials deserve their support. Meanwhile, [Bob] King’s UAW has been engulfed in a massive corruption scandal including the misuse of workers’ dues money…
“Had King and other union bosses had their way, workers in Michigan would be forced to not only fund union officials’ opulent lifestyles, but also their salaries and the legal bills associated with the scandal. In states without right-to-work protections, workers in UAW shops continue to bear those costs.”
-Mark Mix in The Detroit News, 9/6/2021
Worker Freedom Group Defends WV Law Preventing Unconstitutional Union Dues Seizures from Public Workers
Law protects employees’ First Amendment rights; Kanawha Circuit judge blocked law at union lawyers’ behest
Charleston, WV (September 9, 2021) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a charitable nonprofit dedicated to protecting workers’ legal rights from compulsory unionism, have just filed an amicus brief defending the legality of a state law that protects the First Amendment right of West Virginia public employees to refrain from funding a union. The brief comes during a legal battle by union bosses against the law, in which a Kanawha County Circuit Court judge issued a preliminary injunction at the behest of union lawyers stopping the bill from going into effect.
Foundation staff attorneys urge the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals to undo the injunction, arguing that West Virginia’s Paycheck Protection Act is not only valid, but essential to protect West Virginia public sector workers’ rights under the Foundation-won 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In Janus, the justices ruled that forcing public sector workers to subsidize union activities as a condition of keeping their jobs violates the First Amendment. The Court also held that no union dues or fees can be taken from a public worker’s wages without a knowing and intelligent waiver of that employee’s First Amendment right not to pay, and that such a waiver “cannot be presumed.”
The justices reasoned in Janus that, because all public sector union activities involve lobbying the government, forcing public sector workers to pay any money to a union amounts to forced political speech forbidden by the First Amendment.
“The Act prevents the government from unwittingly violating their employees’ First Amendment rights by seizing union dues from them without their voluntary, affirmative consent and knowing, intelligent waiver of those rights, as required under Janus,” the brief reads. “The State’s protection of its employees’ First Amendment rights does not violate the constitutional rights of Respondents West Virginia AFL-CIO, et. al. (‘the Unions’), because the Unions have no constitutional entitlement to employees’ money or to the employer’s administration of union dues deduction schemes.”
Because West Virginia has a legitimate interest in protecting its employees’ First Amendment rights, and because union officials’ lawsuit against the Paycheck Protection Act has no chance of success on the merits, Foundation attorneys argue, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals should overturn the preliminary injunction.
This is not the first time the Foundation has supported state policy that protects public employees’ First Amendment Janus rights. Last year, Foundation staff attorneys filed detailed comments backing a Michigan Civil Service Commission (MiCSC) policy that required public employers to obtain annual consent from their workers before taking union payments out of their wages. Officials from the United Auto Workers (UAW) and other unions abandoned a lawsuit contesting the rule in October 2020.
Foundation staff attorneys also filed 10 legal briefs defending West Virginia’s Right to Work law, which was the target of a legal attack by union officials from 2016 until last year. Among the Foundation’s filings were amicus briefs for Reginald Gibbs, who worked as a lead slot machine technician with the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, WV, and Donna Harper, who worked as a laundry aide and nursing assistant at the Genesis HealthCare Tygart Center in Fairmont, WV. Both workers opposed paying money to the union bosses in power at their workplaces.
“West Virginia union bosses’ aggressive opposition to this commonsense law shows that they care more about finding ways to keep employee money flowing into their pockets than they do about respecting the First Amendment rights of those they claim to ‘represent,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This law just ensures that public employees maintain full control over whether their money is going to support a union.”
“By opposing this simple protection, West Virginia union bosses are doubling down on coercion instead of focusing on ways to win over the voluntary support of public servants,” Mix added.
Workplace Advocacy Groups Tout Successes for Worker Liberty on Labor Day 2021, Warn of Continuing Anti-Freedom Efforts
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee, issued the following statement on the occasion of Labor Day 2021:
“On this Labor Day, workers’ freedoms are at a crossroads. Though union officials and their allies in government use this day to claim to speak for America’s workers, they are simultaneously hard at work trying to undermine the individual liberty of those same American workers.
