Los Angeles XPO Logistics Employees Free of Unwanted Teamsters Union After Requesting Vote for Removal
Workers were previously barred for one year from exercising right to vote out union due to union boss-friendly restrictions created by National Labor Relations Board
Los Angeles, CA (October 20, 2021) – Ozvaldo Gutierrez and his coworkers at XPO Logistics’ Fashion District-area facility in Los Angeles have successfully forced Teamsters Local 63 union officials out of their workplace. Following Gutierrez’s submission of a petition bearing enough employee signatures to prompt the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to administer a vote to remove the union at the facility (or “decertification vote”), Teamsters officials backed down rather than face a vote of employees and disclaimed interest in continuing their control over the workers.
Gutierrez and his coworkers received free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys in their effort to remove the unwanted union. Teamsters Local 63 bosses’ departure from XPO comes amid a spurt of Foundation-backed employee legal actions opposing coercive behavior by Teamsters officials across Southern California.
Long Beach-area Savage Services employee Nelson Medina filed federal charges just weeks ago against Teamsters Local 848, maintaining that union bosses threatened to have him fired for refusing to join the union and pay various fees demanded by union officials. Medina is also leading an employee effort opposing Local 848’s presence in his facility, asserting union officials engaged in illegal ballot harvesting to gain power in the workplace.
In Ventura last month, Teamsters Local 848 bosses were also forced to depart Airgas worker Angel Herrera’s workplace after he and his coworkers filed a petition for an NLRB-administered vote to remove the union from the workplace. Herrera’s colleagues had been involved in litigation against Local 848 officials since 2020, and filed at least two different majority-backed employee petitions seeking the end of Local 848’s monopoly bargaining power.
Gutierrez and his coworkers on August 20, 2021 filed with the NLRB their petition seeking an election to decertify Teamsters Local 63. While the petition demonstrated sufficient employee support to trigger such a vote, Teamsters officials claimed in an opposition that a March 2020 settlement meant to kick off bargaining talks between them and XPO Logistics management should have prevented any such election.
Teamsters officials were trying to manipulate the “settlement bar,” a non-statutory NLRB precedent that restrains workers’ right to vote out unpopular union officials for up to a year while an employer and union officials attempt to bargain as ordered by a settlement. Foundation attorneys representing Gutierrez argued that a year had already passed between the first bargaining session between management and union bosses and Gutierrez’s filing of the petition, and that the union was wrong in claiming that delays in bargaining talks should have extended the “settlement bar” past the one-year mark.
The Regional Director of NLRB Region 21 in Los Angeles issued a decision on October 6 ordering that Gutierrez’s requested vote go forward, declaring that “a reasonable period has elapsed and that the settlement does not bar the processing of the instant petition.” The vote was slated for October 21, but on October 18 Teamsters Local 63 officials tapped out and announced they were abandoning the facility. The NLRB revoked the union’s certification the next day.
“We are happy that Mr. Gutierrez and his coworkers are finally free from unwanted Teamsters ‘representation’ and that we were able to help him and his coworkers defend their rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, workers should not have to obtain legal aid and endure months or even years of litigation just to exercise their right to dispense with unpopular union bosses. The flurry of similar cases involving Teamsters officials around Southern California is a growing cause for concern.”
“Any employees in California or elsewhere seeking to oust unwanted Teamsters officials from their workplaces should not hesitate to contact the Foundation for free legal aid,” Mix added.
Lawsuits Challenging Union Dues Schemes for Illinois, New Jersey Teachers Fully Briefed at Supreme Court & Distributed for Conference
Two lawsuits ask Court to eliminate ‘escape period’ schemes that restrict when workers can cut off union dues as violative of Court’s Janus precedent
Washington, DC (October 14, 2021) – Two class action lawsuits challenging “escape period” schemes imposed by union officials on public sector employees are fully briefed at the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuits were brought by public school educators in Illinois and New Jersey with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Yesterday Foundation attorneys filed their final briefs, and both cases were scheduled for consideration at the Court’s October 29th conference.
Chicago Public Schools educators Joanne Troesch and Ifeoma Nkemdi sued the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Board of Education over a union boss-created “escape period” scheme that blocks workers from exercising their right to terminate union dues deductions from their paychecks outside the month of August. New Jersey teachers Susan Fischer and Jeanette Speck sued the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) union for restricting when teachers can stop dues deductions and challenged a New Jersey statute that restricts the exercise of employees’ Janus rights to just 10 days, less than 3% of the year.
