Alaskan Factory Workers Overwhelmingly Vote to Remove Unwanted Union Monopoly ‘Representation’
Spenard Building Supply employees vote 17-6 to oust Pacific Northwest Regional Counsel of Carpenters union officials
Chugiak, AK (May 4, 2023) – Workers at the Spenard Building Supply factory recently voted to remove the Pacific Northwest Regional Counsel of Carpenters union by an overwhelming majority. A petition filed by Scot Breuer with the National Labor Relations Board Region 19 (NLRB) led to this successful vote. Breuer received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Scot Breuer filed a decertification petition with the NLRB on March 31, 2023, which was supported by a significant number of his coworkers. Under federal labor law, workers can trigger a decertification vote with the support of 30% or more of workers in a unionized workplace. The NLRB should then promptly schedule a secret ballot election to determine whether a majority of workers want to end union officials’ power to impose a contract, including forced dues, on workers. On April 12, 2023, the NLRB issued an election notice to all parties involved that stipulated an election date for May 2.
During the election on May 2, Spenard Building Supply employees made their position on the union clear when over two-thirds of the workers voted to remove the union from their workplace, with the official tally of 17-6. Barring any objections by union officials that seek to overturn the vote, the workers will be officially free of the union in one week.
The Spenard Building Supply election is just one example of workers looking to leave union control. Currently, the NLRB’s own data shows a unionized private sector worker is far more likely to be involved in a decertification effort as their nonunion counterpart is to be involved in a unionization campaign. NLRB statistics also show a 20% increase in decertification petitions last year versus 2021.
Unfortunately, the NLRB’s union decertification process is prone to union boss-created roadblocks. Foundation-backed NLRB reforms from 2020 have made it somewhat easier for workers to remove unwanted union officials, such as the “Election Protection Rule” that prevents union bosses from filing trumped-up “blocking charges” meant to delay or stop decertification elections entirely.
Prior to these Foundation-backed reforms, workers often had their decertification votes delayed by unproven union blocking charges, giving union bosses the power to trap workers in union ranks they oppose nearly indefinitely. Under the Foundation-backed reforms most votes take place promptly, with union blocking claims adjudicated later, after the votes have been counted. However, the Biden-appointed NLRB is currently engaging in rulemaking to roll back these protections and make it much harder for workers to decertify a union.
“We are extremely pleased to help these Alaskan workers exercise their right to remove a union they want nothing to do with. With over two-thirds of the votes being cast in favor of removing the union, this case is a clear example as to workers’ growing dissatisfaction with compulsory unionism,” stated Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Unfortunately, as the NLRB moves to roll back reforms that gave workers at Spenard a speedy victory, workers will again find it increasingly difficult to exercise their rights and decertify unwanted unions even when opposition to the union’s so-called ‘representation’ is overwhelming.”
Oakland County Employee Slams Union with Federal Charges Over Illegal Seizure of Dues
As Right to Work repeal looms, Milford, Michigan, Kroger employee challenges UFCW union membership form designed to coerce dues deductions
Milford, MI (May 3, 2023) – Michigan Kroger employee Roger Cornett recently filed a federal unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 876. Cornett is receiving free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
On April 26, Kroger employee Roger Cornett charged UFCW union officials with illegally seizing union dues from his paycheck. According to his charge, Cornett was presented with a “union membership application” form to complete during an employee orientation.
The form indicated that signing it would authorize both union membership and dues deductions. Cornett’s charge says the form violates federal labor law because of its “dual purpose” nature, as the law requires any authorization for union dues deductions to be voluntary and separate from a union membership application.
Cornett attempted to resign his union membership and revoke his dues deduction authorization around March 8. He successfully resigned his membership, but the union refused to stop deducting dues from Cornett’s paycheck, alleging that Cornett could only exercise his right to stop dues deductions within a tiny “window period” enforced by union officials.
Cornett’s charge comes as Michigan legislators have decided to repeal Michigan’s popular Right to Work law, which prohibits union officials from forcing workers to join or pay dues to a union to get or keep a job. Once the repeal becomes effective, Michigan union officials will again be able to get workers fired for refusal to pay union fees.