“The last decade saw record advances for workers’ right to free association, with five new states enacting Right to Work protections which defend a worker from being fired merely for refusal to pay dues to a labor union he or she does not support. Twenty-seven states now protect this basic, fundamental freedom, and, as of last year, a majority of America’s working men and women now work in Right to Work states. That’s on top of the National Right to Work Foundation-won 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court victory, which recognized the First Amendment right of every public worker to choose for him or herself whether or not to fund a labor union.
“Unfortunately, rather than embrace voluntarism and worker choice, union officials have instead doubled down on coercion. Their top priority in Congress, the so-called “PRO-Act,” would add tens of millions of workers to union bosses’ “pay up or be fired” ranks by wiping out all state Right to Work laws by federal fiat. Meanwhile, despite the Janus ruling, government union bosses have continued to undermine and outright ignore the First Amendment right of public employees to cease all funding of the political activities of all government unions. This has resulted in dozens of Janus enforcement lawsuits nationwide, including two Foundation cases currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Yet Big Labor’s push for more power to impose their so-called “representation” and mandatory dues payments on workers remains at odds with an overwhelming majority of Americans. Polls show Americans still overwhelmingly oppose forced unionism – consistently finding that around 80% of Americans agree with the Right to Work principle that union membership and dues payment should be voluntary, not coerced.
“On this Labor Day, as hardworking rank-and-file workers continue to grapple with economic uncertainty and lingering COVID disruptions, it is more important now than ever that we reject Big Labor’s schemes to expand forced unionism over more workers, and instead respect the individual freedom to decide whether or not a union deserves their support.”
Cameraman already won charge against NABET officials for seizing money illegally, now full board in DC cites union lawyers for misconduct
Portland, OR (August 27, 2021) – Portland-area ABC cameraman Jeremy Brown has just prevailed decisively in his National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case against the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) union. He first charged the union in July 2019 with demanding and seizing illegal dues from him, and for ignoring his multiple attempts to exercise his right to refrain from union membership and not pay for union political activities. Following his original charge, he submitted another charge asserting NABET lawyers had sent him threatening and over-the-top demand letters.
Brown received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF). A unanimous NLRB decision has now vindicated every charge he made against the union, and refers NABET’s lawyers for disciplinary sanctions on account of unprofessional conduct.
An NLRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled in December 2020 that NABET union officials had illegally snubbed Brown’s attempts to stop paying for union politics among other activities and had seized dues from him in excess of the amount they could compel nonmembers to pay by law. Brown had invoked his rights under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision, which mandates that in states like Oregon lacking Right to Work protections nonmember workers can’t be forced to pay dues for anything beyond certain union core activities. Brown’s charges detailed that union officials had failed to inform him that requests to reduce dues as per Beck had to be directed to the union’s national headquarters.
However, the ALJ let NABET off the hook for the union lawyers’ intimidating evidence preservation letters sent during the litigation, despite the fact that they illegally threatened to seek “damages” from Brown if he didn’t comply with their demands, and absurdly ordered that he hold onto things like pedometer and GPS data.
Brown’s Foundation provided attorneys urged the NLRB to prosecute the NABET lawyers for the outrageous demands. Peter Robb, the NLRB General Counsel at the time, also filed a brief supporting Brown’s attempt to put the issue before the full Board. This effort met resistance when Peter Ohr, whom President Biden in January 2021 installed as NLRB Acting General Counsel after a hasty and premature ouster of Robb, sought to withdraw the brief that Robb had filed. Foundation attorneys opposed Ohr’s motion, arguing that he had no legal authority to rescind Robb’s brief.