The Supreme Court ruled in its 2018 Janus decision that employees of state and local governments cannot be forced to pay union dues or fees, and that government workers must affirmatively consent before union dues are taken from their paychecks.
In Nkemdi and Troesch’s lawsuit, the Chicago educators explain they “did not know they had a constitutional right not to financially support” the union hierarchy until the fall of 2019, when they discovered their Janus rights while looking for information on how to continue working during a strike that CTU bosses ordered that October. They sent letters the same month to CTU officials to exercise their Janus right to resign union membership and cut off all dues deductions.
Both educators received no response until November of that year, when CTU officials confirmed receipt of the letters but said that they would continue to seize dues from the teachers’ paychecks “until September 1, 2020,” as allowed by the union’s “escape period” scheme. Troesch and Nkemdi demanded in their lawsuit that CTU union officials and the Board of Education stop enforcing the “escape period,” notify all bargaining unit employees that they can end dues deductions any time, and permit bargaining unit employees to claim back dues that were seized without their consent. Troesch and Nkemdi’s petition for Supreme Court review received amicus support from 16 state Attorneys General and seven public policy groups.
Fischer and Speck, who both worked in Ocean Township, NJ, attempted to exercise their Janus rights in July 2018, just a month after the High Court handed down the Janus decision. But Township officials told the teachers they could only stop payments and withdraw their memberships during an annual 10-day window. Unbeknownst to them, union partisans in the New Jersey legislature had actually established that “escape period” by law in May 2018 in an apparent attempt to undermine the pending Janus decision.
Fischer and Speck’s suit argued that because the Janus ruling affirmed public employees’ First Amendment right not to financially support union activities, the New Jersey law is unconstitutional and must be nixed. In addition to eliminating the “escape period” scheme, they seek a refund of membership dues for themselves and all other public employees who were blocked by NJEA officials from stopping dues deductions following Janus.
“Union-created ‘escape periods’ are a deliberate attack on the First Amendment right of public employees to stop funding government union bosses’ speech which was recognized in the Supreme Court’s Janus decision,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “Escape periods are one of the many ways union bosses try to keep workers paying dues without the trouble of attracting their voluntary support. The Supreme Court should take up this issue and end these widespread schemes to circumvent the Court’s Janus decision.”
Attorney for Oregon Cameraman Who Beat CWA Union Bosses in Dues Dispute Says Labor Board General Counsel Must Recuse
With union lawyers asking for reconsideration of NLRB decision, worker’s attorney points out conflict of interest created by GC Abruzzo’s work as CWA counsel
Washington, DC (October 13, 2021) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney representing Portland, OR, cameraman Jeremy Brown just submitted a letter to National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel (GC) Jennifer Abruzzo, demanding that she be recused from any involvement in his case. Brown’s case, which the NLRB decided in August, successfully challenged several illegal actions by National Association of Broadcast and Entertainment Technicians-Communications Workers of America (NABET-CWA) union operatives, including its attorney.
The letter points out that Abruzzo, immediately prior to her appointment by President Biden as NLRB GC, “served as CWA’s ‘special counsel for strategic initiatives’” and “acted as that union’s ‘point person on National Labor Relations Board issues at’” the CWA’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Because Brown’s case concerns CWA’s international policy forcing workers like Brown who abstain from formal union membership to write the national union if they want to exercise their right to not pay for the union’s political activities, Abruzzo’s involvement in the case would constitute a serious conflict of interest, the letter argues.
Under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision, nonmember private sector workers who live in states like Oregon lacking Right to Work protections cannot be forced as a condition of employment to pay fees to a union in their workplace, except those that union officials claim subsidize core bargaining expenses. In states with Right to Work protections, all union financial support is strictly voluntary.
Brown’s requests to reduce his dues per Beck were ignored by the CWA union local, due to the CWA’s international policy of only honoring such requests if sent to the union’s DC headquarters. Brown in August won a decision from the NLRB fully vindicating his rights, with the Board ruling that CWA union officials had to stop failing to honor Brown’s Beck requests and return all money to Brown that they had already seized from his wages in violation of the Beck mandate. The NLRB also held that intimidating “evidence preservation” letters CWA’s attorney sent Brown during the litigation fell “outside the bounds of legitimate efforts to ensure evidence preservation,” by among other things demanding unrelated GPS and pedometer data.