The Foundation published a legal notice to Michigan workers, stating “after the repeal statute takes effect, it will be legal under Michigan law for private-sector employers and unions to enter into agreements that compel workers to pay fees to unions as a condition of employment.” The notice also informs Michigan Workers of their legal options after the repeal of Right to Work.
“Union boss pressures will only increase as the repeal of Right to Work nears. Foundation staff attorneys will continue to assist Mr. Cornett in navigating his case,” states Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “In less than a year, Michigan union bosses will once again have the power to demand workers be terminated merely for refusing to support the union’s agenda with their hard-earned money.”
“The Michigan legislature and Governor Whitmer, both of whom genuflect to union boss lobbyists, made a huge mistake in repealing the Right to Work law previously protecting individual workers. Numerous polls have shown Michiganders’ overwhelming support for the Right to Work law, and yet the Michigan Legislature chose to ignore the will of the people and the rights of workers,” continued Mix. “However, even as the demise of the Right to Work law in Michigan looms, Michigan workers can still reach out to National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys to learn what rights they have to oppose union coercion, and to request help in exercising those rights.”
Orlando Airport Fueling Employees Successfully Oust USWU Union Officials Who Tried to Stop Union Decertification Vote
USWU outrageously claimed that vote among approximately 1,000 PrimeFlight employees across country was necessary to boot union just at Orlando Airport
Orlando, FL (May 2, 2023) – Robert Anderson and his fellow PrimeFlight Aviation Services fueling employees at Orlando International Airport have successfully ousted United Service Workers Union (USWU) Local 74 union officials from their workplace. Anderson and his colleagues received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in removing the unwanted union.
Anderson and his coworkers submitted a majority-backed petition to the National Mediation Board (NMB) in March 2023. The petition contained enough employee support to prompt the agency to conduct a union “decertification” investigation at his facility. However, union officials objected to letting the employees vote, outrageously claiming that Anderson and his coworkers were actually part of a nationwide “system” and the union decertification election would need to be conducted among almost every PrimeFlight employee in the country – even though Anderson and his colleagues simply wanted to dismiss the union from their Orlando workplace alone.
Foundation Attorneys Expose Outrageous Union Scheme to Stop Vote
Foundation attorneys refuted union arguments in a position statement, contending that the union’s position was completely at odds with the Railway Labor Act’s (RLA) basic purposes, which ensure that “employees can [choose] to join or refrain from unionization, and that they are entitled to the fullest freedom in making that choice.” The RLA governs private sector labor relations in the air and rail industries.
“The [union] reasoning is both illogical and devastating to employee free choice,” said Foundation attorneys’ statement. “Local 74 would require some 1,000 PrimeFlight fuelers, at all locations, to weigh-in on whether the employees at one specific location in Orlando should be represented by Local 74, even though those other employees cannot possibly have any…interest in the representational choices of the Orlando location’s employees.”
Further, Foundation attorneys pointed out that USWU union officials’ position was especially suspect considering “the fuelers at other locations are represented by unions other than Local 74” (emphasis added) and have completely different contracts and working conditions. Had the USWU officials’ position been adopted, in order to eject a union for workers at one location, the workers would need signatures from hundreds or potentially thousands of workers at other locations. That could include not only workers covered by different unions with entirely different monopoly bargaining contracts, but also nonunion workers at other facilities who are already free to negotiate their own terms of employment.
USWU Officials Back Down, Abandon Orlando Airport
After Foundation attorneys countered the union’s contentions, USWU union officials quickly backed down and disclaimed interest in maintaining power over Anderson and his coworkers. Likely wanting to avoid a vote of the rank-and-file fueling employees who petitioned for the decertification vote, union officials issued a letter on April 21, 2023, declaring that the union “abandons its representative status and disclaims interest in the aforementioned employees.”
The NMB closed the case on April 26, 2023, meaning Anderson and his fellow fuelers are officially free of the union.
Foundation attorneys have continuously sought to safeguard workers’ right to decertify unwanted unions at the NMB. In 2020, the Foundation filed a brief at the agency opposing the AFL-CIO’s effort to bring back the arbitrary “straw man” rule, which required workers interested in decertifying a union to solicit support for a fake “straw man” union just to vote out incumbent union officials.