Despite Ohr’s opposition, the NLRB took up Brown’s case challenging the NABET lawyers’ evidence preservation letters. In a decision this week, three current Board members, including the Biden-appointed Chairman, agreed that “the threatened aggressive pursuit of sanctions and penalties” in the letters “viewed in conjunction with the breadth of the information covered by the letters, sends the message that the Respondent is willing to go to extreme—and perhaps harassing—lengths to penalize the Charging Party, placing the letters outside the bounds of legitimate efforts to ensure evidence preservation.”
In addition to demanding that NABET officials stop failing to respond to workers’ Beck requests and that they return the dues seized from Brown in excess of the limit established by Beck, the NLRB also orders the union and its agents to cease sending “charging-party employees evidence preservation letters that reasonably tend to restrain or coerce them in the exercise of their right to avail themselves of the Board’s processes.”
Moreover, the Board in its decision found that the record in the case suggests that NABET’s lawyers “have not conformed their conduct to the standards of ethical and professional conduct required of practitioners appearing before the Agency,” i.e., by “repeatedly misidentifying NRTWLDF in [their] filings with the Board.” The Board decision therefore referred the union counsels’ conduct “to the attention of the Investigating Officer for investigation and such disciplinary action as may be appropriate.”
“NABET officials and lawyers subjected Jeremy Brown to layers upon layers of union malfeasance and intimidation just because he exercised his right to remain a nonmember and didn’t want to pay for union bosses’ political expenditures,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “He courageously stood up for his rights for well over two years, and we at the National Right to Work Foundation were proud to support him in a case where his rights have now been fully vindicated.”
Mix continued: “The fact that NABET officials and lawyers’ behavior elicited condemnation from even Biden-selected Chairman Lauren McFerran demonstrates how radical former NLRB Acting General Counsel Peter Ohr’s throwing of obstacles in Brown’s case was.”
Cuyahoga County Probation Officer Hits Union with Federal Lawsuit for Years of Unconstitutional Dues Seizures
Union officials took full union dues from nonmember officer without consent, then ignored requests to return illegally-seized money
Cleveland, OH (August 25, 2021) – Cuyahoga County probation officer Kimberlee Warren is suing the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) union in her workplace, charging union officials with breaching her First Amendment right as a public employee to refuse to support union activities. She is receiving free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, in partnership with attorneys with the Ohio-based Buckeye Institute.
Foundation staff attorneys contend that FOP union officials ignored her constitutional rights recognized in the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision, which was argued and won by Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
In Janus, the Justices declared it a First Amendment violation to force any public sector employee to pay union dues or fees as a condition of keeping his or her job. The Court also ruled that public employers and unions cannot take union dues or fees from a public sector employee unless they obtain that employee’s affirmative consent.
The federal lawsuit says that Warren was not a member of the FOP union before the Janus decision in June 2018, but FOP union bosses collected union dues from her wages without her consent. According to the complaint, this continued until around December 2020, when Warren notified union officials that they were violating her First Amendment rights by taking the money and demanded that the union stop the coerced deductions and return all money that they had taken from her paycheck since the Janus decision.
When the deductions ended, FOP chiefs refused to give back the money that they had already seized from Warren in violation of her First Amendment rights. They claimed the deductions had appeared on her check stub and thus any responsibility to cease the deductions fell on her – even though to her knowledge they had never obtained permission to opt her into membership or to take cash from her paycheck in the first place.
According to the lawsuit, Warren also asked FOP bosses to provide any dues deduction authorization document she might have signed. FOP officials rebuffed this request as well.
The High Court ruled in Janus that, because all activities public sector unions undertake involve lobbying the government and thus are political speech, forcing a public employee to pay any union dues or fees as a condition of keeping his or her job is forced political speech the First Amendment forbids.
Union bosses were permitted by state law before the Janus ruling to seize from nonmember workers’ paychecks only the part of dues they claimed went toward “representational” activities. FOP union officials took this amount from Warren prior to Janus. However, they furtively designated her as a member following the decision, and began taking full dues, deducting even more money from her wages than they did before Janus despite the complete lack of any consent.
Warren is now suing the FOP union in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Her lawsuit seeks the return of all dues that FOP union officials garnished from her paycheck since the Janus decision was handed down. It also seeks punitive damages because FOP showed “reckless, callous” indifference toward her First Amendment rights by snubbing her refund requests.