“Although the Board has issued a clear and well-thought-out decision in this case…the Respondent Union has filed a Motion for Reconsideration,” the letter to Abruzzo reads. “However, the Board’s decision and the Motion for Reconsideration both involve the policies of your former and most recent employer, CWA International.”
“Because CWA International’s nationwide Beck objector policy is bound up with this case and the proper remedies to be issued, you should recuse yourself from any further involvement in this case,” the letter demands. The letter details another reason for Abruzzo to recuse herself: “The CWA International exercises nearly total control over its Districts and Locals…. Accordingly, your position of authority in the CWA International must be imputed to authority over local and district affiliates, justifying your recusal from CWA matters at all levels including this case.”
The letter to Abruzzo is not the only action by the Foundation to curb NLRB conflicts of interest created by recent Biden NLRB appointees’ having come from union payrolls. Just last week, Foundation President Mark Mix demanded that the NLRB Inspector General remove NLRB Members Dave Prouty and Gwynne Wilcox – who before joining the Board were lawyers for powerful Service Employees International Union affiliates – from involvement in an NLRB case in which SEIU is suing the Board and its Members individually.
“Jennifer Abruzzo, who Foundation FOIA requests show engineered President Biden’s precedent-shattering ouster of her pro-worker freedom predecessor Peter Robb, already has an ugly track record of seeking to undermine the rights of independent-minded workers opposed to union affiliation,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Given her role in setting and influencing CWA policies that are implemented at every level of that union, Abruzzo has a clear conflict of interest that disqualifies her from any participation in Mr. Brown’s case or any other cases brought by workers against CWA affiliates.”
Boston Bertolino Foods Employees Free from Unwanted UFCW Union After Submitting Majority-Backed Petition
Over 75 percent of workers asked Bertolino management to withdraw recognition of union officials as monopoly bargaining ‘representative’
Boston, MA (October 12, 2021) – Bertolino Foods employee Jenifer Sedano and her coworkers have successfully booted unwanted United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1445 union officials from monopoly bargaining power at their workplace. With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Sedano and her coworkers submitted to Bertolino management a petition demonstrating nearly 80 percent support for removing the union. Bertolino’s attorney announced last week that based on the workers’ petition it was withdrawing recognition from UFCW Local 1445.
Sedano and her coworkers thus successfully exercised rights protected under National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) precedent, which permits employers to withdraw recognition from unions that a majority of their employees have expressed a desire to remove.
UFCW bosses attained monopoly bargaining status at the Bertolino Foods facility in September 2020. After contract talks between Bertolino management and union officials had dragged on for almost a year, Sedano and her coworkers sought out help from Foundation staff attorneys in exercising their right to remove UFCW officials. Sedano ended up gathering signatures in favor of removal from 31 of 42 bargaining unit members, and submitted this petition to Bertolino management toward the end of August.
The letter from Bertolino’s attorney to Local 1445 dated September 30 reads, “Since the Union no longer represents a majority of the bargaining unit employees, it would be unlawful for the Company to continue to recognize and/or bargain with the Union. Accordingly, effective immediately on September 30, 2021, the Company withdraws recognition of UFCW, Local 1445 as the collective bargaining representative for its employees.”
Sedano and her coworkers join several other Foundation-assisted employees who have dispatched unwanted union representation across the country. Workers at Airgas in Ventura, CA, Rush University in Chicago, IL, and Desert Springs Hospital Center in Las Vegas, NV, have all successfully voted out or forced out by other legal means unpopular union officials just in the past few months.
“Ms. Sedano and an overwhelming majority of her coworkers clearly expressed that they no longer wanted to be under the power of UFCW officials, and their decision must be respected,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation attorneys are prepared to fight to protect Sedano and her coworkers’ right to free themselves from the unwanted union, even if union bosses and the NLRB attempt to re-impose union control despite the workers’ overwhelming opposition to the union’s so-called ‘representation.’”