“USWU union officials’ ridiculous proposal of a nationwide decertification vote disrespects the rights of rank-and-file employees to vote out union bosses they oppose,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We applaud Mr. Anderson and his fellow airplane fuelers for exercising their rights even in the face of such opposition from USWU union officials, but there are likely many other employees across the country whose efforts to oust an unpopular union have been stifled by such legal maneuvering. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys stand ready to aid employees who experience similar barriers to their rights.”
Following Teachers’ Petition, Gompers Prep Charter School Employees Set to Vote on Removing Union from School
Vote to remove SDEA union scheduled to begin May 10. In previous attempt to remove union, union officials were able to delay vote for nearly two years
San Diego, CA (April 28, 2023) – California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has recently issued an election notice to the employees of Gompers Preparatory Academy, a public charter school in San Diego. Just over two months after employees there submitted a petition, they will be able to cast their vote on whether to remove San Diego Education Association (SDEA) union bosses’ so-called “representation.”
This election notice comes after computer teacher Sean Bentz submitted a decertification petition to PERB in March containing signatures of a majority of the teachers under the SDEA union’s control. Bentz filed the new decertification petition renewing the fight to oust the union at the earliest time permitted by California labor regulations, which immunize union officials from employee-led decertification efforts for almost the entire duration of a union contract. Bentz is receiving free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
According to the election notice promulgated by PERB, the voting period begins on May 10, 2023, and ends on June 6, 2023. The votes are to be counted on June 7, 2023. Due to current guidelines imposed by PERB, the election will be by mail ballot.
The announcement of this vote is a victory for Gompers Preparatory employees who previously had to wait nearly two years for a vote following an earlier petition. In that instance, Gompers chemistry teacher Dr. Kristie Chiscano submitted a decertification petition in October 2019 with free legal aid from the Foundation. However, despite this petition having the backing of the requisite number of teachers for a vote, SDEA union bosses worked to subvert the election by filing so-called “blocking charges,” containing allegations of employer misconduct.
Despite their never holding a hearing into whether SDEA union bosses’ claims had any merit, PERB officials delayed the decertification vote nearly two years, giving union officials time to undermine support for removing the union. Union attacks against prominent supporters of the decertification petition also resulted in charges against the union at the PERB for illegal intimidation.
Gompers made an impressive transition to being a union-free charter school in 2005 after years of being plagued by unresponsive union bureaucracies, violence, and poor academic achievement. However, the union was imposed again in January 2019 via “card check,” an abuse-prone process that bypasses the traditional secret-ballot vote system. Many teachers and parents have long viewed the reinstallation of union power at the school with suspicion. Many accused SDEA agents of actively sowing division at the school, including by supporting anti-charter school legislation and needlessly disparaging the school’s leadership.
“We are pleased that the teachers of Gompers Preparatory Academy are set to get a prompt vote on whether to remove SDEA union officials from their workplace. We hope union officials will not again resort to underhanded tactics to subvert the voices of teachers who wish to end the union’s so-called ‘representation,’” stated Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “The history of the Gompers school is one of throwing off the chains of a union monopoly and then thriving as a result, and we’re proud to stand with these teachers who are seeking to exercise their right to do that now.”
Connecticut State Trooper Wins $260,500 Settlement in Federal Lawsuit Against Police Union and Department Officials
Trooper was demoted after he abstained from funding union politics, CSPU union has now backed down and settled case
Hartford, CT (April 28, 2023) – Connecticut State Trooper Joseph Mercer has won a settlement in his federal civil rights lawsuit against the Connecticut State Police Union (CSPU) and Department of Emergency Services (DESPP) officials, in which he charged them with illegally demoting him for opposing union membership and politics. Mercer received free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Mercer’s suit began in 2016, when he accused the CSPU union, CSPU President Andrew Matthews, and DESPP Commissioner Dora Schriro of knocking him out of a prestigious Operations Sergeant position after he exercised his First Amendment rights to abstain from CSPU membership and not pay dues to support the union’s political activities. The department placed Mercer in a position that offered fewer overtime opportunities and involved less time in the field.
In August 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut denied motions to dismiss the case filed by CSPU and state officials, allowing the case to proceed. Pressure on defendants increased in May 2022, when the District Court ordered DESPP Commissioner James Rovella, who had replaced Schriro, to turn over additional discovery.
