Ohio School Bus Driver Wins Settlement Against OAPSE Union Bosses Securing Refund of Dues Seized in Violation of Janus First Amendment Rights
OAPSE officials back down when faced with bus driver’s federal lawsuit challenging union’s “escape period” policy as violation of Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision
Cincinnati, OH (November 12, 2019) — With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Ripley Union Lewis Huntington School District bus driver Donna Fizer has just won a settlement requiring Ohio Association of Public School Employees/AFSCME Local 4 (OAPSE) union bosses to refund to her dues they seized from her paycheck in violation of her First Amendment rights.
Fizer’s victory comes after she hit OAPSE officials with a federal lawsuit contending that dues seizures they had made from her paycheck after she resigned her union membership infringed her rights under the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. Janus, which the High Court issued in June 2018, mandates that no public employee can be required to pay union fees as a condition of employment, and that union fees can only be collected from a public employee with an “affirmative and knowing” waiver of his or her First Amendment rights.
Fizer notified school board officials in September 2018 that she was “immediately withdrawing [her union] membership” and exercising her First Amendment Janus right to cut off union dues deductions. The school district treasurer quickly complied and stopped the deductions from her paycheck, but OAPSE bosses responded by filing a grievance which alleged that Fizer could not revoke except within a tiny, union-created “escape period” that occurs only 10 days every few years. OAPSE officials demanded in the grievance that the district “make OAPSE whole for all lost dues” and continue to take dues from her wages.
Though the district initially rebuffed the union’s request and responded that “the district will honor the Supreme Court ‘Janus Decision,’” later arbitration proceedings forced by OAPSE upheld the enforcement of the narrow “escape period.” The arbitrator ordered the district to continue seizing dues from Fizer’s paycheck and to seize an additional sum to “make OAPSE whole” for the time period in which the district honored Fizer’s Janus request and stopped deductions.
Fizer fought back by filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys. The complaint argued that OAPSE’s “escape period” imposed an illegal hindrance on public employees’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus.
Rather than face Foundation staff attorneys and the Janus precedent in federal court, union officials settled the case. OAPSE bosses have returned to Fizer all the dues they took from her paycheck since the date of her membership revocation, and have notified the district to “cease any further deduction of union dues from her paycheck.”
Foundation staff attorneys have been at the forefront of the fight to defend public employees’ rights under Janus, currently litigating over two dozen cases around the country to enforce the landmark decision. Most recently, Foundation staff attorneys won a settlement for New Mexico information technology worker David McCutcheon and his coworkers, who collectively received over $15,000 in refunds of dues seized by Communications Workers of America (CWA) bosses in violation of their Janus rights.
“Ms. Fizer’s win should serve as another reminder that public sector union bosses cannot legally limit public employees’ First Amendment rights through ‘escape periods’ and other similar schemes,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation will continue to offer free legal aid so workers can bring more lawsuits to ensure that public employees’ Janus rights are fully enforced.”
Labor Board to Prosecute NNOC Union for Violating Texas Nurse’s Rights, Union Forced to Settle Other Charge for Ripping Down Nurse’s Posters
National Labor Relations Board complaint says union officials are illegally refusing to turn over to worker a secret agreement between the employer and union bosses
Fort Worth, TX (November 7, 2019) — National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have won a settlement against the National Nurses Organizing Committee/Texas-National Nurses United union for Esther Marissa Zamora, a nurse at a hospital who was trying to educate her co-workers about unions, only to have her informational material seized by union officials. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) also issued a complaint against the union for refusing to give Zamora a copy of a “neutrality agreement” entered into by union officials and her employer.
Zamora works for Corpus Christi Medical Center-HCA in Corpus Christi, Texas, where unions hold monopoly bargaining power over the nurses. According to Zamora’s charge, she was informing her co-workers about the effects of unionization, only to have union officials rip down or confiscate her educational materials.
Faced with Zamora’s evidence, union officials agreed to settle that part of the case and now must post workplace notices that inform all workers about their rights to not join unions. The notices, which the union is required to post for 60 days, also tell workers that the NNOC/Texas-NNU will not “restrain or coerce you in the exercise of the above rights” and “will not confiscate or remove any employee’s flyers related to the union and/or union decertification efforts.”
On October 30, NLRB Region 16 in Fort Worth also issued a formal complaint against the union for refusing to turn over to Zamora a so-called “neutrality agreement” created in secret between the hospital chain where she works and the NNOC/NNU union officials. As an employee, Zamora is entitled to any agreements that the NNOC/NNU union makes with her employer.
So-called neutrality agreements often include special protections for union bosses that allow them access to workers on site and prevent the employer from voicing any opposition to unionization attempts. Some such agreements include promises by union officials to limit contract demands, in some cases even agreeing to wage or benefit limitations in exchange for company assistance in organizing workers.