BUSTED: AFSCME Union Bosses Caught Illegally Seizing Money for Union PAC from Nonmember Maryland School Custodian
AFSCME officials ignored worker’s two requests to stop sending her money to PAC but finally backed down & issued refunds after attorneys’ cease-and-desist letter
Harford County, MD (October 7, 2021) – A Harford County school custodian has forced AFSCME union bosses at her workplace to stop seizing money illegally from her paycheck, including cash taken for the “AFSCME PEOPLE” fund, a Political Action Committee (PAC) that under federal law can only be legally funded through voluntary contributions. The victory comes after she obtained free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, who sent a cease-and-desist letter for her to the AFSCME PAC.
Linda Puto’s efforts have also made AFSCME officials cease all union dues deductions from her wages, as the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision requires. In Janus, the Court held that forcing public sector workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of keeping their jobs violates their First Amendment rights. The Court also ruled that no union monies can be taken from a public employee’s paycheck without a knowing and affirmative waiver of that worker’s First Amendment right not to pay.
Prior to Janus, in states like Maryland that lack Right to Work laws, union bosses could legally extract a portion of union dues even from public workers who choose to refrain from union membership. However, the High Court ruled in Janus that state arrangements permitting union officials to do so force public employees to subsidize the union’s political speech and thus violate the First Amendment.
Federal election law enforced by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) also forbids forced contributions to political committees that support or oppose candidates for federal office. Those who run PACs like AFSCME PEOPLE cannot coerce payments into the fund.
Prior to the cease-and-desist letter, Puto sent two letters to the local AFSCME affiliate to exercise her rights to resign union membership and end all union deductions from her paycheck, one in November 2020 and a second in March 2021. AFSCME union officials ignored both letters and kept illegally seizing both dues money and contributions for the AFSCME PAC.
Finally, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys mailed a cease-and-desist letter to the AFSCME PEOPLE treasurer in Washington, DC, for Puto in June. It noted that the letter responded to “AFSCME’s and AFSCME PEOPLE’s refusal to honor her First Amendment, federal law, and contractual rights to revoke her PEOPLE contribution deduction at any time.”
The letter demanded, “[t]o avoid litigation over this issue,” that AFSCME officials cease deducting money from Puto’s paycheck for the PEOPLE fund. Additionally, the letter demanded that any money seized for that fund after her original November 2020 letter be immediately paid back to her.
AFSCME and AFSCME PEOPLE officials have now backed down and stopped taking both dues and PAC contributions from Puto, and have also refunded all amounts of both that have been taken from her paycheck since her November demand.
“AFSCME officials brazenly violated Ms. Puto’s legal rights for months on end, ignoring not only her First Amendment rights under Janus, but longstanding law that all PAC contributions – which are used to fund political candidates’ campaigns – be completely voluntary,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Although we are happy that she has secured the return of her money, workers should not have to obtain legal representation just to stop funding Big Labor political activities and contributions to union-label candidates.”
Case Closed: Nurse Prevails in 11 Year Legal Fight, 100 Rhode Island Hospital Employees Win Refund of Illegally-Seized Union Dues
Legal precedent affirmed by First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals protects workers in forced dues states from being required to fund union boss lobbying efforts
Warwick, RI (October 5, 2021) – Nurse Jeanette Geary finally achieved a total victory in her 11-year legal battle against union bosses that established important National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and federal court precedents. She and 99 other current and former nurses at Kent Hospital in Rhode Island received refunds of forced union dues that were illegally used to support union political lobbying in state legislatures. Geary received free legal representation throughout her fight from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Geary lost faith in the United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) union bosses in her workplace after a series of broken promises. “Over time,” Geary said, “I realized what the union was doing. The union leadership had no interest in nurses or our professional work. Their only interest was collection of dues and fees.”
Geary resigned her union membership, but still had union dues extracted from her paycheck because Rhode Island is a forced unionism state that lacks Right to Work protections. However, thanks to the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision, nonmember workers can only be forced to pay fees for union activities directly “germane” to union monopoly bargaining. They cannot be forced to pay the portion of regular dues that funds activities like union political lobbying.
Geary demanded a breakdown of the union’s expenditures, but union bosses refused to provide her with a legally-required independent audit verifying how it calculated nonmembers’ reduced forced fees. Like many who speak up against union bosses, Geary became a target for union harassment. “They laughed at me. They had their workplace reps ridicule me on the job and tell me I could file grievances that would be thrown away and said so with a big smile,” Geary said.
