West Virginia Supreme Court Reverses Injunction, Restores Protections against Unconstitutional Union Dues Seizures
Supreme Court protects workers’ First Amendment rights, overturns lower court injunction against Paycheck Protection Act
Charleston, WV (November 23, 2021) – In a 3-2 decision, West Virginia’s Supreme Court reversed a preliminary injunction issued by a Kanawha County Circuit Court judge against West Virginia’s Paycheck Protection Act. In September, attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a charitable nonprofit dedicated to protecting workers’ legal rights from compulsory unionism, filed an amicus brief urging the Court to reverse the injunction, which union bosses obtained as they challenged the new law in Court.
Foundation staff attorneys argued that the 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 U.S. Supreme Court decision. To ensure compliance with Janus the Paycheck Protection Act prohibits the government from automatically deducting union dues or fees from public employees’ paychecks, leaving voluntary union members free to make their own arrangements for payment of union dues if they want.
“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 Foundation’s 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.”
The Supreme Court’s Janus v AFSCME ruling made union dues for public sector workers completely voluntary. The Court 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 decision reasoned 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.
In the amicus brief Foundation attorneys argued the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals should overturn the preliminary injunction, 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. Yesterday’s decision agreed with those arguments, citing Janus, and reversed the injunction as Foundation attorneys had advocated.
This is not the first time the Foundation has defended state policies designed to protect 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 ultimately 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 and supported the protections the West Virginia Right to Work law afforded them.
“West Virginia’s Paycheck Protection law properly takes the government out of the union dues collection business, and in the process helps ensure that no union payments are taken from public employees in violation of their First Amendment rights recognized in Janus,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Supreme Court of Appeals made the right decision by reversing the Circuit Court’s injunction which was issued under the outrageous premise that union bosses have a legal right to use taxpayer-funded government payroll systems to divert workers’ money into union coffers.”
Employees vote 13-0 to remove unwanted union officials
Houston, TX (November 19, 2021) – Today, according to a tally of votes announced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), workers at MDS Boring in Houston voted to remove unwanted International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) officials from their workplace. Seth Patrick, an MDS Boring employee, petitioned the NLRB so he and his coworkers could vote to remove the union. He filed his petition with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and collected signatures from enough of his coworkers to trigger an NLRB-conducted decertification election.
Ballots were mailed to eligible employees on October 22, and on November 19, the NLRB tallied the results. Workers voted unanimously 13-0 to remove IUOE Local 450 officials from their workplace.
Decertification is a difficult process under the NLRB’s rules, and union officials often attempt to delay worker decertification efforts through litigation. IUOE officials have filed unfair labor practice charges against the company to delay certification of the election results.
However, thanks to Foundation-backed “blocking charge” reforms adopted by the NLRB in 2020, elections themselves cannot be delayed by union litigation. Previously, union officials could block decertification votes almost at whim by filing unfair labor practice charges against employers without even proving the employer’s actions had affected workers’ desire to oust the union. The new rules established by the Trump NLRB limit such delays, and MDS Boring’s employees were able to decisively vote against IUOE bosses soon after filing their petition.
“Thanks to Texas’s Right to Work law, workers at MDS Boring couldn’t be forced to pay union dues, but they were still forced to accept union bosses’ so-called ‘representation’ at the bargaining table,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation is proud to help Seth Patrick and his coworkers assert their independence. It is unfortunate, but not unexpected, that IUOE bosses are now using litigation to block the outcome unanimously favored by the workers they claim to represent.”
UPTE Union Bosses Back Down, Settle UC Irvine Lab Assistant’s Lawsuit Battling Unconstitutional Dues Seizures from Wages
Settlement requires union officials to refund all unconstitutionally taken money
Irvine, CA (November 17, 2021) – University of California Irvine lab assistant Amber Walker has won a settlement forcing University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union officials at her workplace to stop illegally taking dues money from her paycheck. The victory comes after Walker sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys and hit UPTE officials with a civil rights lawsuit, asserting they had violated her First Amendment right to abstain from financially supporting an unwanted union.