Now, CSPU and DEPP officials have backed down and settled the case. As part of the settlement, Mercer will receive more than two hundred thousand dollars from CSPU and DEPP.
Connecticut State Trooper Groundlessly Fired After Objecting to Union Politics
In May 2015, Sergeant Mercer was appointed Operations Sergeant of the Emergency Services Unit, a prestigious command position that entails significant responsibility for Emergency Services training and field operations. Although Sergeant Mercer had seventeen years of experience, in June 2015, CSPU President Matthews filed a grievance over Sergeant Mercer’s appointment.
Matthews’ grievance claimed that there had been no “selection process” to fill the position, despite the fact that none of Sergeant Mercer’s union-member predecessors had undergone any particular kind of selection process before they got the job.
Mathews filed a second baseless grievance, alleging Mercer had mismanaged an incident involving an armed suspect barricaded in a hotel. State police officials had never expressed dissatisfaction with how Mercer handled the situation.
In October 2015, after meeting in private with the union president, the then-Commissioner of the DESPP transferred Mercer out of his Operations Sergeant position to an administrative post. That new position gave Mercer substantially fewer opportunities to work in the field or to accrue overtime pay. Prior to this demotion, Mercer had received no warnings, reprimands, or other disciplinary actions regarding the incident referenced in Matthews’ grievance. Mercer filed his lawsuit with Foundation aid in February 2016.
Mercer’s Foundation-won settlement now requires CSPU and the State to pay $260,500.00.
Public Servants Have First Amendment Right to Stop Supporting Union Politicking
“We at the Foundation are proud to have defended Sergeant Mercer’s rights and secured him a settlement that vindicates his free association,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, it’s disgraceful that CSPU union officials targeted Mercer, a dedicated public safety officer, with such a vicious retribution scheme in the first place. Public servants should not have to endure multi-year lawsuits just so they can refrain from supporting union politics they oppose.”
“Situations like these demonstrate why the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME decision, which the U.S. Supreme Court decided while Mercer’s case was ongoing, is so important,” Mix added. “As was obvious in Mercer’s case, unelected public sector union bosses often wield their enormous clout over government to serve the union’s private interests over the public interest. That’s why it’s vital that public employees can exercise their First Amendment Janus right to cut off all financial support of union bosses who are contorting government in this way.”
Louisville Ford Assembly Plant Employee Wins Refund in Case Charging UAW Union Officials and Ford with Illegally Seizing Dues Money
Embattled UAW and Ford back down and settle case; numerous UAW officials currently serving sentences for embezzlement and corruption
Louisville, KY (April 26, 2023) – A Ford Louisville Assembly plant employee has just prevailed in her federal cases against the United Automobile Workers (UAW) Local 862 union and her employer. Shiphrah Green charged union officials in October 2022 with illegally seizing dues money from her paycheck and threatening her job after she exercised her right to refrain from union membership. Green filed a similar charge against Ford for its role in the scheme.
Green received free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, who asserted her rights before National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 9 in Cincinnati. In addition to the illegal dues deductions and threats, Green’s October 2022 charges also detailed that UAW and Ford officials had forced her to navigate several unnecessary and unlawful steps to end her financial support for the union.
Foundation attorneys argued that the UAW union and Ford violated her rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects American private sector employees’ right to refrain from any or all union activities. Additionally, Kentucky is a Right to Work state, meaning that state law prohibits union officials and employers from requiring workers to join or pay union dues or fees to keep their jobs.
Now, pursuant to settlements, Green will be reimbursed for all the dues illegally seized from her paycheck. UAW and Ford must also post notices informing workers that they will no longer continue to take dues from employees’ paychecks after they have resigned from the union, or create unlawful roadblocks to terminating membership or stopping dues deductions.
UAW Officials Block Employee from Exercising Basic Rights
According to her charges, Green sent correspondence to both UAW and Ford officials on April 21, 2022, informing them she was resigning her union membership and cutting off union dues deductions from her wages. Neither granted her request, and Green instead received an email from UAW Local 862’s president notifying her that she must come to the union hall to be shown the purportedly “correct” method to leave the union.
