29 Nov 2022

NLRB Rejects USW Union Boss Attempt to Impose Contract Workers Voted Down to Block Election to Remove Union

Posted in News Releases

Steelworkers union officials attempted to wield anti-worker “contract bar” to trap workers in union they oppose, using union contract workers twice rejected

Franklin, PA (November 29, 2022) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Kerry Hunsberger and her coworkers at Latrobe Specialty Metals Company have scored a victory in their effort to vote United Steelworkers (USW) union officials out of their facility. Hunsberger and her coworkers are challenging USW officials’ secret “ratification” of a union contract that workers had overwhelmingly voted down twice, and union officials’ contention that the employees should be barred from exercising their right to oust the union because of that contract.

A decision from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Regional Director in Pittsburgh now orders a union “decertification election” to be held among Hunsberger and her colleagues on December 6. In August, Hunsberger submitted to the NLRB a petition backed by the requisite number of her colleagues to trigger such a vote, but USW union bosses dragged their feet and argued that a non-statutory NLRB policy, the so-called “contract bar,” should block the employees’ right to vote because a contract was in place.

The “contract bar” arbitrarily immunizes unions from employee decertification votes for up to three years after a contract between union and company officials is finalized. The Regional Director’s decision rejects USW officials’ “contract bar” claims on the grounds that, in union officials’ haste to block the election, their so-called “contract” was sloppily drafted and lacked fundamental elements like the start and end dates the contract would be in effect. “I find, consistent with Petitioner, that the contract does not include effective and expiration dates and accordingly lacks material terms required for an agreement to act as a contract bar,” says the decision.

The decision, unfortunately, doesn’t explicitly address the most egregious of the USW union officials’ anti-worker tactics. USW officials lied to workers about their ratification votes, and attempted to impose a contract twice rejected by rank-and-file workers – all so employees could be trapped in forced dues-paying ranks for three additional years under the non-statutory, incumbent-protecting “contract bar” policy.

Steelworkers Union Officials Signed Unpopular Contract to Avoid Being Voted Out by Workers

Latrobe Specialty Metals workers first voted July 25 on the contract drawn up by Steelworkers union officials. The workers soundly rejected the contract, and Hunsberger began collecting employee signatures for a “decertification petition” shortly afterwards.

According to documents and transcripts filed with the NLRB, when Steelworkers union officials discovered a decertification petition was circulating, they secretly and unilaterally signed the disfavored contract on July 28, without telling the employees or the employer, in an attempt to trigger the “contract bar” rule and avoid being voted out.

In their haste to enact the employee-rejected contract to trigger the “contract bar,” union officials didn’t finalize critical details of the contract like the start and end dates. Even though the union claims this contract was supposedly in effect on July 28, union officials held a new employee ratification vote on August 1, encouraging workers to ratify the contract, but not telling them their “vote” was a meaningless formality because the officials had already signed the contract and claimed it was in effect.

Hunsberger submitted a valid decertification petition on August 1, just hours before the sham contract vote occurred. As with the previous vote, the workers again lopsidedly rejected the contract. But later that night, union officials suddenly announced to the employer that the contract was already in effect and the ratification vote was not required or necessary because of the union bosses’ covert signing on July 28.

According to the hearing transcript, one union boss admitted under oath that the Steelworkers union executes contracts despite employees voting them down, and that he did so in this case and ignored the employees’ vote against the contract “to protect the integrity of the union.” Apparently the Steelworkers bosses’ lust for monopoly bargaining power and compulsory dues payments takes precedence over employee democracy.

The Steelworkers Union’s post-hearing brief openly admits that union officials “executed the contract on July 28 to … pre-empt the decertification petition circulating at the facility” and that the August 1 “vote was only taken as a courtesy to employees [and] was an attempt to obtain their blessing of the contract that the [union officials] had already executed.”

In the same brief union bosses doubled down on their deceptive practices, stating that “the Union’s representations to employees here are irrelevant… and the union was within its discretion to take a vote of its members and was not obligated to abide by the results of such a vote” (emphasis added).