Walker’s lawsuit enforced her rights under the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. It challenged both the university’s seizure of funds from her paycheck at the union’s behest, and a university policy allowing union officials to impose a photo ID requirement limiting the right of public employees to cut off dues payments to the union. A California statute that makes public employers completely subservient to union officials on dues issues, her lawsuit argued, resulted in both due process and First Amendment violations that occurred due to UPTE officials’ photo ID requirement.
In the landmark Janus decision, the justices declared that forcing public sector workers to fund unions as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment. The justices also ruled that union dues can only be taken from a public employee with an affirmative and knowing waiver of that employee’s First Amendment right not to pay.
Walker’s lawsuit explained that she sent UPTE union bosses a letter in June 2021 exercising her right to end her union membership and all union dues deductions from her wages. Although Walker submitted this message within a short union-created “escape period” that was imposed to limit when workers can revoke dues deductions, they still rebuffed her request, telling her she needed to mail them a copy of a photo ID to effectuate her revocation. The photo ID requirement, clearly adopted to frustrate workers’ attempts to exercise their constitutional rights, is mentioned nowhere on the dues deduction card Walker had previously signed to initiate dues payments.
By the time UPTE officials had informed Walker that her request to cut off dues was rejected for lack of photo ID, the “window period” enforced by union officials had already elapsed. Had Walker not filed a lawsuit with free Foundation legal aid, UPTE officials likely would have continued siphoning money from her paycheck for another year until the arrival of the next “window period.”
Rather than face Foundation staff attorneys in court, UPTE bosses backed down and chose to settle the lawsuit. The settlement requires UPTE officials to immediately stop taking money from Walker’s paycheck and to refund any deductions they took after her initial attempt to exercise her Janus rights. They must also desist from enforcing the photo ID requirement.
The Foundation is aiding other public sector workers across the country in defending their First Amendment right to refuse union financial support. In October, Foundation staff attorneys filed two joint petitions urging the Supreme Court to take cases brought for Alaska, Oregon, and California public servants who are battling restrictive “window period” schemes union bosses manipulated to stop them from opting out of supporting unwanted union activities.
“We at the Foundation are glad to have helped Ms. Walker reclaim dues that were illegally siphoned from her wages by UPTE union bosses, but hardworking public servants like Ms. Walker should not be forced to file federal lawsuits just to exercise their basic First Amendment rights of free association,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The fact that UPTE bosses backed so quickly off defending their own suspect behavior likely indicates that they knew their schemes would not stand up to any serious constitutional scrutiny.”
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for Kellogg Employees Impacted by Union Boss-Ordered Strike
Kellogg plant workers have legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, cut off dues and seek ‘decertification’ vote to remove union
(November 16, 2021) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys issued a special legal notice to the approximately 1,400 Kellogg employees in Battle Creek, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Memphis, Tennessee who are affected by a strike ordered by officials of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM).
“News reports indicate union officials rejected Kellogg’s ‘Last Best Final Offer’ without allowing workers to vote on the matter,” the notice reads. “The situation raises serious concerns for Kellogg employees who believe there may be much to lose from a union-ordered strike.”
The Foundation’s legal notice simply informs rank-and-file workers of the rights union bosses won’t tell them about, including their right to resign their union memberships and keep working during the union-ordered strike, and to remove union officials from their workplace entirely by organizing a decertification vote. The notice discusses why workers across the country frequently turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in such situations.
The full notice is available at www.nrtw.org/kellogg-strike-notice.
The notice outlines how Kellogg employees can exercise their right to return to work during the strike and avoid punishing fines and discipline by union bosses, complete with sample union membership resignation letters.
Further, the notice reminds workers of their right to cut off all union dues payments in the absence of a monopoly bargaining contract. The notice encourages employees to seek free legal aid from the Foundation if they experience union resistance while attempting to exercise their rights.
