Employee’s Federal Lawsuit Against Steelworkers Alleges “Window Period” Policy Violates Wisconsin’s Right to Work Law
Lawsuit seeks to enforce Right to Work law provision that Wisconsin Attorney General Kaul refused to defend at the US Supreme Court last month
Burlington, Wisc. (June 4, 2019) – An employee at Packaging Corporation of America’s (PCA) Burlington, WI facility has just filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin against United Steelworkers Local 231 for enforcing a dues collection policy in violation of both federal labor law and a provision of Wisconsin’s Right to Work law.
According to Martin Carter’s lawsuit, which was filed with free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, United Steelworkers (USW) union agents subjected him to a dues checkoff authorization policy that violates federal law by being irrevocable for longer than one year, and violates Wisconsin’s Right to Work law by not allowing employees to stop dues deductions at any time with a 30-day notice.
According to the complaint, Carter believed upon being hired that signing off on the dues checkoff authorization was a condition of employment. When he tried to revoke that authorization later and exercise his rights under Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, which makes union dues and membership voluntary, union agents stonewalled his attempts deliver his revocation letter.
Carter’s lawsuit follows controversy surrounding Wisconsin’s new Democratic Attorney General, Josh Kaul. Last month Kaul withdrew the state’s petition asking the Supreme Court to review a lower court decision that part of Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, which gives private sector employees the right to revoke their dues “checkoff” with 30 days’ notice, was preempted by federal labor law. Rather than defend Wisconsin’s law, Kaul sided with union officials whom reports show gave his campaign for attorney general more than $400,000 in direct contributions, with union affiliates being his seven largest contributors.
Kaul’s capitulation left standing a divided 2-1 U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision that federal law preempts states like Wisconsin from protecting workers seeking to stop dues payments. Carter’s lawsuit brings this issue back to federal court, potentially giving the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to decide an issue that it was blocked from considering when Kaul reneged on his campaign pledge to defend Wisconsin laws, even those passed under the Walker administration.
“Martin Carter’s case shows there are real worker victims of Attorney General Kaul’s dereliction of his duty to defend all of Wisconsin’s laws,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As this case shows, union bosses play fast and loose with workers’ rights in their attempt to trap them into forced dues payments against their will, which is precisely why Wisconsin legislators enacted the Right to Work law’s provision giving workers the option of cutting off dues payments within 30 days of asking to do so.”
Milwaukee Workers Challenge NLRB “Merger Doctrine” that Blocks Workers from Holding Vote to Remove Unwanted Union
After being unionized through coercive “card check,” workers are blocked from holding secret ballot vote by biased NLRB rules
Milwaukee, Wisc. (June 3, 2019) – A clerical employee at trucking company USF Holland’s Milwaukee, WI facility has just asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to overturn an NLRB Regional Director’s dismissal of her petition to hold a vote to decertify the Teamsters Local 200 union as the monopoly bargaining agent at her workplace.
Diane Damask’s petition, filed with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, challenges the so-called “merger doctrine,” which allows union officials to “merge” employees in a small bargaining unit into a much larger one to block them from voting to decertify the union. Damask’s request for review notes that the Teamsters performed such a scheme at her small clerical office in an agreement with USF Holland – without fully explaining the ramifications to the employees.
According to the request for review, Region 18’s dismissal of her petition wrongly stifles her rights because it “makes it effectively impossible for employees in such mega-units to exercise their…rights to decertify a union through a secret ballot election” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). As the petition points out, this is not the first time the workers’ statutory rights to hold a decertification election to remove a union they oppose has been stifled by internal NLRB rules not mandated by the NLRA.
The Teamsters originally had scheduled an NLRB-supervised unionization election in January 2018, but then cancelled the vote after cutting a backroom deal with USF Holland to bypass the protections of a secret ballot vote, and instead unionize the workers through the coercive “card check” process. Upset by the situation, Damask and her colleagues quickly circulated a petition to trigger a secret ballot decertification vote only to be told by the NLRB that – under the controversial “voluntary recognition” bar adopted by the Obama NLRB – the workers would have to wait up to a full year before they could file a petition.