In this case, Zamora argues that she is entitled to the secret agreement between her employer and NNOC/NNU because it controls her and other employee’s terms and conditions of employment by limiting how the hospital can deal with the union. Zamora’s unfair labor practice charge alleged that union officials accepted “unlawful support and assistance from the employer.”
As part of the NLRB’s complaint about the neutrality agreement, the Regional Office set a hearing date for January 27, 2020 before an NLRB administrative law judge.
“It is telling that union bosses are determined to keep rank-and-file nurses in the dark about the terms of the backroom deal the union struck with hospital officials in exchange for company assistance in organizing these nurses,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said. “So-called ‘neutrality agreements’ often sell-out workers to advance the interests of greedy union bosses, which is probably why the union refuses to disclose it to a nurse whom they know is educating her co-workers about the effects of unionization in her workplace.”
St. Louis Paramedic Appeals to National Labor Relations Board General Counsel in Case Charging Teamsters Officials with Illegal Retaliation
Regional NLRB officials dismissed charge against union even after NLRB General Counsel overturned dismissal in similar union intimidation case just months ago
St. Louis, MO (November 6, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, St. Louis-area paramedic Jarod Aubuchon is appealing his case against Teamsters Local 610 union bosses to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in Washington, DC. Aubuchon’s appeal follows his case’s partial dismissal by NLRB Region 14 officials, who recently dismissed a similar union intimidation case brought by Foundation staff attorneys only to have that decision overturned by the NLRB General Counsel on appeal.
Aubuchon, who is not a member of the Teamsters, posted flyers in common areas of his workplace to inform coworkers of their rights to resign union membership and pay only the portion of union fees directly related to bargaining under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Because Missouri lacks a Right to Work law, private sector employees can still be fired for not paying some union fees.
Aubuchon’s charge recounts that union agents tore down his postings and demanded that the employer, Medic One, discipline him for informing his coworkers of their Beck rights. Shortly afterward, he was brought into a management office and told to stop posting the rights notices. Actions by union officials that cause an employer to discriminate against workers on such grounds are prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The NLRB General Counsel will now review Aubuchon’s case against the union. This July, the General Counsel reversed Region 14 officials’ dismissal of a similar case brought by Foundation staff attorneys for Kansas City-area hospital worker Kacy Warner.
Warner charged officials of the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) union with illegally interfering with a petition she was circulating for a vote to remove the union, including tearing down flyers she had hung in bathrooms and other common areas in her workplace informing employees of the petition. Despite an order from the NLRB General Counsel’s office over three months ago reversing Region 14’s dismissal and demanding that region officials prosecute NNOC for even more rights violations than Warner had mentioned in her original charge, Region 14 has not yet taken action in that case.
The Regional Director was also overturned by the full NLRB in Washington earlier this month for wrongfully dismissing a decertification petition submitted by Illinois-based Pinnacle Foods worker Robert Gentry. After United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union officials agreed to a settlement with Pinnacle Foods which was unrelated to Gentry’s petition, Region 14 dismissed Gentry’s petition at the behest of union bosses as part of approving the settlement. Following the Board’s reversal, Region 14 has finally scheduled the long-awaited decertification vote to take place on November 15.
“The NLRB is charged with enforcing workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act, yet there is a disturbing pattern of Region 14 failing to enforce the rights of rank-and-file workers when doing so advances the interests of union bosses,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It should not take an appeal to Washington, DC, for workers to have their rights fully protected against union boss abuses.”
Operating Engineers Union Hit with Charge for Illegally Demanding Forced Union Fees from Worker in Violation of Supreme Court’s Janus Decision
More than a year after court recognized First Amendment protects state workers from mandatory union payments, IOUE union officials claim forced fees are legal in California
Sacramento, CA (October 31, 2019) – A Sacramento County employee has filed an unfair labor practice charge with California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Stationary Engineers Local 39. His charge, filed with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, states that union bosses demanded fees from him in violation of California labor law because they violated his First Amendment rights.
The employee, Ethan Morris, works at the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant and is not a member of IUOE Stationary Engineers. According to his charge, in July 2019 he received a notice from an IUOE financial secretary which claimed that “employees who do not join the Union must pay a…fee” to the union as a condition of employment, and that such mandatory fees are “legal and enforceable in California” via direct deductions from nonmember employees’ paychecks.
Morris’ charge argues that the union’s fee demands are a clear violation of his First Amendment rights under the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In Janus, a majority of the Court recognized that union dues or fees cannot be mandatory for public employees and may only be deducted from government workers’ paychecks if they have given “affirmative and knowing” waivers of their First Amendment right not to subsidize a union.