Warren’s lawsuit comes as other Foundation-backed lawsuits for employees defending their First Amendment Janus rights seek writs of certiorari from the Supreme Court. This includes cases brought for Chicago and New Jersey public educators which challenge “window periods” that severely limit when they and their fellow educators can exercise their First Amendment right to stop union dues deductions, sometimes to periods as short as ten days per year. In a California federal court, Foundation staff attorneys are also aiding a University of California Irvine lab assistant in fighting an anti-Janus state law that gives union bosses full control over whether employers can stop sending an employee’s money to the union after that employee exercises his or her Janus rights.
“All over the country, union officials are stopping at nothing to ensure they can continue ignoring workers’ First Amendment Janus rights and continue siphoning money from the paychecks of dissenting employees,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “After Janus was handed down, FOP union officials in Warren’s workplace could have come to her to attempt to get her to support the union voluntarily, but tellingly instead they began surreptitiously siphoning full dues out of her paycheck without her consent in direct contravention of the Supreme Court.”
“Despite her repeated requests, FOP bosses have continued to trample Warren’s Janus rights, and Foundation staff attorneys are fighting to stop this gross injustice against her and punish FOP bosses for their brazen behavior,” Mix added.
Opposition Filed to Judge’s Order Imposing Culinary Union on Workers who Rejected Union in Secret Ballot Vote
Red Rock Casino workers vote against unionization, but nearly 2 years later judge ordered employer to bargain with union officials
Las Vegas, NV (August 24, 2021) – A large majority of the workers at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada voted “no” to unionization, but a federal district court judge is forcing their employer to bargain with union officials anyway.
The Casino is appealing the judge’s order at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Now Red Rock employee Raynell Teske has filed an amicus brief arguing the judge was wrong to impose the union on the workers, given the rejection of the union in the election. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys assisted Teske for free in filing the amicus brief with the appellate court.
In December 2019, the National Labor Relations Board held a secret ballot election whether to unionize Red Rock. A sizable majority of those voting rejected union officials’ effort to become their monopoly bargaining representatives. Despite that vote, NLRB Region 28 Director Cornele Overstreet filed a federal court injunction action seeking to have the union imposed over the workers’ objections.
On July 20, 2021, Judge Gloria Navarro agreed with the NLRB Director’s request, and issued a “Gissel” order forcing Red Rock to bargain with union officials despite the employees’ vote against unionization. The judge said the order was justified because, prior to the vote, union officials claimed that a majority of workers had signed union authorization cards.
Teske’s amicus brief argues those “card check” signatures are unreliable, and not reason enough to conclude the union ever had majority support. She contends the level of union support was tested fairly by the secret-ballot election, in which workers voted 627-534 against unionization. Secret ballots are a far more reliable way of gauging worker support for a union, because workers are often pressured, harassed, or misled by union organizers into signing cards.
Unions themselves know that “card check” signatures do not indicate solid worker support. The AFL-CIO admitted in its 1989 organizing handbook that it needed at least 75% card check support before having even a 50-50 chance of winning a secret ballot election. An earlier guidebook acknowledged that some workers sign cards just to “get the union off my back.”
Teske’s brief argues the union’s possession of so-called “cards” is an insufficient legal basis for imposing unionization, especially after a secret ballot election in which the union lost. It agrees with the employer that the “Gissel” order should be overturned, and that Teske and her coworkers should not be subjected to monopoly bargaining by a union they rejected in an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election.
This is not the only case in which union bosses are battling casino employees in court. Red Rock’s parent company, Station Casinos, also owns Palms Casino in Las Vegas, where employees filed a petition to decertify union officials in March, 2021. Union lawyers blocked the petition with a slew of charges that were accepted by NLRB bureaucrats as reason to block the workers’ petition. The Palms Casino worker represented by National Right to Work Foundation attorneys who filed the petition is appealing the decision to block the vote he requested.