Having waited a full year for the NLRB-created “bar” after a card check to expire, now the workers – a majority of whom signed the decertification petition – find themselves blocked again from holding a secret ballot vote by a merger agreement over which they had no real say. In fact, it was not until after Damask had her decertification petition rejected that she learned that, according the merger agreement, she and her eight coworkers at their facility were now deemed part of a nationwide “mega-unit” of approximately 24,000 employees working for multiple employers.
Because triggering a decertification vote requires the signatures of thirty percent of workers in the bargaining unit, under the “merger” such a petition is virtually impossible as she would need to collect 7,000 signatures from workers across the country she has no way of even locating.
Damask’s petition argues that the Teamsters and USF Holland improperly “‘waived’ the Milwaukee clerical employees’ rights under the [NLRA] to decertify an unwanted union” and that “if the…clerical employees constituted a separate appropriate unit for purposes of selecting the Teamsters to represent them…the Board should still consider them a(n)…appropriate unit for purposes of removing the union.”
“This case shows how union bosses, aided by biased NLRB-concocted rules, can trap workers in union ranks for years even when a majority of the workers want out,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “It’s time for the NLRB to stop dragging its feet and reform its arbitrary rules, including the so-called ‘merger doctrine,’ that are being used to eviscerate workers’ statutory right under the National Labor Relations Act to hold a vote to remove a union opposed by a majority of employees.”
Transportation Worker Asks Federal Labor Board to Review “Settlement Bar” Doctrine that Blocks Votes to Remove Union
Employees’ right under National Labor Relations Act to hold decertification vote is blocked by settlement between union and company
Chicago, IL (June 3, 2019) – An employee at Langer Transport Corporation’s Joliet, IL, facility has asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to review a ruling by NLRB Region 13 that blocks workers at the company from holding a vote to remove the Teamsters from their workplace.
Angelika Van Meeteren’s petition comes after the Teamsters union officials and Langer last October settled earlier unfair labor practice charges filed by the union against Langer. The agreement included a “settlement bar” clause immunizing the union from any decertification attempts for an entire year.
Van Meeteren and her coworkers who want the decertification vote were not parties to the agreement. Although not authorized by the National Labor Relations Act, prior NLRB actions created the so-called “settlement bar” doctrine, which denies workers their right to hold a vote to remove a union for a period of time after the settlement of charges filed against the employer. The bar is often imposed even when the settlement does not contain any admission that the employer violated the law.
Van Meeteren’s petition, which was filed with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, argues that settlement decertification bars “have no basis in the [National Labor Relations] Act” and “offend basic principles of justice” because they prevent employees from exercising their right to hold a decertification vote simply because a company and a union came to an agreement forbidding it — without any input from the employees. That right is guarded by Section 7 of the NLRA, which explicitly protects “the right to refrain from” union representation.
Foundation staff attorneys have fought “settlement bars” on a number of fronts, most recently in a federal lawsuit filed for Marcia Williams and Karen Wunz, two Pennsylvania school bus drivers whose decertification petition was blocked by the NLRB after their employer Krise Transportation came to a settlement with Teamsters Local 397. That lawsuit was eventually deemed moot, because the bar expired while the litigation was proceeding, thus allowing the workers to hold a vote. The Foundation also sent a letter to the NLRB last December requesting that future rulemaking by the Board address “settlement bars” and their inherent conflicts with the NLRA.
“The NLRB-concocted ‘settlement bar’ doctrine is an assault on fundamental fairness by restricting workers’ legal right to remove an unpopular union solely because of unproven allegations made against their employer by union officials,” commented National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “The Act is supposed to protect the right of workers to join or reject a union. Punishing Angelika Van Meeteren and her coworkers by blocking their petition to vote out a union they oppose, despite the fact no one even alleges the workers broke any law, is totally contrary to that fundamental purpose.”
Workers file NLRB charges against UFCW union for failing to follow Supreme Court precedent requiring disclosures about dues demands
Washington, D.C. (May 30, 2019) – Two separate unfair labor practice charges just filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against two locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) suggest widespread violations of workers’ legal rights by UFCW union officials.