Morris’s charge maintains that IUOE Stationary Engineers bosses thus breached his rights under California’s Milias-Meyers-Brown Act (MMBA). That statute provides Golden State workers “the right to refuse to join or participate in the activities of employee organizations” and prohibits unions from “coerc[ing] or discriminat[ing] against” employees for exercising that right. Morris demands that union officials rectify the situation by stopping the illegal fee demands and posting a PERB-approved notice informing his coworkers of their right to refrain from union activities and acknowledging that compulsory fee demands violate that right.
Across the country, Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating more than 30 cases to defend public employees’ First Amendment rights under Janus, which was successfully argued at the US Supreme Court by Foundation staff attorney William Messenger. In addition, Foundation staff attorneys have already won several cases enforcing Janus, including one for Ventura County Community College District math professor Michael McCain after American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union officials illegally attempted to restrict the time period in which he and his colleagues could exercise their Janus rights and cut off dues payments. In July, McCain won a settlement requiring AFT union bosses to stop blocking workers from exercising those rights and to provide refunds to workers who had dues seized because of the illegal policy.
“Union bosses have been caught red-handed lying to workers about their Janus rights in this case because Ethan Morris learned his legal rights before signing them away in the face of their illegal demands. Yet, for every worker who rebuffs illegal union threats there are almost certainly thousands of workers who unknowingly sign away their rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case shows why states must proactively protect their workers’ First Amendment rights and ensure that every worker fully understands their Janus rights and must not deduct any union dues or fees unless a worker knowingly and voluntarily waives those rights.”
Teamsters Officials Misled Pepsi Employee About His Rights, Attempted to Have Him Fired for Asking About Leaving Union
Albany-area worker filed unfair labor practice charge against Teamsters at National Labor Relations Board with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation
Latham, NY (October 30, 2019) — National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed an unfair labor practice charge on behalf of an employee of a Pepsi plant, against a local Teamsters union after union officials wrongly told him he would have to join the union as a condition of employment, tried to get him fired and would not allow him to exercise his legal right to resign from the union.
Vince Zasonski works for a Pepsi-Cola production plant in Lathan, New York where Teamsters Local 294 have a bargaining agreement which includes a union security clause, making union payments mandatory. In the summer of 2018, Zasonski, who did not voluntarily join the union, wanted to leave union membership, but a union official told him that because New York is not a Right to Work state, he would have to stay in the union.
In that statement, which came after Zasonski inquired about resigning from the union, the union fundamentally misstated workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act and longstanding legal precedents. While New York workers lack Right to Work protections that make all union payments strictly voluntary, Empire State workers still have the right to resign their formal membership and pay only the portion of union dues allowed under the Supreme Court’s Communications Workers of America v. Beck decision, which said unions cannot force workers to pay for activities unrelated to bargaining such as union political and lobbying activities.
The official then tried to get Zasonski fired for seeking to resign his union membership. In August of 2019, Zasonski wrote to union officials to resign his union membership and assert his Beck rights.
Union officials, however, still have not responded to his letter or recognized his legal rights. The unfair labor practice charge Zasonski filed with the free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys states that union officials never explained that he could resign from the union or that he could assert his Beck rights, nor did they provide him with a breakdown of fees according to the Beck standard or reduce Zasonski’s dues as he asked.
The union continues to unlawfully take a cut of Zasonski’s paycheck as if he were a full member of the union despite his attempts to resign membership and exercise his rights not to pay dues that support union political activities in violation of his rights.
“Lying to employees about their right to resign from union membership and their ability to stop paying full dues shows what lengths greedy union bosses will go to pad union coffers, even if it means violating the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This case shows why every worker in America needs the protection of a Right to Work law that makes union membership and financial support strictly voluntary.”
Pinnacle Foods Employee Wins National Labor Relations Board Decision Affirming Right to Remove UFCW Union Opposed by Workers
NLRB: Settlement deal between employer and union officials cannot nullify workers’ legal right to hold a decertification election to remove union
Washington, DC (October 23, 2019) — With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an Illinois-based employee of Pinnacle Foods Group LLC (a Conagra Brands subsidiary), Robert Gentry, has just won a decision from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which affirms the right of workers to hold a vote to remove an unpopular union from their workplaces. The decision comes after union officials and Pinnacle Foods signed off on a settlement which the union and NLRB Regional Director claimed blocked Gentry and his coworkers from exercising their right to hold a union decertification election.
Gentry first submitted a petition for a decertification vote in August 2018. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881 union officials immediately attempted to block the election by filing unfair labor practice charges against Pinnacle Foods. Despite UFCW officials’ allegations being unrelated to Gentry’s petition to remove the union, the NLRB Region 14 Director approved a settlement between UFCW officials and Pinnacle Foods which purportedly created a seven-month “bar” on decertification elections, on top of a previous one-year “bar.”