“After union officials unilaterally refused to end the strike they ordered by rejecting Kellogg’s final bargaining offer without a vote by the workers they supposedly represent, workers may question whether the month-long strike is really best for themselves and their families,” commented National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “Workers who feel union officials are not serving their best interests have the right to resign their union memberships and continue working despite the strike.”
“Kellogg employees whose rights may be violated or threatened by union bosses should immediately contact the Foundation for free legal aid,” added Mix.
RWDSU officials disclaimed interest in maintaining power at Main Street Car Wash, avoided facing worker vote in second employee attempt to remove union
Flushing, NY (November 11, 2021) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, employees at Main Street Car Wash (also known as Jomar Car Wash) in Flushing have successfully forced unpopular Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) union officials out of their workplace.
Main Street Car Wash employee Ervin Par spearheaded the effort. Last month he submitted a petition signed by enough of his coworkers to prompt the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to conduct an employee vote whether to oust the union. The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal private-sector labor law and for adjudicating disputes between employers, unions, and individual workers.
This marks the second time Par has led his coworkers in attempting to boot out RWDSU bosses. Par also sought Foundation legal aid in 2018 with an earlier petition for a union decertification vote. Union officials were able to stifle that employee request by filing so-called “blocking charges” at the NLRB.
This time, however, RWDSU bosses avoided facing an employee vote that would have likely ended in defeat for the union by fleeing the car wash entirely. Union officials submitted paperwork disclaiming interest in continuing control over the facility this week, dodging an NLRB-administered decertification vote.
Par revealed in a 2018 interview for Reason magazine why he and his coworkers overwhelmingly disapproved of the union’s presence: “They just come and collect their fees, but I don’t see an economic benefit from the union…Among my colleagues, there’s a majority that doesn’t want the union.” Because New York is a state lacking Right to Work protections for its private-sector workers, Par and his coworkers were forced to pay money to RWDSU officials just to keep their jobs. In Right to Work states, all union financial support is strictly voluntary.
According to Reason, in 2018 Main Street Car Wash was one of only six car washes in New York City still under union control, a number that had been declining following other union departures due to lack of employee support.
The RWDSU is notably the same union that Bessemer, AL, Amazon employees rejected by a more than 2-to-1 margin during a highly publicized April 2021 union election. Despite their election loss, RWDSU officials are still trying to install themselves at the Bessemer facility. Also, a final NLRB decision has yet to issue on whether allegations RWDSU made against Amazon officials about the election process should erase the workers’ vote and prompt a do-over election.
Atlanta, GA-area employees of water treatment company Ecolab have also recently obtained free Foundation legal assistance in an effort to oust RWDSU officials.
“Mr. Par and his coworkers persevered for almost three years to end RWDSU union officials’ grip on power in their workplace,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Although we’re glad the employees have finally been able to exercise their right to remove RWDSU from their workplace, union officials should never have been able to manipulate the rules to stifle the decertification effort for so long.”
“Workers across the country who seek to remove unwanted RWDSU presence in their workplace should not hesitate to contact the Foundation for free legal aid in exercising their rights,” Mix added.
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for Kaiser Permanente Employees Impacted by Union Boss Ordered Strike
Hospital workers have right to rebuff union officials’ demands to abandon patients amidst pandemic
(November 9, 2021) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys issued a special legal notice to the approximately 32,000 Kaiser Permanente employees affected by a strike ordered by officials of the United Nurses Associations of California / Union of Health Care Professionals /AFSCME, the United Steelworkers, and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals, all members of the Alliance of Health Care Unions (AHCU). The strike is scheduled to begin on November 15.
The Foundation’s legal notice informs rank-and-file nurses and other hospital staff of the rights union bosses won’t tell them about, including their right to refuse to abandon their patients and keep working to support their families despite the union-ordered strike. The notice discusses why workers across the country frequently turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in such situations.