At a meeting with union officials at the UAW union hall on April 25, 2022, UAW officials interrogated Green about why she wanted to leave the union. They also demanded she sign a letter listing “benefits” Green would supposedly forgo if she went through with exiting the union.
The charge contended that NLRB precedent prohibits requiring workers to sign such a document so they can exercise their right to end their union membership and stop dues deductions. UAW Local 862’s president apparently went even further. According to the charge, he told Green “if it were up to me, you’d lose your job for leaving the union.”
As this chain of events with the union was unfolding, Green was also trying to get Ford management to end the dues deductions. This also proved fruitless, as Ford officials gave her several confusing responses and even told her at one point that, under the union monopoly bargaining contract, she could only cease dues deductions in February 2023 – even though paperwork she signed previously stated it could be revoked at will.
The charges contended that Ford violated federal law by “continuing to take full union dues” from Green’s paycheck at union bosses’ behest even after she had requested that they stop. The charges also stated that UAW Local 862 violated the law by continuing to accept those illegally-seized dues, by “restricting her union membership resignation, and by making threatening comments that would chill an ordinary employee’s exercise of Section 7 rights.”
After an investigation into the charges, NLRB Region 9 agreed that Ford and UAW officials’ actions violated federal law. To avoid a federal prosecution for their illegal actions, the company and union quickly settled.
Green’s Foundation-won settlements mandate that Ford and the UAW union return all money taken from Green’s paycheck since April 21, 2022, the date she first tried to resign from the union. UAW officials must also abstain from threatening that “you should or could incur disciplinary problems and job loss with Ford Motor Company Louisville Assembly Plant . . . because you inform us that you are resigning from the union.”
Systemic UAW Disrespect for Workers’ Rights May Be Rampant at Louisville Ford Plant
“The recent federal probe into UAW officials stealing and misusing workers’ money has sent multiple top UAW bosses to jail, and uncovered a shocking culture of contempt for workers’ rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As Ms. Green’s case shows, these issues are systemic and widespread, and any other Louisville Ford Assembly Plant worker facing UAW union boss attempts to coerce union membership or dues payment should contact the Foundation for free aid in protecting their legal rights.”
“Louisville Ford Assembly employees should know that, under Kentucky’s Right to Work law, union bosses can’t force them to join or pay any money to the union as a condition of employment,” Mix added.
With Right to Work Repeal Coming, Michigan Workers Seek a Vote to End Union ‘Representation’ They Oppose
Majority of TerryBerry employees in Grand Rapids signed decertification petition seeking to oust machinist union
Grand Rapids, MI (April 25, 2023) – TerryBerry Company employee Mary Soltysiak filed a petition for dozens of her coworkers with the National Labor Relations Board Region 7 (NLRB) seeking a vote to remove the International Association of Machinist of Aerospace Engineers (IAM) District Lodge 60/Local Lodge 475 union officials’ forced representation powers.
This workers’ decertification petition comes in the wake of Michigan legislators ramming through a bill to repeal their state’s decade-old and highly popular Right to Work law. When the repeal law takes effect, union officials will once again have the power to force workers to pay up or be fired in workplaces where the union has forced “representation” powers.
Mary Soltysiak and her coworkers at TerryBerry Company filed for a decertification vote on April 14, 2023, with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys. Previously, she had been under the protections of the Michigan Right to Work law since 2018. Her decertification petition contained signatures of a majority of the employees in the unit.
Under federal labor law, workers can trigger such a decertification vote with the support of 30% of workers in a unionized workplace. The NLRB should then promptly schedule a secret ballot election to determine whether a majority of workers want to end union officials’ power to impose a contract, including forced dues, on workers.
National Right to Work Foundation-backed reforms the NLRB adopted in 2020 made it somewhat easier for workers to exercise their right to hold votes to remove unwanted union officials. However, the Biden-appointed NLRB is currently engaging in rulemaking to roll back these protections and make it much harder to decertify a union.
Even under the 2020 “Election Protection Rule” overcoming union tactics to block such votes can often be difficult, which is why workers are encouraged to contact the Foundation for free legal representation in navigating the process. Worker interest in removing unwanted unions is growing nationwide, especially in Michigan. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys field numerous requests for free legal assistance in decertification cases, like the one brought by Soltysiak and her coworkers.