The charges, filed with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, state union officials failed to provide legally required breakdowns of how forced union fees were calculated as mandated by the 1988 CWA v. Beck Supreme Court case. Under the National Labor Relations Act and the National Right to Work Foundation-won Beck case, union officials must provide an audited financial breakdown to justify the amount of the union fees that they force nonmember workers to pay as a condition of employment.
Salem, Oregon Safeway employee Harvey Henry filed his NLRB charge against UFCW Local 555. In response to an April 18 letter sent by Henry objecting to full union dues and resigning his membership in the union, UFCW officials acknowledged his letter but simply quoted again what “he owes rather than providing him with the requisite financial ‘breakdown.’”
Similarly, Carolee Buckley, who works at the Plattdeutsche Home Society retirement home in Franklin Square, NY, sent a letter last October to UFCW Local 2013 union officials resigning her union membership and objecting to all dues beyond what union officials can legally require her to pay. Her charge states that, in the nearly seven months since that time, UFCW officials have not given her the required breakdown of how the fees they are demanding she pay are calculated.
The charges are not the only cases currently pending against the UFCW for this type of violation. Last May, a 16-year-old Safeway clerk from Danville, CA filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against UFCW Local 5 for failing to provide him with a breakdown of compulsory fees following his resignation, also with Foundation aid. In April, the NLRB Regional Director issued a complaint against UFCW Local 5 to prosecute the union for violating the clerk’s rights, with a trial set to begin soon.
All three employees work in states – Oregon, New York and California – that lack Right to Work laws, which make union membership and financial support completely voluntary. Despite the lack of Right to Work protections for workers, even in forced dues states union officials must provide certain disclosures to workers to justify the amount of the forced union fees, but the unfair labor practice charges say UFCW union officials are not complying with that requirement.
“As these three cases demonstrate, UFCW union bosses are willing to violate the rights of the very workers they claim to represent, just to fill their coffers with more forced union dues,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These cases show why workers nationwide need the protection of Right to Work laws, which make union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary. As long as union officials can force workers to pay even a portion of full union dues as a condition of employment, greedy Big Labor bosses will continue to cook the books and keep workers in the dark about the restrictions on their privileges to force nonmembers to fund their agenda.”
Supreme Court Asked to Hear Challenge to Washington State Scheme Forcing Childcare Providers Under SEIU Union Representation
High Court should apply First Amendment scrutiny and strike down law forcing childcare business owners to associate with SEIU
Washington, D.C. (May 24, 2019) – A Washington State childcare provider is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Miller v. Inslee, a case which challenges the state’s requirement that businesses which receive state funds for providing childcare to low-income families accept the monopoly representation of the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU). The Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for plaintiff Katherine Miller, who is challenging the scheme as a violation of her First Amendment rights of free speech and association.
Miller, who runs a childcare business from her home, is deemed a “public employee” by the State of Washington solely because part of her business revenue includes subsidies the state provides to low-income families to be used on childcare. As a result, Washington granted SEIU union officials the power to force her under their union monopoly bargaining scheme and dictate the terms of how she runs her home-based business.
The petition asks the court to hold government-mandated forced “representation” to the same First Amendment standard that led the Supreme Court to find in the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision that forced union fees violate the First Amendment. In that ruling, the Supreme Court also held that government-granted union monopoly bargaining power over public employees is “a significant impingement on associational freedoms that would not be tolerated in other contexts.”
In this case, Miller maintains that Washington’s policy breaches the First Amendment by forcing her to associate with union officials whose representation she doesn’t want and to which she didn’t consent. Miller’s argument also cites the High Court’s holding in the 2014 Harris v. Quinn case, which invalidated forced union fees for similar home-based care providers on the grounds that they are not full-fledged “public employees.” The petition argues that finding, in combination with the Supreme Court’s observation in Janus regarding forced association in “other contexts,” warrants Supreme Court review.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys successfully argued and briefed both the Janus and Harris cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. In both cases the Supreme Court applied a heightened level of “exacting” First Amendment scrutiny to the government-imposed forced dues, which is what Miller asks the Court to apply in her case challenging forced association with a union.
“Based on misreadings of not only Janus but also earlier Supreme Court precedent, courts across the country have looked the other way as union bosses and their allies in government have come up with increasingly outrageous schemes to force individuals under union monopolies against their will,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “If Katherine Miller, who runs a small business out of her own home, can be forced to associate with a union simply because she cares for children whose care is partially subsidized by the government, then there is no legal limit to who can be forced to accept a government-appointed ‘representative’ to speak to and lobby the government for them.”