“This situation raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-boss ordered strike,” the notice reads. “Employees have the right under federal labor law to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for you to get informed before you do so.”
The full notice is available at https://www.nrtw.org/kaiser-permanente-legal-notice/.
The notice outlines the process that Kaiser Permanente employees should follow if they want to exercise their right to return to work during the strike and avoid punishing fines and discipline by union bosses, complete with sample union membership resignation letters.
Further, the notice reminds workers of their right to cut off all union dues payments in the absence of a monopoly bargaining contract with the hospital. The notice encourages employees to seek free legal aid from the Foundation if they experience union resistance as they attempt to exercise any of these rights.
The Foundation has defended hospital employees against union boss abuses in a number of recent cases. It provided free legal aid to Jeanette Geary, who filed charges against United Nurses and Allied Professionals bosses in Rhode Island when they ignored her right not to fund union lobbying. After over a decade of litigation, Geary prevailed and in doing so set a precedent that protects the rights of nurses and other employees nationwide not to be required to fund union political activities.
“Kaiser Permanente workers unequivocally have the right to reject union boss strike orders and continue to serve those in need,” commented National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “Those who question whether the union-ordered strike is really best for themselves, their families, and their patients cannot be forced by union officials to stop working.”
“Kaiser Permanente employees whose rights are violated by union bosses should immediately contact the Foundation for free legal aid,” added Mix.
Officials of RWDSU are currently trying to overturn decisive April vote by Alabama Amazon workers to keep them out of Bessemer facility
Atlanta, GA (November 3, 2021) – An employee of water treatment company Ecolab’s Atlanta-area facility has just filed a petition for dozens of workers with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), requesting a vote to remove the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union, Southeast Council (RWDSU) from their workplace. The employee, Irvin Arnold, submitted a “decertification petition” signed by enough of his coworkers to prompt the NLRB to administer such a vote. Arnold received free legal assistance in doing so from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal private-sector labor law and for adjudicating disputes between employers, unions, and individual workers. Arnold and his coworkers are trying to boot officials of the RWDSU from power at the Ecolab plant. The RWDSU is notably the same union that Bessemer, AL, Amazon employees rejected by a more than 2-to-1 margin during a highly publicized April 2021 union election.
According to Arnold’s petition, the requested election will be held among the 50 Ecolab employees currently under RWDSU officials’ monopoly control, including “reliability technicians…maintenance leads, production associates, mixers, bulk bay spotter/loaders, logistics associates, production team coaches, warehouse lead workers and label control associates.”
The most recent contract between Ecolab management and RWDSU bosses expired on June 30, 2021. Because no contract currently exists between Ecolab and RWDSU, Ecolab employees may have a significantly easier time attempting to vote out the unpopular union, as union officials often manipulate non-statutory “bars” in federal labor law to prevent employee attempts to dethrone them. One such restriction, the so-called “contract bar,” immunizes union officials from employee decertification votes for up to three years after company management and union bosses ink a contract.
Arnold and his coworkers’ decertification push comes as several groups of employees across the country have prevailed in similar efforts with free Foundation legal aid. Workers at Airgas in Ventura, CA, Rush University in Chicago, IL, Desert Springs Hospital Center in Las Vegas, NV, and Bertolino Foods in Boston, MA, have all successfully voted out or forced out by other legal means unpopular union officials, just in the past few months.
Ecolab employees’ endeavor also comes as RWDSU officials continue their efforts to install themselves at the Bessemer Amazon plant, despite the overwhelming employee vote against them. A final NLRB decision has yet to issue on whether allegations RWDSU made against Amazon officials about the election process should nix the workers’ vote and prompt a do-over election.
“RWDSU union officials have shown they have a penchant for challenging the will of the very employees they claim to ‘represent.’ That poses concerns for Atlanta Ecolab employees who just seek an up-or-down vote to remove RWDSU bosses from their workplace,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys will fight to ensure that Mr. Arnold and his coworkers can exercise this right free from any coercion by RWDSU union officials.”