In 2009, Geary filed federal charges against union officials. The trial revealed UNAP officials were charging nonmember nurses for lobbying in state legislatures. Despite the Supreme Court’s clear mandate in Beck that nonmembers’ money could not be used to fund political causes, union lawyers argued the lobbying was “germane” to the union’s monopoly bargaining.
In 2012, the NLRB, stacked with President Obama’s appointees, sided with union officials under a rationale that would have made almost any union lobbying chargeable to nonmembers if it could somehow be explained as related to union bargaining. That decision was later vacated because Obama’s recess appointments to the Board were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, so the NLRB lacked a valid quorum.
After the Supreme Court’s decision in NLRB v. Noel Canning rendered invalid the Obama Board’s decision in Geary’s case, the case lingered at the NLRB for years. After seven more years of delay, Foundation attorneys filed a mandamus petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit demanding an NLRB decision, prompting the Board to finally issue a valid decision in Geary’s case.
In March of 2019, President Trump’s NLRB ruled 3-1 that union officials cannot charge nonmembers for lobbying of any kind. It also ruled that union officials must provide independent verification that the union expenses they charge to nonmembers have been audited.
However, union officials refused to abandon their argument that nonmembers could be forced to pay for union lobbying as a condition of employment. Union lawyers appealed the NLRB’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Foundation attorneys successfully defended Geary’s case before a three-judge panel that included retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter. The panel ruled unanimously in Geary’s favor, saying “we see no convincing argument that legislative lobbying is not a ‘political’ activity,” affirming that under the Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent of Communications Workers v. Beck, nonmember workers could never be charged for such union activities.
Union officials made a last ditch attempt to overturn the decision, requesting an en banc hearing by the entire Court of Appeals, but that request was denied. Last week, union bosses finally paid back, with interest, nearly $8,000 taken from Geary and 99 other current and former Kent Hospital nurses who were not union members but were charged for the union’s lobbying, bringing the decade-long case to a close.
“Jeanette Geary shows the difference one brave employee can make standing up to Big Labor coercion. The National Right to Work Foundation is proud to have assisted her through her 11 year fight to defend her legal rights and those of her colleagues,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “After years of enduring workplace harassment and neglect from union partisans, Ms. Geary moved to North Carolina, a Right to Work state that doesn’t force her to give any portion of her paycheck to union bosses. Thanks to her bravery, workers in the 23 non-Right to Work states have additional legal protections against being forced to fund union boss political activities.”
Worker Advocate to Labor Board IG: Clear Conflict of Interest for Former SEIU Lawyers on Board Must Be Addressed
Biden Appointees Prouty and Wilcox both served as top SEIU lawyers and opposed legal standards they are now charged with defending and applying
Washington, DC (October 5, 2021) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation today submitted a letter to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Inspector General (IG) and chief ethics officer, urging them to remove NLRB members David Prouty and Gwynne Wilcox from involvement in a federal case. In the case, the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) is suing the Board, including Prouty and Wilcox, seeking to overrule NLRB precedent regarding the “joint employer” standard.
The NLRB is a five-member federal board that enforces federal private-sector labor law and adjudicates disputes among workers, unions, and employers. The NLRB is currently being sued by the SEIU in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over a rule which clarified that a company that does not exercise direct control over employee wages and working conditions cannot be charged with unfair labor practices committed by its related entities, such as franchisees.
The letter from Foundation President Mark Mix points out that the issue of Prouty and Wilcox’s recusal in this case is of interest to the Foundation because “Foundation Staff Attorneys frequently provide free legal representation to employees involved in litigation before the National Labor Relations Board against SEIU or its affiliates,” and that the same considerations “should mandate the recusal of Member Wilcox and Member Prouty in those cases as well.”
Each year Foundation staff attorneys handle more than 100 cases brought for workers at the NLRB challenging union attempts to violate workers’ rights. SEIU affiliates are among the most often cited in those cases for violating federal law. Just since 2018 Foundation attorneys have assisted workers in 67 cases against SEIU affiliates, over half of which have taken place at the NLRB. For example, a formal complaint was just issued for Foundation-represented employee Roger White against SEIU Healthcare 1199NW at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle (Case 19-CB-258889).