“Ms. Teske and her coworkers had good reasons to reject the union. It is outrageous that the judge’s order imposing unwanted unionization brushes aside the workers’ contrary preference clearly demonstrated in the secret ballot vote,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “There have been countless examples of workers being pressured, misled and even bribed to sign union cards, which is why ‘Card Check’ is widely accepted as unreliable, especially compared to an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election.”
“If federal labor law is to be about defending the rights and freedoms of rank-and-file workers, then the Court of Appeals should promptly overturn Judge Navarro’s order substituting the wishes of NLRB bureaucrats for the actual choice workers made at the ballot box,” added Mix.
Fully Briefed: TX United Airlines Employee Urges US Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging Union “Opt-out” Requirement for Political Dues
Foundation attorneys argue IAM scheme violates Supreme Court’s Janus standard by seizing political dues from nonmembers without their consent
Washington, DC (August 17, 2021) – Yesterday, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed the final brief supporting Texas United Airlines employee Arthur Baisley’s petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. He is urging the Court to hear his federal class-action civil rights case contesting a dues arrangement imposed by International Association of Machinists (IAM) union officials. The scheme forces him and his coworkers by default to subsidize union political activities in violation of the First Amendment and Railway Labor Act (RLA).
The policy that Baisley is challenging requires employees who choose not to join the union to opt out of funding the union’s political and ideological activities during a brief annual “window period,” or else have money exacted from their wages for those purposes against their will. Baisley’s Foundation-provided attorneys argue that this violates employee rights under both the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, and the RLA.
The RLA governs labor relations in the rail and airline industries, and protects the right of employees to “join, organize, or assist in organizing” a union of their choice, as well as the right to abstain from all union activities. In Janus, the High Court ruled it violates the First Amendment to force a public-sector employee to pay union fees as a condition of keeping his or her job, citing the fact that all union dues for public employees are inherently political because government union speech is directed towards the government. As part of its ruling, the High Court affirmed that union dues could only be deducted from a public employee’s paycheck with an affirmative waiver of that employee’s right not to pay.
Foundation staff attorneys argue that under both Janus and another Foundation-won Supreme Court decision, Knox v. SEIU, no employee can be charged for union political or ideological expenditures without first giving their affirmative and knowing consent. This is because language from a 1961 case that union lawyers use to prop up “opt out” schemes, like the one foisted by IAM union officials on Baisley and his coworkers, was not only dicta, but was also found flawed by the Supreme Court in Knox.
Foundation attorneys also reiterate in the latest brief that the government is involved in enforcing the RLA and thus First Amendment scrutiny should apply to the IAM bosses’ scheme, stating, “The Court should grant review to make clear that the First Amendment and federal law protect employees regulated under the Railway Labor Act from opt-out regimes—regimes which ‘create[ ] a risk that the fees paid by nonmembers will be used to further political and ideological ends with which they do not agree.’”
Baisley is not a member of the IAM but is still forced to pay some union fees despite being based in the Right to Work state of Texas. The RLA preempts state Right to Work protections which make union membership and all union financial support strictly voluntary. However, under longstanding law, even without Right to Work protections nonmembers cannot, as a condition of keeping their jobs, be required to pay fees for anything beyond the union’s expenses directly related to monopoly bargaining.
Baisley’s petition detailed the convoluted union boss-created process that workers must navigate just to prevent money from being taken from their paychecks in violation of their First Amendment rights. In Baisley’s situation, even though he sent a letter to IAM agents in November 2018 objecting to funding all union political activities, union officials only accepted his objection for 2019, and told Baisley he had to renew his objection to full dues and fees the next year or else be charged full union dues.
Baisley’s lawsuit seeks to strike down the opt-out requirement not only as it is applied to him, but also for his coworkers whose rights are similarly restricted by the IAM’s opt-out policy. Union officials would then be required to get nonmember workers to give affirmative consent to paying for union boss activities beyond the bargaining-related expenses they can legally be required to subsidize under the RLA.