Foundation President: Decision Encouraging, But Exposes Anti-Worker Bias of Federal Labor Law

“We’re pleased that Ms. Hunsberger and her colleagues will finally have a chance to vote out Steelworkers union officials who have glaring contempt for the wishes of the rank-and-file workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, that this decision ordering the election has to rely on the technicalities of what elements were or were not in the rushed union agreement shows how ingrained pro-forced unionism policies like the ‘contract bar’ are in federal law.”

“It remains outrageous that, had Steelworkers bosses merely added dates to this contract, the NLRB would have likely ruled that it was perfectly allowable for union officials to lie to workers, ignore their votes to reject the contract, and then trap them under union control and forced dues payments for at least three more years,” Mix added. “This highlights the injustice of the NLRB-concocted ‘contract bar’ policy that arbitrarily blocks workers’ statutory right to vote out union officials they oppose, and how it is antithetical to the NLRB’s supposed goal of defending employee free choice.”

28 Nov 2022

California Home Depot Freight Drivers Overwhelmingly Vote to Oust Unwanted Teamsters Union

Posted in News Releases

After over 80% of drivers voted against union, workers are free of union monopoly ‘representation’ and forced union fee demands

San Jose, CA (November 28, 2022) – A group of freight drivers at Home Depot in San Jose, California, have overwhelmingly voted to remove the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 853 union from their workplace. The workers’ decertification petition was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 32 with free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

Home Depot employee Jose Flores filed the decertification petition for his coworkers who wanted to oust the unpopular union. The request seeking to end Teamsters union officials’ monopoly bargaining powers at Home Depot was signed by enough workers in the bargaining unit to trigger an NLRB-conducted secret ballot vote on whether to remove the union. Twenty-one of the 26 workers who voted – more than 80% – were in favor of removing Teamsters union officials.

“Yes, we won the election and it would not have been possible without your help and without the support of my co-workers,” Mr. Flores commented. “I do not know what the correct words would be to express it, but I feel victorious for having won. The victory is not only mine because without the support of my co-workers it would not have been possible.”

California is not a Right to Work state. That means all workers in a unionized workplace can legally be required to join or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of keeping their jobs. Because the workers voted to oust Teamsters union officials, the officials will be stripped of their monopoly ‘representation’ powers used to impose forced union dues.

The successful decertification vote at Home Depot comes as interest in holding votes to remove unions increases nationwide. The NLRB’s own data show that, currently, a unionized private sector worker is more than twice as likely to be involved in a decertification effort as the average nonunion worker is to be involved in a unionization campaign, with one analysis finding decertification petitions up 42% this year.

“We’re pleased Jose Flores and his coworkers were able to oust unwanted Teamsters officials from their workplace,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “No worker anywhere should be forced under so-called union “representation” they oppose.”

“Foundation staff attorneys stand ready to provide free legal aid to workers from coast-to-coast in exercising their legal rights to hold a decertification election so they can vote out a union they oppose,” added Mix.

21 Nov 2022

Las Vegas Police Officer Urges Supreme Court to Hear Case Battling Union’s Unconstitutional Dues Scheme

Posted in News Releases

LVMPD officer argues union officials seized her money in violation of First Amendment through restrictive arrangement to which she never consented

Washington, DC (November 21, 2022) – Las Vegas police officer Melodie DePierro has submitted a petition asking the United States Supreme Court to hear her lawsuit defending her First Amendment right to abstain from paying dues to a union she does not support. DePierro is receiving free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

DePierro, a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) officer, contends in the lawsuit that officials of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association (PPA) union seized dues money from her paycheck in violation of her First Amendment rights pursuant to a so-called “window period” specified in the union contract. PPA officials’ “window period” scheme prohibits police officers from opting out of union financial support for over 90% of the year. DePierro never consented to – nor was ever informed of – this limitation.

DePierro seeks to enforce her First Amendment rights recognized by the Supreme Court in the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME case, which was argued and won by Foundation attorneys. The Justices ruled in Janus that forcing public sector workers to subsidize an unwanted union as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment. They also held that union officials can only deduct dues from a public sector employee who has affirmatively waived his or her Janus rights.