United Airlines Worker’s Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Forced Union Dues “Opt-Out” Scheme as Violation of First Amendment
Federal complaint: IAM union opt-out requirement to escape payment for union officials’ political activities violates Supreme Court’s Janus precedent
Austin, TX (May 23, 2019) – A United Airlines fleet service employee has filed a class action lawsuit in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union challenging its requirement that he “opt-out” of paying for union officials’ political and ideological activities.
According to the complaint, which was filed with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the opt-out scheme violates workers’ rights under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), and the First Amendment under the standard laid out in the landmark 2018 Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME. The lawsuit contends that, under Janus as well as the 2012 Knox v. SEIU Supreme Court case – both of which were argued by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys – no union dues or fees can be charged beyond the maximum that can legally be required without a worker’s affirmative consent.
The employee, Arthur Baisley, is not a member of the IAM but is still forced to pay union fees. Despite being based in the Right to Work state of Texas, the Railway Labor Act pre-empts state Right to Work protections which make union membership and financial support strictly voluntary. However, under longstanding law even without Right to Work protections, nonmembers cannot be required to fund a union’s ideological activities such as lobbying and politics.
The lawsuit challenges the burdensome procedure IAM union officials created for workers seeking to exercise their right not to fund the “nonchargable” activities. The complaint lays out the convoluted union boss-created process that workers must jump through just to prevent dues from being taken in violation of their First Amendment rights.
Baisley’s experience with these requirements demonstrates how the opt-out procedure is used to violate workers’ rights by getting them to pay for union politics without their consent. Even though he sent a letter to IAM agents in November 2018 to object to funding all union political activities, the union officials only accepted his objection for 2019, and told Baisley he would be required to renew his objection to full dues and fees next year or else be charged for full union dues.
The complaint challenges this union-created policy on the grounds that it “require[s] employees to opt-out of paying union fees that they have no legal obligation to pay” and thus breaches workers’ First Amendment rights. The complaint also alleges that the IAM’s “opt-out requirement” violates the RLA, which governs labor in the air and rail industries and “protects the right of employees to ‘join, organize, or assist in organizing’ a union of their choice as well as the right to refrain from any of those activities.”
The class action lawsuit asks the court to strike down the op-out requirement not only as it is applied to Baisley, but also for his coworkers whose rights are similarly restricted by the IAM’s illegal policy. Union officials would then be required to get nonmember workers to give affirmative consent to paying for union boss activities beyond what nonmember workers can legally be required to subsidize under the RLA.
“For too long union bosses have enforced deliberately complicated opt-out requirements with the aim of trapping workers into paying for union boss politics despite the fact that, as nonmembers, they have already chosen not to affiliate with the union,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “The case shows the far-reaching implications of the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME case, which ruled government unions must get public employees to affirmatively consent before funding a union because all speech directed at the government is inherently political.”
“This case simply seeks to apply the same legal standard to workers like Mr. Baisley who are subjected to mandatory union payments under the Railway Labor Act by requiring union officials to get workers to opt-in to the portion of dues that the union already admits is spent on ideological and political activities,” added Mix.
Stop and Shop Employee Files Second Charge Against UFCW After Union Officials Move to Impose Illegal Fines for Working During Strike
Union agents previously misinformed worker about his rights, and now seek to impose punitive strike fines in internal union kangaroo court
Northampton, Mass. (May 20, 2019) – Matthew Coffey, an employee of a Northampton, MA Stop & Shop, has filed a new unfair labor practice charge against the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1459. Coffey, one of thousands of Stop & Shop employees across New England who were ordered to strike by UFCW union officials in mid-April, added to his earlier charges against the union by alleging that UFCW officials have illegally moved to discipline him for exercising his right to continue to work during the strike.
The new charge points out Coffey had never been a voluntary union member and therefore cannot be subject to internal union discipline, a process in which union officials punish workers who defy their orders. In some instances, union officials have levied fines as high as tens of thousands of dollars against rank-and-file workers they claim to “represent.”