The final brief in Baisley’s case comes as other Foundation-backed lawsuits for employees defending their First Amendment Janus rights seek writs of certiorari from the Supreme Court. This includes cases brought for Chicago and New Jersey public educators which challenge “window periods” that severely limit when they and their fellow educators can exercise their First Amendment right to stop dues deductions for union bosses, sometimes to periods as short as ten days per year. In a California federal court, Foundation staff attorneys are also aiding a University of California Irvine lab assistant in fighting an anti-Janus state law that gives union bosses full control over whether employers can stop sending an employee’s money to the union after that employee exercises his or her Janus rights.
Baisley’s case is expected to be conferenced by the Justices on September 27, after which the Court will announce whether it will be heard.
“Baisley is simply seeking to stop the presumption that he wants his hard-earned money to go to union political ventures that he does not want to prop up. IAM officials’ ‘opt-out’ scheme is quite clearly meant to frustrate employees’ attempts to exercise that basic right and to keep pumping their money into those political activities,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Judging by other pending Foundation litigation, it seems that union officials across the country are not willing to respect this right for either public or private sector workers.”
“Employee support of union political expenditures should come only voluntarily, not through underhanded, complex arrangements designed to trick nonmember workers into funding political activities they oppose,” Mix added.
Rerun Election Approved in Fox Employee Vote to Oust CWA Union after Labor Board Agent Botches Mail Ballot Count
Labor board agent revealed how individual workers voted in latest example of why in-person, secret-ballot voting better protects workers from retaliation and pressure tactics
Las Vegas, NV (August 10, 2021) – Technicians at a Fox Television Stations, Inc. facility in Las Vegas will get another chance to vote on whether they will remove National Association of Broadcast Employees & Technicians (NABET-CWA) union officials from their workplace.
The rerun election follows a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agent’s gross mishandling of the first mail-in ballot count. The employee who submitted a worker-backed petition for a vote to remove the union, Victor Morales, received free legal representation from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys in challenging the tainted vote count.
Under NLRB policies, workers have the right to vote unwanted union officials out of their workplace, but first must submit a petition demonstrating that at least 30 percent of the workplace desires such a vote. If enough workers are interested, the NLRB will conduct a “decertification election” after which union officials will lose their status as monopoly bargaining agent in the workplace.
Voting in person by secret ballot has been the default way the NLRB conducts all elections, including decertification votes, and has long been recognized as the most secure election method. However, the vote in Morales’ workplace occurred via mail, a method in which balloting is completely unsupervised by the NLRB and each ballot must be returned in an envelope bearing the employee’s name and address.
According to a brief filed by Morales with free Foundation legal aid, an agent of NLRB Region 28 in Phoenix exposed the choices of every voter in Morales’ workplace, an occurrence that would not be possible in a secret-ballot in-person vote. Morales’ brief noted that, as he and other parties observed the vote count via Zoom, the agent read the choice on each ballot immediately after removing it from both its blue interior security envelope and its exterior yellow mailing envelope containing each voter’s name. In doing so, the agent “destroyed ballot secrecy and revealed how every employee voted.” Morales’ brief demanded a rerun election.
NLRB Region 19 in Seattle, which investigated the miscount by NLRB Region 28, agreed that the integrity of the vote had been wholly compromised. Its report noted that the “Board has a longstanding policy of voiding ballots which reveal the identity of the voter.” The report recommended a rerun vote because there is “sufficient evidence to establish that the Board agent did not safeguard the secrecy of the votes cast which raises a reasonable doubt as to the fairness and validity of the election.”
The go-ahead for a new election in Morales’ workplace comes as Foundation staff attorneys are aiding a Los Angeles transportation worker, Nelson Medina, in preventing the NLRB from tossing out his objections to a mail ballot election in his workplace pushed by Teamsters Local 848 union officials. Medina asserts that several of his fellow employees’ ballots weren’t counted due purely to errors by NLRB agents or the US Post Office, and that union lawyers had access to tracking numbers for ballots that were originally considered late, indicating unlawful mail ballot harvesting by union officials.