The letter also asks that the NLRB IG “apply the same level of vigor in examining their conflicts as he did in matters involving former Board Member William J. Emanuel.” Although the NLRB finalized its “joint employer” standard through the rulemaking process, an earlier 2017 case decision that would have adopted the same standard was vacated because the IG ruled that Member Emanuel should have recused himself. Emanuel had worked for a law firm that the IG perceived as hostile toward the old Obama-era “joint employer” standard, which the NLRB nixed in rulemaking.
Given Wilcox and Prouty’s “recent roles as lawyers advising large locals affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (‘SEIU’),” the Foundation’s letter states, “both Member Prouty and Member Wilcox have significant conflicts of interest with respect to the Litigation and with regard to the Joint-Employer rule that SEIU challenges in the Litigation.”
The letter details Member Prouty’s history as General Counsel of SEIU Local 32BJ, a powerful SEIU affiliate. It further points out that Member Prouty “played a key role in opposing the Board’s final rule on joint employment,” personally signing comments against the rule, which is further evidence of the specific conflict of interest in the pending case. The letter points out that the fact that Prouty was General Counsel for an SEIU local and not the international union does not absolve him of a conflict of interest, as the “SEIU International and its local and affiliated unions are inextricably intertwined.”
Member Wilcox’s conflicts go even deeper, according to the Foundation’s letter. It notes that Member Wilcox was at the forefront of a union campaign that openly opposed the NLRB’s “joint employer rule,” a campaign that is “specifically named as interested in, and a core part of, the Litigation.” Additionally, the letter says, Member Wilcox “played a key role in opposing the Board’s final rule in joint employment” when she worked for SEIU-affiliated law firm Levy Ratner, which filed “lengthy comments opposing that rule” while she was a partner there.
The Biden Administration has gone above and beyond in its efforts to entrench union boss influence at the NLRB. Just minutes after being inaugurated, President Biden took the unprecedented step of firing former NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, who still had 11 months left on his Senate-confirmed term and had aggressively supported cases in which workers sought to free themselves from coercive union boss-created schemes. Robb’s replacement, Biden-appointed Jennifer Abruzzo, is a former Communications Workers of America (CWA) union lawyer who Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) records requests from the Foundation revealed was half of a two-person Biden NLRB transition team that engineered Robb’s first-of-its-kind ouster.
“The Biden Administration has already displayed some of the most biased and politically-motivated behavior within the NLRB since the agency’s inception, all in an attempt to unfairly rig the system to favor Biden’s union boss political allies over protecting workers’ individual rights,” commented Mix. “If Prouty and Wilcox’s obvious conflicts of interest are unaddressed in this case, the message from the Board will be loud and clear that ethics policies and recusal rules no longer apply now that pro-union boss Biden appointees are in power.”
Worker Advocate: Biden Dues Skim Rule Proposal Violates Federal Law by Funneling Medicaid Funds to Union Officials
Comments: Federal law specifically prohibits diverting financial assistance for homecare providers to third parties such as unions
Washington, DC (September 28, 2021) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting America’s working men and women from the abuses of compulsory unionism, filed comments today urging the Centers for Medicaid Services (CMS) not to rescind a 2018 Trump Administration rule that made clear that federal law prohibits union officials from skimming union dues payments from Medicaid funds intended for those who provide home-based assistance to disabled people.
Foundation attorneys argue in the comments that the Medicaid statute’s blanket prohibition on assigning payments to third parties has no exemption for assignments to unions and their PACs, and that the Trump-era rule simply ensured that Medicaid regulations conformed to longstanding law. Prior to the rule, union officials had siphoned upwards of $1 billion from Medicaid payments, an effort which had been aided by the Obama Administration’s 2014 creation of a special exemption for union officials from Medicaid regulations.
Union officials, especially at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have long used deceptive and even unconstitutional tactics to divert taxpayer-funded Medicaid payments into union coffers. Before the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Foundation-won 2014 Harris v. Quinn decision, which found that mandatory union payments violate the First Amendment rights of homecare workers who do not wish to support union activities, homecare providers in over a dozen states were required to fund union activities. States automatically deducted fees from Medicaid payments even though such union dues diversions violated federal law regarding Medicaid funds.