“[I]f employee consent is not required, governments and unions can, and will…devise and enforce onerous restrictions on when employees can stop subsidizing union speech,” reads the brief.

PPA Union Officials Imposed on Officer Contract Provision She Never Knew About

According to DePierro’s original complaint, she began working for LVMPD in 2006 and voluntarily joined the PPA union at that time. However, in 2006 the union monopoly bargaining contract permitted employees to terminate dues deductions at any time.

In January 2020, she first tried to exercise her Janus rights, sending letters to both union officials and the LVMPD stating that she was resigning her membership. The letters demanded a stop to union dues being taken from her paycheck.

Her complaint reported that union and police department agents rejected that request because of the union-imposed “window period” restriction previously unknown to DePierro that purportedly limits when employees can exercise their Janus rights. As her brief notes, that “window period” restriction was added in the 2019 monopoly bargaining contract between union officials and the police department, despite the fact Janus had already been decided by then.

DePierro never agreed to such a restriction on the exercise of her First Amendment rights, but union agents nonetheless rebuffed her again when she renewed her demand to stop dues deductions in February 2020. When she filed her lawsuit, full union dues were still coming out of her paycheck.

DePierro’s Supreme Court petition argues that, because union officials kept seizing money from her wages under the guise of the “window period,” and never sought her consent to the restriction, they violated the First Amendment. As per Janus, union officials must obtain a worker’s waiver of their Janus rights before deducting dues or fees from their pay. DePierro asks the High Court to declare the “window period” scheme unconstitutional, forbid PPA and LVMPD from further enforcing it, and order PPA and LVMPD to refund with interest all dues unlawfully withheld from her pay since she tried to stop the deductions.

“This Court’s review is urgently needed because the Ninth Circuit’s decision is allowing governments and unions to unilaterally decide when and how to restrict employees’ right to refrain from subsidizing union speech—without the need to secure their affirmative consent to the restriction,” asserts the brief.

Officer Joins California Lifeguards in Asking Justices to Uphold Janus Ruling

DePierro’s petition comes as 21 Foundation-represented Southern California lifeguards are also urging the Supreme Court to hear their case challenging an anti-Janus dues scheme concocted by California Statewide Law Enforcement Agency (CSLEA) union officials. That scheme has trapped the lifeguards in union membership and full dues deductions until 2023, despite each of the lifeguards exercising his or her Janus right to abstain from union membership and union financial support.

As in DePierro’s case, the lifeguards were not explicitly informed of the so-called “maintenance of membership” restriction which now confines them in membership and full dues payment. Moreover, union officials never obtained voluntary waivers of Janus rights from any of the lifeguards before subjecting them to this scheme.

Janus’ First Amendment protections are meant to ensure that workers are not being forced to subsidize union bosses of whom they disapprove, whether based on union officials’ ineffectiveness, political activities, divisive conduct in the workplace, or any other reason,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union officials’ defense of schemes that siphon money out of unwilling workers’ paychecks sends a clear message that they value dues revenue over the constitutional rights of the workers they claim to ‘represent.’”

“Two parties, here the union and police department, cannot enter into an agreement to restrict the First Amendment rights of an American citizen, yet that is exactly what has happened here to Officer DePierro,” Mix added. “The Supreme Court must defend Janus rights against such obvious violations, and ensure that these unconstitutional schemes are not allowed to stand.”

10 Nov 2022

SF Security Officer Slams SEIU Union and Allied Universal with Federal Charges for Discrimination & Unfair Labor Practices

Posted in News Releases

Despite informing both management and union of religious objections to union membership and financial support, employer seized money from worker’s paycheck for union

San Francisco, CA (November 10, 2022) – Thomas Ross, a San Francisco-based security officer employed by Allied Universal, has hit union officials affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and his employer with two sets of federal charges for forcing him to join and financially support the union after he told both parties his religious beliefs forbid union support. He is receiving free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

Ross filed both federal discrimination charges, which will now be investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and unfair labor practice charges, which will be handled by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Ross is a Christian and opposes union affiliation on religious grounds. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits unions and employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of religion. Title VII thus forbids forcing individuals to fund or support a union, the activities of which conflict with their religion. It also requires unions and employers to accommodate religious objections to union payments. Yet, according to Ross’ discrimination charges, SEIU union bosses flatly denied a request he made for such an accommodation.