As the charge notes, Coffey had been misled by union officials into believing that Stop & Shop is a “closed shop” since the beginning of his employment in December 2017. He was thus coerced into joining the UFCW thinking that union membership was required to keep his job. It wasn’t until the April strike that he discovered that “closed shops” are illegal under federal law and that he had the right to refrain from formal union membership. Because of this he was never actually a voluntary member of the UFCW, a condition necessary for union discipline to be legally imposed.
Armed with this new knowledge, he filed his first charge against UFCW Local 1459 on April 17 with help from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Foundation. That charge detailed the union misinformation regarding his legal right to refrain from union membership and resign before the strike. It also detailed harassment he received, including personal slurs, because he continued to work during the strike.
According to Coffey’s new charge, also filed with free legal aid from the Foundation, UFCW Local 1459 officials sent him a letter on April 30 which “inform[ed] him that he would be disciplined” for continuing to perform his job during the strike. The letter demanded that Coffey appear before a union tribunal on May 14 to defend himself from the disciplinary charges.
Because Coffey had never been informed of his right to refrain from union activities, his charge alleges that the proposed disciplinary action is a further breach of his rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
“This case shows that strikes ordered by Big Labor bosses often include violations of workers’ individual rights,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “Matthew Coffey chose to exercise his right to work and support his family, and rather than respect that decision, UFCW bosses are doubling down on their illegal bullying.”
Teamsters, Company Hit with Federal Charges for Illegally Having Minnesota Worker Fired for Refusing to Join Union
Case highlights need for Right to Work protections for Minnesota workers, to ensure union membership and dues payment are strictly voluntary
Minneapolis, Minn. (May 16, 2019) – An ex-employee of CRH Companies Midwest Region, a building materials supplier, has filed unfair labor practice charges against the Teamsters Local 120 union and his former employer with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after being illegally fired. According to the charges, the worker was told – falsely – by both a Teamsters official and a company representative that he was required to join the union as a condition of employment.
James Connolly was first misinformed by union officials on April 2, when he inquired in an email to a Teamsters Local 120 Agent whether or not he would be compelled into joining the union as part of the job. The union’s reply came the same day, with an official wrongly telling Connolly, “Sorry James but yes you do have to join.” Later, on May 1, a representative of CRH Companies reiterated the same false information to Connolly. Connolly responded to the company in a May 9 email in which he expressed his desire not to join the Teamsters.
The next day, Connolly was fired in an email from his employer, specifically because he did not join the union. He then obtained free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, whose staff attorneys helped him file the NLRB unfair labor practice charges.
Minnesota is not a Right to Work state and thus allows unions to force nonmembers to pay some union fees as a condition of employment. However, all workers have a right not to formally join a union, and termination based on union non-membership is a clear violation of federal law.
Connolly’s charge also requests that the NLRB go to federal court and seek a “Section 10(j)” injunction against both the company and the Teamsters remedying the illegal termination.
“James Connolly is fighting for his rights against union boss bullies who have violated longstanding federal law,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “While this termination is blatantly illegal, it also underscores the need for Minnesota workers to have the protection of a Right to Work law, which would ensure that union membership and financial support are completely voluntary, and at the sole discretion of each individual employee.”
California Labor Board Moves to Prosecute Operating Engineers Union Officials for Intimidation Tactics Against Dissenting Workers
Union boss demanded personal emails of Sacramento-Yolo District workers seeking information about holding a vote to remove the union from their workplace
Sacramento, Calif. (May 15, 2019) – The California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has found merit to unfair labor practice charges brought by three Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District employees. Accordingly, PERB issued unfair labor practice complaints for all three employees against the Operating Engineers Local Union 3 (IOUE). According to the complaint, union officials illegally tried to obtain private correspondence of the employees concerning their right to remove the union from their workplace.
The employees, Brett Day, Ryan Wagner, and Mark Pipkin, were targeted by union officials after they discussed how to exercise their rights as workers under California’s Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA), which guarantees public workers “the right to refuse to join or participate in the activities of employee organizations” and “the right to represent themselves individually in their employment relations with the public agency.” Union agents requested from their employer all emails the three had sent containing the words or phrases “decertification,” “PERB,” “union,” “decertify,” “how to get rid of union,” “Public Employee Relations Board,” and “Meyers Milias Brown Act.”