The NLRB’s own data shows that, currently, a unionized private sector worker is far more likely to be involved in a decertification effort as a nonunion worker is to be involved in a unionization campaign. NLRB statistics also show a 20% increase in decertification petitions last year versus 2021.
“Poll after poll showed that Michigan voters overwhelmingly supported Michigan’s Right to Work law, which doesn’t prevent a single person from voluntarily joining or paying dues to a union, but merely protects workers from being fired for non-payment,” observed Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Instead of listening to voters and trusting workers to decide whether or not to subsidize union activities, anti-Right to Work legislators and Governor Whitmer decided to cater to politically-connected union bosses and gave them the power to extort workers to pay up or be fired.”
“As Michigan workers again face the prospect of mandatory union dues, we expect more will follow these TerryBerry workers and seek an end to union officials’ so-called ‘representation’ in their workplaces,” continued Mix. “Being forced under a union you oppose is bad enough, but then being told to pay up or be fired is even worse. Michigan workers should know that National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys stand ready to assist them in exercising their right to decertify unwanted unions.”
Philadelphia Public Defender Hits UAW Union with Charge for Illegally Threatening Wage Cut
Union official threatened Public Defenders who refused to authorize union to automatically deduct dues from their paychecks
Philadelphia, PA (April 24, 2023) – Philadelphia Public Defender Brunilda Vargas has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against the United Autoworkers (UAW) Local 5502 union. The charge states that a union official threatened to reduce her wages and those of her coworkers if they refused to grant the union the power to deduct union dues directly from their paychecks. Vargas is receiving free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
On April 18, 2023, Vargas filed the charge with the National Labor Relations Board Region 4 (NLRB) for the threats made against her and her colleagues at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. These threats came from a UAW union official against public defenders who chose not to sign automatic dues deduction authorization forms.
Because private sector workers in Pennsylvania lack the protection of a state Right to Work law, some union fees can be required as a condition of employment. However, employees can never be required to authorize automatic dues deductions from their paychecks under long-established federal law.
Had Vargas lived in a Right to Work state, not only would she have the right to refrain from automatic dues deductions from her paycheck, but also, she could refrain from financially supporting the union altogether. In Right to Work states, workers are fully-protected from mandatory union membership and financial support, both of which must be completely voluntary.
“It is appalling that a UAW Local 5502 union official would threaten public defenders’ wages for refusing to authorize deductions straight from their paychecks,” stated Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “If anything, UAW officials’ blatant disregard for longstanding federal law demonstrates why these public defenders are right to not want union officials pulling union dues directly out of their paychecks.”
“This case shows why Pennsylvania workers need the protection of a Right to Work law, so every worker can decide for themselves whether or not the union that supposedly represents them deserves their financial support,” added Mix.
National Right to Work Foundation Files Brief at Michigan Supreme Court Blasting TPOAM Union’s Forced Fee Scheme
Union “fee-for-grievance” scheme unlawfully pressures employees to become union members; Right to Work repeal does not make scheme legal
Lansing, MI (April 21, 2023) – The National Right to Work Foundation filed an amicus brief at the Michigan Supreme Court, opposing a scheme used by Technical, Professional, and Officeworkers Association of Michigan (TPOAM) union officials that weaponizes the union’s control over the grievance process to force nonmember public employees into paying fees to the union.
The case at issue is Technical, Professional and Officeworkers Association of Michigan (TPOAM) v. Daniel Lee Renner, in which Saginaw County employee Daniel Renner is challenging TPOAM union bosses’ so-called “fee-for-grievance” arrangement. Under it, union officials deprive Renner and other nonmember public employees of any power to file grievances themselves, and instead mandate that they pay fees to use the union’s grievance system – fees which often amount to a sum far greater than union dues.
Both the Michigan Employment Relations Committee (MERC) and the Michigan Court of Appeals have already rejected union officials’ arguments that they can refuse to file grievances for nonmembers unless nonmembers pay union fees. In Renner’s case, union officials demanded $1,290 from him simply to process his grievance to the first stage. Additionally, the union made clear to Renner that if the actual costs were higher as the proceeding continued, he would be responsible for more payments.