Ross’ unfair labor practice charges, filed at NLRB Region 20, state that SEIU bosses and Allied Universal officials breached basic federal law by telling him that union membership is mandatory. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects private sector workers’ right to abstain from any or all union activities, and forced union membership is prohibited regardless of an individual worker’s reason for not wanting to affiliate with a union.

California’s lack of Right to Work protections for its private sector workers means that union officials are granted the power to force workers to pay them fees or be fired in workplaces where they maintain power. However, under federal law, employees with religious objections cannot be compelled to pay such fees. In Right to Work states, in contrast, no worker can be fired for refusal to financially support a union.

Union’s Discriminatory Demands Violate Both Title VII and Basic Federal Labor Law

According to his discrimination charges, Ross informed both the SEIU union and Allied Universal when he was hired in 2020 that his religious beliefs disallowed union membership and that he needed an accommodation. In addition to ignoring that request, his charges state that on July 20, 2022, “Allied Universal…demanded that I sign a payroll deduction, join the unions, and pay union dues.”

On August 31, 2022, Ross reminded Allied Universal of his religious objection to paying union dues, but on September 15, 2022, Ross’ “employer stated that union membership was compulsory and deducted union fees” from his paycheck without his consent.

Ross’ unfair labor practice charges state that those deductions violate the NLRA, because that statute prohibits the deduction of union dues and fees unless the employee has signed a written authorization. Ross’ discrimination charges argue that both his employer and the union have also violated his rights “under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” and parallel state non-discrimination laws.

Foundation Attorneys Regularly Win Cases for Workers Facing Religious Discrimination

Workers nationwide frequently turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid when union chiefs snub their requests for religious accommodations or otherwise discriminate against them based on their religious beliefs.

This past July, Foundation staff attorneys scored a multi-million-dollar jury verdict for former Southwest flight attendant Charlene Carter, whom Transport Workers Union (TWU) officials subjected to ridicule based on her religious opposition to union activities. This March, also with Foundation aid, Fort Campbell custodial worker Dorothy Frame won a settlement gaining a religious accommodation after Laborers’ (LIUNA) union officials unlawfully questioned her religious belief that she could not support financially the union’s political activities.

“The Foundation is proud to help working men and women who courageously stand up for their beliefs even in the midst of union coercion,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, it’s important to recognize that, regardless of whether an employee’s objection to union affiliation is religious in nature or not, no American worker should ever be forced to subsidize union activities they oppose.”

9 Nov 2022

Educators at Casa Trail House Children’s Shelter File Petitions to Remove Unwanted Union ‘Representation’

Posted in News Releases

Teachers and teachers’ assistants at immigrant youth facility seek Labor Board vote to remove Operating Engineers union officials

El Paso, TX (November 9, 2022) – A teacher’s assistant at Southwest Key Programs Casa Trail House, a charity organization for immigrant children in Texas, has filed a petition to free her and her coworkers from unwanted so-called “representation” by union officials of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 351. Brenda Muñoz is receiving free representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys to navigate the decertification process before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Muñoz’s petition comes on the heels of another decertification effort by Southwest Key employee Maria Amaya, also filed with Foundation legal aid. Ms. Amaya is in a separate bargaining unit from Ms. Muñoz, although they both work for the same employer and both seek to eliminate unwanted IUOE union officials from their workplace.

Because Texas is one of 27 states with Right to Work protections for private sector employees, unions cannot force workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of keeping their jobs. However, even in Right to Work states union officials are empowered to impose monopoly representation on entire units of workers even over the objections of many workers within the unit, necessitating decertification elections to remove unwanted union “representation.”

The decertification efforts at Casa Trail House come as interest in holding votes to remove unions increases nationwide. The NLRB’s own data show that, currently, a unionized private sector worker is more than twice as likely to be involved in a decertification effort as the average nonunion worker is to be involved in a unionization campaign.