Workers Nationwide Urge Supreme Court to Take Cases Defending First Amendment Right to Refuse Union Support
Petitions from public servants challenge union boss-created “escape periods” that limit right to cut off dues deductions to just a few days each year
Washington, DC (October 25, 2021) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys today filed petitions asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear several cases from rank-and-file government employees across the country. The cases challenge union-created schemes that violate public workers’ First Amendment rights by stopping them from cutting off financial support to unions of which they disapprove.
A joint petition, which covers four cases brought by California and Oregon public servants, and another petition combining two cases brought by Alaska government employees, now join two already-pending Foundation-backed petitions in cases that attack similar arrangements in other states.
The petition for the four Oregon and California cases was filed by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys in partnership with attorneys from the Freedom Foundation. The Freedom Foundation jointly represents workers in three of the four cases along with Foundation staff attorneys. The Alaska state employees’ petition was filed jointly by Foundation staff attorneys who represent Vocational Instructor Christopher Woods in his case against the Alaska State Employee Association (ASEA) union, and attorneys for the Liberty Justice Center and Alaska Policy Forum, who represent two Alaska workers in a separate case also against the ASEA.
The other pending National Right to Work Foundation cases are those of Chicago Public Schools educators Joanne Troesch and Ifeoma Nkemdi, and Monmouth County, New Jersey, educators Susan Fischer and Catherine Speck. Both the Chicago and New Jersey cases are slated to be considered during the High Court’s Friday, October 29 conference, with a decision on whether the cases will be taken up likely soon after.
The newly filed petitions seek to defend the First Amendment Janus rights of public servants following Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decisions which allow union officials to continue limiting those rights. In the 2018 Foundation-argued Janus v. AFSCME case, the High Court recognized that the First Amendment protects public sector workers from being forced to pay union dues or fees. The Justices further ruled that a public worker’s affirmative waiver of that right is needed before any union payments are deducted from his or her paycheck.
The Supreme Court reasoned that, because all public sector union activities involve redressing government, forcing any public worker into funding union activities against his or her will counts as forced political speech forbidden by the First Amendment.
Each of the cases brought before the court now challenges a union boss-created “escape period” scheme. “Escape periods” limit to just a few days every year the time in which public servants can exercise their Janus right to end union dues deductions. Often, public workers whom union officials never informed about Janus rights in the first place try to cut off support to an unwanted union, only to be told by state officials that, per the “escape period,” they must endure another year or more of union dues being siphoned from their paychecks.
The majority of these cases are class action lawsuits, and thus seek to reclaim for both petitioners and their coworkers money union bosses seized from their paychecks after they resigned union membership and tried to exercise Janus rights.
The elimination of unconstitutional “escape periods” already has the backing of 16 state attorneys general across the country. Led by Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor, attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia filed an amicus brief in July backing the Chicago educators’ case. Separately Taylor is defending an Alaska Executive Order, currently enjoined in state court, that seeks to proactively defend government workers’ Janus rights by requiring annual confirmation of each employee’s consent to make union dues payments prior to the deduction of union dues from their paychecks.
“Many of these public servants disagree with the ever-increasing left-wing union positions, such as defunding the police or teaching critical race theory in elementary schools, or did not realize they had the option never to join in the first place,” commented Freedom Foundation Chief Litigation Counsel Eric Stahlfeld. “It is unconscionable for the unions to continue taking money to promote their objectionable speech and political objectives.”
“All over the country, American public workers are making it clear that they will not stand by while union bosses and their allies in government play deceptive games with their First Amendment Janus rights, just so they can fill union coffers with more money from dissenting workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This message should now be overwhelmingly evident to the Supreme Court, which now has an opportunity to rectify lower courts’ gross misinterpretations of Janus, and clarify that public workers’ First Amendment rights can’t be limited to arbitrary windows created by union bosses or their political allies designed to undermine workers’ rights as recognized in the Janus decision.”
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.”