The current filing is the second amicus brief that the Foundation has submitted in the case. Notably, it addresses how Michigan legislators’ recent move to repeal the state’s popular Right to Work laws does not save the “fee-for-grievance” scheme from illegality. Michigan’s Right to Work protections prohibit union bosses from forcing workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, and remain valid until the repeal takes effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns, which is expected to be sometime in early 2024.
Forcing Nonmembers to Pay into Union Grievance System Violates Free Choice Rights
The brief refutes union arguments that the “fee-for-grievance” scheme does not restrain or coerce Renner or other union nonmembers in violation of their right under Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) to refrain from union activity. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law that PERA is based on, has consistently been interpreted “more broadly than simply prohibiting union or employer violence or heavy handed reprisals,” the brief points out.
The brief notes that the 1953 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case Hughes Tool Co. specifically held that a union’s refusal to process a nonmember’s grievance because he did not pay a fee violates workers’ right to refrain from union activity under the NLRA. “The NLRB has consistently reaffirmed these principles and Hughes Tool remains good law today,” the brief says.
In addition to ignoring a long line of NLRB precedents, the brief concludes, “TPOAM cavalierly defends its illegal fee on the basis that Renner made a choice to be a nonmember and he is the one requesting TPOAM assistance.” However, because Renner has a right under Michigan law to abstain from union activity, “[t]he fact TPOAM treated him differently because he exercised that statutory right is evidence it committed an unfair labor practice, not a defense.”
“TPOAM union officials’ scheme forcing nonmember public employees to pay into a union grievance system is illegal, just as it was both before and during Right to Work’s enactment in Michigan,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As the Foundation’s amicus brief shows, TPOAM’s position ignores mountains of precedent and lets union bosses keep mandating fees designed to force dissenting workers into full union membership, in obvious violation of their rights.”
“Michigan public employees should also know that, as per the landmark Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision, they can’t be fired for refusal to join or financially support a union,” Mix added.
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice to Rutgers Professors Impacted by Union Officials’ Strike Order
Rutgers employees can legally attend work regardless of union boss demands to strike
New Brunswick, NJ (April 13, 2023) – Today, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has issued a special legal notice to professors and other employees of Rutgers University. The notice was issued to inform Rutgers employees of their individual rights during the union official-ordered strike currently taking place.
The legal notice is available at the Foundation’s website: https://www.nrtw.org/legal-notice/legal-notice-rutgers04122023/.
On the morning of Monday, April 10, union officials from three Rutgers unions ordered a strike against the university. The officials were from the Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union (RAFU); Rutgers American Association of University Professors, American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT); and Rutgers American Association of University Professors, Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey (AAUP-BHSNJ).
The legal notice explains that, despite the lack of Right to Work protections in the state of New Jersey, non-union public sector workers still have rights under the First Amendment to abstain from union financial support. These rights are bolstered by the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court ruling.
“The United States Supreme Court has held that nonmembers of a public-sector union have a First Amendment right not to pay any union fees or dues, unless they have freely waived their First Amendment rights,” the notice reads. “A union has the burden of proving employees waived their First Amendment rights by ‘clear and compelling’ evidence.”
In regards to union members, the Foundation’s notice informs workers that they maintain the right to resign from union membership at any time. The notice also suggests, if employees wish to continue working during the strike and avoid union discipline such as fines, that current union members resign their union membership at least one full day before returning to work.
“It is Foundation attorneys’ best legal opinion that public sector employees have the right to resign their membership in a union at any time. At least two federal district courts have reached that conclusion,” mentions the notice. “If you are now a union member and want to work during the strike, you should seriously consider resigning your union membership at least one day, if not more, BEFORE you return to work during the strike.”
“By initiating a strike that affects thousands of Rutgers employees, these union bosses are not only threatening the education of students, but are also potentially upending the livelihoods of countless families,” commented National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “Rutgers professors should know that they have the right to reject union boss strike orders and can continue working.”
“Unfortunately union misinformation and intimidation tactics are all too common during union boss-ordered strikes, which is why rank-and-file Rutgers employees must be on alert and should immediately contact the Foundation for free legal aid if they believe union officials may be violating their legal rights,” added Mix.