“No worker anywhere should be forced under a union’s so-called ‘representation’ against their will. A decertification vote should be scheduled promptly for these workers who do not wish to be associated with IUOE,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys stand ready to provide legal aid to workers wanting to hold a decertification election to oust a union they oppose and believe they would be better off without.”

7 Nov 2022

Worker Advocate Files Supreme Court Brief Opposing Union Boss Attempt to Evade Liability for Property Damage

Posted in News Releases

Amicus brief in Glacier Northwest argues “Unions need no further exemptions and special legal privileges” and SCOTUS should “scrutinize” existing ones

Washington, DC (November 7, 2022) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation today filed an amicus brief at the United States Supreme Court. The brief argues that the High Court should overturn a Washington Supreme Court decision that created a special exemption for union officials and their “more aggressive” members from liability under state tort law when property destruction and vandalism result from union boss-ordered actions.

The Foundation’s brief was filed in Glacier Northwest Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 174, which deals with a union boss-ordered strike against construction company Glacier Northwest. Glacier Northwest’s attempt to sue the union over property damage caused by strike activities was denied by the Washington Supreme Court. Washington’s highest court accepted Teamsters lawyers’ argument that the National Labor Relations Act’s (NLRA) allowance for union strikes somehow also immunizes unions from liability when strike activities destroy and vandalize property.

The Supreme Court announced last month it would hear arguments in the case. Those arguments haven’t been scheduled yet but are expected to occur in early 2023.

The Foundation provides free legal aid to hundreds of workers every year whose rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses, including those that occur during strikes. It contends in the brief that the Washington Supreme Court’s creation of a new “carve-out” in state law for vandalism and property destruction organized by union officials will leave not only employers, but also employees, with no recourse when harmed by such strike violence and mayhem. The Foundation points out that union officials already enjoy a slew of privileges and immunities under state and federal law enjoyed by no other private organization or citizen, and that this power should be pared back instead of expanded.

Foundation: Union Officials’ Enormous Special Legal Privileges Should Not Be Expanded

The Foundation explains in the amicus brief that “states’ interest in protecting life, limb, and private property must be respected under principles of federalism” because federal remedies generally don’t exist for violations of these interests. Far from being a concern only for employers who face union strike efforts, the Foundation argues, employees are often targeted by hostile or violent strike behavior and state courts often are the only forum in which they can receive justice.

“For example, in Clegg v. Powers, employees sought damages in state court for union violence and property damage during a strike,” the brief says. “Cases like Clegg demonstrate that the Court should limit” unions’ ability to dodge liability in state courts, not extend it, says the brief.

The Foundation’s brief then points out that the exemption from liability for torts that Teamsters bosses seek should also be restricted given “the extraordinary privileges and exemptions already granted to unions” by Congress and courts all over the country.

These include, but are not limited to, the ability to perform acts that would be considered extortion if committed by any other private party, pursuant to the controversial 1973 United States v. Enmons Supreme Court decision. Union officials also have the privilege to foist monopoly “representation” over all workers in a workplace regardless of whether they are union members or voted for the union in power. Probably the most abusive union boss privilege of all is the power to force employees in non-Right to Work states to pay union dues or fees just to stay employed, while maintaining monopoly bargaining control in a workplace with no effective term limits.

“This Court should treat unions like all other citizens or entities, clarifying that they can be liable for damages in state courts under ‘the common law rule that a man is held to intend the foreseeable consequences of his conduct,’” the brief concludes.

“Union officials’ theory that they should be off the hook in state court for damaging or vandalizing property is outrageous on its face. The law already has plenty of carve-outs and privileges for union hierarchies that no other private organization or citizen gets to enjoy – least of all the workers union bosses claim to ‘represent,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union officials regularly force millions of workers to pay union fees or be fired, and force their ‘representation’ on millions of workers who bitterly oppose it. The Supreme Court must reject this shocking union ploy for even more coercive powers, and hold the existing set of union boss privileges to much more scrutiny.”