Even after the Harris decision was issued, union officials continued seizing money from hundreds of thousands of providers across the country under cover of the Obama-era rule creating an exception to the prohibition against skimming Medicaid funds. Many providers attempted to stop the union dues seizures, while others were unaware they could not be required to make the payments. Some, while attempting to stop the payments, even found that union agents had forged their signatures to authorize the deductions.
“[Home and Community Based Service] Medicaid payments are supposed to pay for care for the severely disabled. Diverting these payments to third-party special interests to subsidize their political agendas, lobbying, and recruitment campaigns is as unconscionable as it is unlawful under Subsection (a)(32)’s unambiguous direct payment requirement,” the comments state. “CMS’s opposite intent in its 2021 [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] to condone this corrupt practice by inventing a new regulatory exception to the statute is inconsistent with Subsection (a)(32) and is arbitrary and capricious.”
Under the Trump-era rule, union officials may collect payments from caregivers who voluntarily support union activities, but cannot use taxpayer-funded government payment systems to deduct the dues from Medicaid payouts. Voluntary union supporters could still make payments just as millions of Americans make regular payments to private businesses or other organizations.
“The Biden Administration’s plan to reauthorize the Medicaid union dues skim is a bald attempt to allow their political allies to divert funds that federal law makes clear should be going to help those who are homebound or have significant disabilities,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Homecare providers’ own free choice should determine whether union bosses receive their support, not politically-motivated, federally-imposed special exemptions.”
Joint Supreme Court Petition Filed for California, Oregon Government Workers Seeking Refunds of Illegally-Seized Union Dues
Four lawsuits seek refunds of millions in dues seized from public sector workers without their consent
Washington, DC (September 27, 2021) – A petition for certiorari was filed at the United States Supreme Court late last week for workers in four separate lawsuits brought against unions whose officials refuse to return forced union fees seized from the government workers’ paychecks in violation of the First Amendment.
The cases were all filed with free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, with two filed in partnership with attorneys at the Freedom Foundation.
The lawsuits together could enable thousands of public sector employees to obtain refunds of millions of dollars in union dues seized before the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision. In Janus, the High Court ruled it a First Amendment violation to collect union dues or fees from public sector workers’ paychecks without their affirmative consent.
The Janus ruling made it clear that public employees must affirmatively consent to union payments. The Court stated in its opinion that union officials had been “on notice” since the National Right to Work Foundation-won Knox v. SEIU case in 2012 that forced union dues in the public sector likely violated the First Amendment.
The petition was filed for public sector workers in California and Oregon. It combines suits filed by William Hough, a worker at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, William D. Brice, a professor at California State University Dominguez Hills, and two suits filed by groups of Oregon state employees. The petitions argue that longstanding precedent allows victims of First Amendment violations to sue for damages or restitution. They argue public sector workers across the country who were forced to pay union dues in violation of the First Amendment deserve to be refunded.
Appellate courts ruled against the workers in each of the four lawsuits. The workers’ attorneys argue in the Supreme Court petition that the lower courts improperly imposed their own views by creating an exception for union bosses in the name of “equality and fairness” that absolved them of their obligation to repay the victims of their First Amendment violations. The petition asks the Court to reject that reasoning:
Lower courts should not be permitted to manipulate constitutional claims to predetermine the outcome of cases based on what they think is good policy or fair to the violators of constitutional rights. The Court should thus reject the proposition that courts can engage in judicial gerrymandering by granting a good faith defense based on “equality and fairness” to the violators of the First Amendment that leave the victims with no remedy.
Another class action National Right to Work Foundation lawsuit filed for government workers in Illinois who seek refunds of union dues seized in violation of Janus is fully briefed and is scheduled for consideration at the Justices’ conference next week.
“For decades, union bosses dipped into the paychecks of many workers who were not union members and used their money to finance activities those workers fiercely opposed,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “They continued seizing dues despite workers’ pleas and warnings from the Supreme Court that their actions were likely unconstitutional. Because of the statute of limitations, a ruling in these workers’ favor would only force union bosses to return a small portion of the billions of dollars nationwide they unlawfully stole from public employees’ paychecks.”