These two cases are just the latest examples of the inferiority of mail and electronic ballots, both of which are preferred by union organizers who can game the system to the detriment of workers who wish to keep their vote private.
Because balloting in such union-preferred election methods is conducted outside the supervision of the NLRB, union agents can and do employ pressure tactics while the vote is ongoing. Unions often send multiple organizers to make unsolicited visits to workers at their homes shortly after they receive their ballots. The organizers at times actually handle ballots and/or watch how individual workers cast their vote.
These coercive tactics are already employed in “card check” union organizing campaigns, a method which allows union officials to bypass a secret-ballot election entirely and install themselves in a workplace merely by sending agents to collect union authorization cards from workers, also while unmonitored by the NLRB.
The latest NLRB missteps in non-in-person unionization votes have occurred as top Organized Labor officials and their allies in Congress push for the NLRB to promote electronic ballot elections, which would allow union officials to deploy “card check” pressure tactics in the same way as they do with mail ballot votes.
In a recent appropriations bill (H.R. 4502), the House of Representatives recently included a rider requiring the NLRB to create an electronic voting system.
The so-called “PRO-Act,” a bill designed to increase union boss power over workers opposed to union representation, also contains a provision requiring the NLRB to implement an electronic voting system for representation elections, with voting taking place by either internet or telephone.
“Mr. Morales and his coworkers deserve a secure, in-person, election so they can freely choose who will speak for them in the workplace. Foundation staff attorneys will keep fighting for them until they get it,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union officials favor any voting method that takes away the private, secret-ballot process that allows workers to vote yes or no in unionization elections. Under these voting schemes, union organizers can confront and pressure workers until enough have been intimidated into supporting unionization.”
Union officials must stop retaliation against workers, and must pay back withheld healthcare premium money
Detroit, MI (August 6, 2021) – With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Michigan Rieth-Riley Construction Company employees Rob Nevins and Jesse London have won settlements against International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 union bosses. The settlements stem from charges of retaliation the workers filed during the strike IUOE union bosses ordered in mid-2019, which continues today.
The settlements require union bosses to refrain from intimidation tactics IUOE forced on London and Nevins because they decided to end their union memberships and keep working to support their families despite the union boss-issued strike order. Nevins charged union officials with threatening to “blackball” him if he didn’t strike, and London reported that IUOE officials refused to hand over hundreds in health insurance premium money they owed him for time he participated in the strike before exercising his right to leave the union.
Both men also had asserted in other Foundation-backed litigation that IUOE officials created arbitrary hurdles to stop them from exercising their workplace rights. Earlier charges filed by Foundation staff attorneys on behalf of London, Nevins, and other workers pointed out that union officials had failed to honor resignations that completely complied with union demands, and had illegally required all resignation letters be submitted by registered or certified mail.
The current settlements now mandate that IUOE union bosses not discriminate against London and Nevins for exercising their right to refrain from union membership, and also orders them to pay to London the health insurance premium money he is owed.
The settlements come amid a continued push by Rieth-Riley workers for a vote to remove the IUOE union from its monopoly bargaining power at their workplace. Rieth-Riley employee Rayalan Kent submitted the latest employee-backed petition for an NLRB-supervised decertification election in August 2020, which was immediately targeted by union bosses with “blocking charges,” unproven and often unrelated accusations made of an employer that are meant to derail a decertification effort.
Though the regional NLRB office in Detroit ruled in November 2020 that Kent’s petition was invalid and ballots that he and his coworkers had already submitted in the vote should be destroyed, the NLRB in Washington, DC, announced in February 2021 that it would take up Kent’s appeal of that decision.
“It’s easy to see why Rieth-Riley workers might resent IUOE Local 324 union officials and want them out of the workplace – they have established an awful track record of violating the rights of any employees who resist their will in any way instead of working to obtain their voluntary support,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While we’re pleased that Mr. London and Mr. Nevins won these settlements, we urge the NLRB to protect the right of all Rieth-Riley workers to vote to remove a union hierarchy they oppose.”