3 Nov 2022

National Right to Work Foundation Slams Biden National Labor Relations Board’s Move to Reverse ‘Election Protection Rule’

Posted in News Releases

Union boss-beholden NLRB to make it easier for union bosses to block workers from exercising right to vote out unpopular unions

Washington, DC (November 3, 2022) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today announced it was initiating rulemaking to rescind the Board’s Election Protection Rule, a 2020 provision that, among other things, helped protect rank-and-file workers’ statutory right to hold votes to remove unwanted union officials.

National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement on the Biden NLRB’s announcement:

“The Biden-appointed NLRB majority – two of whom were union lawyers when nominated for their seats on the Board – is once again protecting union boss power to the detriment of the statutory rights of rank-and-file workers. Make no mistake, reversing the Election Protection Rule will mean more workers trapped in forced union ranks they oppose, and more denials of worker requests for basic secret-ballot votes regarding union status.

“The NLRB’s own statistics indicate that workers are currently seeking to throw out unwanted unions at the highest rate in years. Yet, rather than reflect on why so many workers want nothing to do with union so-called ‘representation,’ the anti-worker response of the Biden Administration and their Big Labor allies is to build a wall to keep workers in unions, or to stop them from even holding votes to oust incumbent union bosses.”

NLRB Seeks to Undermine Right to Vote as Worker Decertification Efforts Increase

The NLRB adopted the Election Protection Rule in 2020 after multiple rounds of comments from Foundation staff attorneys supporting the changes. The rule included reforms to the NLRB process for dealing with union “blocking charges,” which union bosses often file to prevent rank-and-file employees from exercising their right to vote out a union. Union officials manipulate “blocking charges” to stop workers’ requested votes from taking place for months or even years by making one or multiple allegations against the employer.

The 2020 rule stopped union charges from stalling worker-requested votes, and in most cases permitted the immediate release of the vote tally as opposed to ordering ballots to be impounded during litigation over “blocking charges.”

The Election Protection Rule also substantially eliminated the so-called “voluntary recognition bar,” a policy that union officials exploited to block workers from requesting a secret-ballot election after a union is installed through the abuse-prone “card check” process. The NLRB instead adopted a Foundation-backed process in which workers could submit a petition to hold a secret-ballot vote after a union’s installation by “card check,” with the secret-ballot election determining whether the union actually had the majority support union officials claimed in their submission of “union cards.”

Additionally, the Election Protection Rule cracked down on schemes in the construction industry where employers and union bosses installed a union in a workplace without first providing proof of majority union support among the workers. Foundation staff attorneys represented a victim of such a scheme in a case (Colorado Fire Sprinkler, Inc.) that ended when a DC Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously ruled for the worker, who had been unionized despite no evidence of majority employee support for the union. As the federal court said, “the rule is that employees pick the union; the union does not pick the employees.”

With the elimination of the Election Protection Rule, workers will not only have a much harder path toward getting a vote on whether a union should be ousted, but even if the vote is held, they will likely be kept in the dark about the results of that vote for months or even years if litigation follows union “blocking charges.” Also, workers forced into union ranks via “card check” would be barred for potentially years from ever holding a secret-ballot vote to determine the level of union support, as the bar following “card check” is often combined with other non-statutory bars like the three-year “contract bar.”

Workers nationwide relied on the Election Protection Rule as they exercised their right to vote out unpopular unions, and the NLRB’s own statistics show a sharp increase in worker decertification efforts. In 2021, the year following the Election Protection Rule’s adoption, Foundation attorneys aided over 7,000 workers at 54 workplaces in exercising their right to hold votes to boot unwanted union officials.

3 Nov 2022

Food Company Employees File Charges Alleging Union Dues Are Being Illegally Deducted From Their Paychecks

Posted in News Releases

Buitoni Food Company aided United Steelworkers bosses by deducting dues after workers revoked authorization and resigned from the union

Danville, VA (November 3, 2022) – Employees at Buitoni Food Company have filed charges against their employer and United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9555 after union dues deductions resumed despite the workers having revoked their authorization for such payments to be taken out of their paychecks. The federal unfair labor practice charges were filed with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 5 with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys.