The request came as IOUE officials sought to block a push for a decertification election, in which workers would vote in secret to determine whether a majority want to end the union’s monopoly representation. Under the National Right to Work Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the dissenting workers finally have the legal right to stop financial support of the union, but California law still forces the union on them as their monopoly bargaining agent.
Day, Wagner, and Pipkin defended themselves by obtaining free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys and filing charges with PERB. The workers’ charges argue that the union’s demand for employee emails contravenes the workers’ rights under MMBA and calls for the union to end all its illegal activities, acknowledge the violation of employee rights, and post notices to remind workers of their freedom to refrain from union activities.
Now the PERB has found merit in the employees’ charges that the union, by requesting emails, “interfered with employee rights guaranteed by the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act in violation of section 3506 and thus committed an unfair labor practice.” Absent settlement, the PERB will move to prosecute the union for violating the workers’ legal rights.
“Operating Engineers union bosses are apparently so determined to stop workers from even holding a vote regarding union representation that they resorted to illegal intimidation tactics against the very workers they claim to ‘represent,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As this case shows, even after the Janus decision recognized public workers’ legal right to stop subsidizing union activities, there remains much work to do to fully protect government employees from coercive union tactics.”
Labor Board Ruling: Michigan Teacher Union Officials Violated Employee’s Rights under Right to Work Law
In case brought by DeWitt school employee, MEA union ordered to stop illegal “window” policy blocking employees from ending dues payments
DeWitt, Michigan (May 10, 2019) – The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) has ruled in favor of a DeWitt public school employee and ordered the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teacher union and its local affiliate the DeWitt Educational Support Personnel Association (DESPA) to stop enforcing an illegal policy blocking workers from exercising their rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law.
The ruling is a victory for DeWitt Public Schools employee Kimberly Stepanski, who filed the case with free legal representation by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys after MEA and DESPA rejected her attempts to cut off union dues, using a union-created “window period” policy.
According to the ruling, the union-created “window period” scheme – which is designed to limit workers from stopping dues payments except for a brief, union-selected time period – violates Michigan’s Right to Work law. The ruling also requires MEA union officials to refund to Stepanski any dues money collected since her initial resignation and requires the union to notify other employees that the “window” policy is illegal.
Stepanski first learned of the union scheme after attempting to resign and cut off dues payments in November 2013, only to be told that she was forced to pay dues because she missed the union’s designated “window period.” Stepanski, who says she had never been informed of the union’s policy, later sent a series of emails to the union officials reaffirming her intent to exercise her right not be a union member and to not fund any union activities, as protected by Michigan’s Right to Work law for public employees.
The law, which doesn’t stop workers from voluntarily joining or paying dues to a union, forbids compelling “any public employee to…become or remain a member of a labor organization…or otherwise affiliate with or financially support a labor organization.” Despite that, MEA union officials rebuffed Stepanski’s requests, demanding that she continue paying dues because she had not submitted her resignation request during the “opt-out window.”
Stepanski, with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, then filed a charge at MERC in 2014 challenging the coercive scheme. In the ruling issued last week, MERC determined that MEA and DESPA had illegally “reject[ed] [Stepanski’s] revocation of her financial obligation and restrict[ed] her right to resign her membership at will.” It ordered the unions to end the “window period” scheme, stop collecting dues or fees from any employee after he or she has resigned union membership, and refund to Stepanski any dues that they had illegally taken since her November 2013 resignation.
The order is another recognition of the ruling in Saginaw, a 2015 Foundation-won case where MERC first found “window period” schemes to violate Michigan’s Right to Work law. That case and others brought by Foundation staff attorneys have resulted in numerous refunds for money taken under the illegal “window period” scheme.
“Even after National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed more than 100 cases against unions for forced unionism abuses since Michigan passed its Right to Work law, union bosses continue to systematically violate the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Hopefully, rather than continue to fight to trap the rank-and-file into forced dues payments, Michigan union officials will finally accept that Right to Work is the law, and refocus their efforts on actually convincing Wolverine State workers to voluntarily choose union activities.”