“The Supreme Court must not allow the lower courts to shield union bosses from accountability for years of violations. The Court should promptly take up these cases, and provide relief to the millions of public sector workers whose rights union bosses callously violated for years,” Mix added.
“The Supreme Court did not create a government employee’s First Amendment right not to be forced to fund a union as a condition of employment,” said Eric Stahlfeld, Freedom Foundation’s Chief Litigation Counsel. “Rather, the Court affirmed in Janus v. AFSCME what it had been signaling to unions in three previous cases starting with Knox, that the right had always existed and simply needed to be recognized. The Ninth Circuit claims it has sided with the unions in ‘good faith’, but if ignoring multiple Supreme Court rulings is operating in good faith, we’d hate to see what the Ninth Circuit considers bad faith.”
Long Beach Worker Who Opposed Teamsters’ Power Grab in Workplace Files Charges Battling Illegal Union Demands
NLRB asked to seek injunction in federal court to stop illegal union boss threats that workers will be fired if they refuse to immediately pay full union dues
Los Angeles, CA (September 23, 2021) – Long Beach-area Savage Services employee Nelson Medina is hitting Teamsters Local 848 union bosses with federal charges asserting that union officials have threatened to have him fired for refusing to join the union, pay full dues, and pay other fees demanded by union officials. The charges were filed at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 21 in Los Angeles with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Medina’s charges come amidst a flurry of Foundation-backed legal action by California workers against Teamsters Local 848. Medina himself filed a Request for Review this July at the NLRB in Washington, DC, challenging a dubious mail-vote process Teamsters officials pushed to gain monopoly bargaining power at his workplace. According to Medina’s Request for Review, at least 12 of his coworkers never had their votes counted in the election due to errors by the NLRB Region and postal service, though union lawyers somehow produced tracking numbers for two ballots that were originally considered late and demanded they be included in the count. Medina argued this indicated illegal ballot harvesting by union officials.
Just last week, Local 848 bosses were also forced to depart Airgas worker Angel Herrera’s Ventura, CA, workplace after he and his coworkers filed a petition for an NLRB-administered vote to remove the union from the workplace. Herrera’s colleagues had been involved in litigation against Local 848 officials since 2020, and filed at least two different majority-backed petitions seeking the end of Local 848’s monopoly bargaining power.
Medina’s charges recount that he sent Teamsters officials a letter on August 15 exercising his right to reject formal union membership. His letter also demanded that union officials provide him his rights as a nonmember under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision, which prohibits union officials from requiring nonmembers as a condition of employment to pay anything to the union beyond fees directly related to bargaining expenses.
Because California lacks Right to Work protections, private sector workers who oppose a union’s presence in their workplace can still be required to pay union fees to keep their jobs. Right to Work protections in 27 states ensure union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.
In an attempt to work around California’s lack of Right to Work, Medina and his coworkers have submitted a petition with sufficient signatures to prompt the NLRB to hold a “deauthorization vote,” after which union officials (even in a state without Right to Work) would be stripped of their forced-dues power if a simple majority of workers vote to do so.
About a month after Medina’s August letter, the charge notes, union officials informed Savage Services management by mail that if Medina and 12 fellow employees did not complete membership applications and submit full dues for the month of September, they should be terminated before September’s final week.
Medina’s charge argues that the union’s attempt to force him into full membership, full dues payment, payment of other non-legally-required fees, and the tiny window union officials gave him to comply with their demands despite not directly giving him notice are all glaring violations of his rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The charge also asks the NLRB to seek an immediate stop to union officials’ coercive actions, demanding injunctive relief for Medina and the 12 others under Section 10(j) of the NLRA. The charge cites “the imminent threat of termination” and “the pending deauthorization petition in this bargaining unit” as reasons injunctive relief must be granted.
“Teamsters Local 848 officials seem to be on a rampage throughout Southern California, brazenly violating the rights of any workers who dare to object to their one-size-fits-all bargaining power and forced-dues demands,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Even amidst vehement worker opposition, Teamsters officials have repeatedly shown a preference for compulsion over trying to persuade workers to support them voluntarily.”
“Mr. Medina has been courageous in his continuing struggle to ensure that union coercion and legal finagling don’t determine the fate of his and his coworkers’ freedom in the workplace, and we are proud to support him in his efforts,” Mix added.