The charging workers, Steven Ricketts and Donald Hale, each hand-delivered letters to both USW union officials and to their employer formally resigning their union memberships and revoking their dues check-off authorizations. Because Virginia is one of 27 states with a Right to Work law, union membership and dues payments must be voluntary and cannot be required as a condition of employment. In states without Right to Work laws, workers can legally be fired if they refuse to pay union dues or fees.

After the workers’ letters were delivered, dues deductions briefly stopped. However, union deductions quickly resumed. In the case of Mr. Ricketts, Buitoni Food Company not only restarted union dues deductions but also deducted double the dues amount in a subsequent paycheck. Deductions from Mr. Hale’s paycheck also resumed without his authorization after a short period.

Mr. Ricketts sent an email to the company’s human resources department after the dues seizures restarted and was told to contact union officals about it. Both employees sent another letter to United Steelworkers, specifically requesting a copy of their dues check-off authorization. However, money continues to be deducted without their consent and without the union officials producing a copy of the authorizations that are legally required before any such deductions can occur.

“Living in Right to Work Virginia, it is outrageous that we need to take legal action just to stop union dues from being seized against our will,” Steven Ricketts commented. “I don’t want my money supporting the United Steelworkers union, and it is time union officials accept that no means no when a worker resigns from the union and revokes their dues authorization.”

Donald Hale echoed a similar sentiment: “I’m grateful for the National Right to Work Foundation assistance in enforcing my legal rights, but it really shouldn’t take a federal case to cease the collection of union dues.”

“As this situation shows, arrogant union officials often seize money from a worker’s pockets, despite what the law says,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Despite repeatedly telling their employer and union officials to stop taking their hard-earned money, Buitoni Food Company and United Steelworkers apparently believe they can ignore these workers’ legal rights and get away with it.”

“Foundation staff attorneys will continue to aid Mr. Ricketts and Mr. Hale as they take legal action against Buitoni Food Company and United Steelworkers,” Mix added.

2 Nov 2022

Faced with Prosecution, NY IATSE Film Production Union Bosses Settle Case Over Illegal Discrimination Against Nonmembers

Posted in News Releases

National Labor Relations Board settlement pulls back curtain on pervasive discriminatory practices among entertainment industry unions

New York, NY (November 2, 2022) – New York-based movie production electrician James Harker has scored a victory against International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 52 union officials, who have been unlawfully denying jobs to non-union film industry workers. With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Harker has won a settlement requiring IATSE Local 52 officials to stop a series of discriminatory practices designed by union officials to sideline nonmembers in favor of union members.

IATSE Local 52, based in New York City, has monopoly bargaining agreements with film production companies that give it control over movie, television, and commercial shoots in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and parts of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Harker filed these NLRB charges against IATSE Local 52 in March 2021 and January 2022.

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 29 has agreed that many of the practices cited in Harker’s charges violate the law. The NLRB issued a complaint in May 2022 against the union, which is the NLRB’s formal step towards prosecuting infringements of federal law before an NLRB Administrative Law Judge.

The complaint, issued by the NLRB Regional Director, stated that IATSE union officials had broken federal law by forbidding production companies to hire nonmembers without permission from union bosses, forcing nonmembers to go through the union to apply for jobs, requiring union members with hiring authority to exhaust all union member hiring options before hiring nonmembers, and more.

Most notably, IATSE union officials facilitated a practice called “bumping,” in which the union required employers to release from work any crewmembers on a film shoot who were not members of the union when a union member became available to work and wanted that position. The complaint says that this and other practices violate employees’ rights to refrain from all union activity and causes “employers to discriminate against employees,” both of which are prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Settlement Requires IATSE Bosses to Stop Letting Members Kick Nonmembers Off Jobs

Now, to stop the case from proceeding to trial, IATSE Local 52 union officials have entered into an NLRB settlement that includes requirements that they cease these illegal activities and notify workers of the rights the union’s practices infringed on. The settlement vindicates Harker, who filed the charges after seeing the ongoing illegal practices harm fellow production workers.

The settlement orders IATSE Local 52 to comply with a number of requirements, including that union bosses will no longer “require nonmember…employees to obtain work through the Union,” “will not interfere with employers and their agents hiring nonmembers without first obtaining approval from the Union,” and “will not require employers to allow members to bump nonmembers off of productions because of the nonmembers’ lack of membership with the Union.”

IATSE union officials are required to disseminate the settlement notice to union members and nonmembers under the union’s control, as well as to production companies. The settlement notice must also appear in IATSE Local 52’s newsletter, and IATSE union officials are ordered to attend mandatory training on employee rights and hiring procedures.

“IATSE union officials’ scheme to keep nonmember production workers off the job is a classic example of union officials prioritizing power and control over workers’ individual rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation was proud to back Mr. Harker, who recognized the patent injustice of this arrangement.”

“Film crew members who have exercised their right not to affiliate with a union should know that they can’t be required to go through union officials to look for work, and can’t be ‘bumped’ off a job just so a union member can get it,” Mix added. “Unfortunately, Foundation attorneys’ experience is that these types of unlawful schemes are ubiquitous in the entertainment industry, where near-total union boss control combined with the fear of union retaliation keeps most victims too scared to defend their rights.”

31 Oct 2022

Western Louisiana Chemical Workers Vote Out Unpopular Steelworkers Union Bosses

Posted in News Releases

Several more efforts by employees are ongoing across the country to vote out union officials

DeRidder, LA (October 31, 2022) – GEO Specialty Chemicals employee Ryne Fox and his coworkers have just voted unwanted United Steelworkers (USW) Local 13-725 union bosses out of power at their workplace. The vote, in which 75% of the work unit voted to remove the union, came after Fox filed a petition for a “decertification vote” with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

Fox filed the “decertification petition” on September 24, 2022, asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a vote among employees on whether the union should be removed. Because of a union boss-friendly NLRB policy known as the so-called “contract bar,” Fox timed the filing of the petition to coincide with the expiration of USW officials’ contract with GEO management. The non-statutory “contract bar” arbitrarily immunizes union officials from being voted out of a workplace during the life of a union contract, typically lasting one to three years.

Though many non-statutory NLRB policies like the “contract bar” still exist which prevent workers from voting out union bosses they oppose, Foundation-supported reforms adopted by the NLRB in 2020 have made the decertification process easier. The reforms pared back union officials’ ability to block decertification votes by filing so-called “blocking charges,” which often contain unrelated and unverified accusations of employer wrongdoing. Now, employees usually have a chance to at least cast ballots before any allegations surrounding the election are resolved.

Foundation Also Aiding Pennsylvania Employees in Ousting Corrupt, Unaccountable Steelworkers Officials

Fox and his coworkers’ endeavor is the third Foundation-assisted employee effort to vote out USW union officials in just the past couple months. Just last week, New Jersey building materials employee Michael Cobourn and his coworkers at Gold Bond Building Products in Burlington, NJ, voted out USW bosses by a nearly 70-30 margin. In Pennsylvania, Foundation attorneys are currently helping Carpenter Technologies/Latrobe Specialty Steel employee Kerry Hunsberger and her coworkers in their bid to decertify USW officials who blatantly ignored two votes by workers rejecting contracts union officials had negotiated.

In the situation at Hunsberger’s workplace, USW officials sought to trigger the “contract bar” and avoid an attempt by employees to vote the union out by secretly “ratifying” a contract that workers had voted against. USW bosses even held a second contract vote after the unpopular contract took effect. Union officials misled the workers, who unsurprisingly voted the contract down again, to believe their second vote would count, even though it was meaningless because the contract had already been “ratified.”

“Workers across the country are increasingly exercising their right to vote out union officials they oppose, and we at the Foundation are happy to aid workers in defending this essential element of free association,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, we’re also acutely aware of the obstacles that stand in the way of this freedom, and one of those, which Steelworkers officials seem to have no reservations about exploiting, is the ‘contract bar.’”

“The unjustified ‘contract bar’ is always wrong because it prevents workers from voting out unions they oppose when they want to. But even worse, this NLRB-invented doctrine actually incentivizes union officials to rush ahead and impose unpopular, self-serving contracts for the very purpose of insulating the union’s forced representation powers from a vote of the workers they claim to ‘represent,’” Mix added.