Although not mandated or even mentioned by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), prior NLRB actions have created the so-called “settlement bar” doctrine, which blocks workers for a period of time from exercising their statutory right to hold a vote to remove a union.
With legal representation by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Gentry submitted a request for review to the NLRB in Washington, DC, demanding that the Board reverse the dismissal by the Region 14 Director and allow the decertification vote to proceed. The request argued that the Regional Director was wrong to use the settlement – to which Gentry was never party – to approve a block on the decertification election. “[T]he Regional Director cannot seriously contend that the petition should be dismissed…for the simple fact that…it is Mr. Gentry’s and the employees’ petition” and not that of the union or employer, the request reads.
The request further pointed out that the settlement agreement being used to block the workers right to a decertification vote contained a “non-admission” clause which plainly stated that the settlement “[did] not…constitute an admission, finding, or adjudication” that Pinnacle Foods had violated the NLRA. It also said that such a “mere presumption” of employer wrongdoing “is not…sufficient to thwart a decertification election.”
The decision from the NLRB in Washington, DC, now orders the Region 14 Director to process Gentry’s request for a decertification vote. The three-member majority agreed with the reasoning in Gentry’s request for review, ruling that “[b]ecause [Gentry] did not consent to the settlement agreement, we find that the settlement agreement can neither waive [his] right to have his decertification petition processed nor delay” a decertification election.
Foundation staff attorneys have long urged the NLRB to eliminate such “bar” doctrines that are not mandated by the statute enacted by Congress, which block workers from holding decertification votes authorized by the NLRA. Though agency officials announced last year that they would work in rulemaking to address some of these barriers to workers holding decertification votes, Foundation Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse wrote a letter last year encouraging the agency to go further and eliminate all “bars” which run contrary to the NLRA by trapping workers in union boss ranks where even large majorities oppose the union.
“Although it’s good news that Robert Gentry and his coworkers will belatedly be given the opportunity to exercise their right to remove a union they oppose, this case shows how the so-called ‘settlement bar’ and other ‘bars’ are manipulated by union bosses to trample workers’ statutory rights under federal labor law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union bosses should not be able to trap workers in union ranks on the basis of a settlement to which the workers were not party and to which they had no say.”
“It’s long past time the NLRB put employee free choice back at the center of American labor law and eliminated the numerous ‘bars’ and doctrines that block workers from exercising their right to removing union officials they oppose,” added Mix.
Foundation Wins Settlement in Case Challenging CWA Union Scheme to Block New Mexico State Employees from Exercising Janus Rights
Union officials to pay back more than $16,000 illegally seized from workers’ paychecks and remove union-imposed restrictions on cutting off dues payments
Albuquerque, N.M. (October 21, 2019) — National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have won a settlement in a case to protect New Mexico state employees’ rights as recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision last year.
As the result of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the Communication Workers of America (CWA) union, CWA union officials will refund thousands of dollars taken from state employees and eliminate a union policy that blocked workers from opting out of paying dues. The settlement agreement, executed last Thursday, resolved the class-action lawsuit filed in December by New Mexico Department of Information Technology (DoIT) employee David McCutcheon against CWA union Local 7076 and New Mexico’s State Personnel Director Pamela D. Coleman.
As part of the settlement, the union officials will remove the union-created “escape period” which limited when workers could revoke their dues authorization. The union will also pay back fully, plus interest, all dues taken from McCutcheon and others who had attempted to exercise their First Amendment rights under Janus, but were blocked from doing so because of the “escape period” restrictions.
“Local 7076 and CWA will not enter into any [union contract] with the State of New Mexico that restricts to a yearly window period the time when a bargaining unit member may revoke a previously authorized dues deduction authorization,” the settlement reads.
All told, CWA union officials will refund more than $15,000 taken from 67 state employees, plus an additional $1,000 paid to McCutcheon for dues taken before Janus. The settlement became final today when District Court Judge Martha Vazquez approved a joint motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
McCutcheon works as an IT technician at New Mexico’s DoIT and was forced to pay union dues as a member before the Janus ruling last summer. After the Foundation-won victory, McCutcheon attempted to end the dues payments only to be told he could only do so during a brief two-week period in December.
Public sector union bosses across the country have attempted to enforce such schemes to block workers from exercising their Janus rights, resulting in over a dozen cases brought with National Right to Work Foundation legal aid. In addition to McCutcheon’s lawsuit, union officials in Minnesota, Ohio and California have also rescinded such policies rather than litigate against Foundation staff attorneys in federal court.
“Respecting workers’ Janus rights is not optional, it’s the law. Public sector workers’ First Amendment rights cannot be limited to just a few days a year,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These union boss created ‘window periods’ clearly infringe on workers’ rights and are being struck down in lawsuits coast-to-coast brought with Foundation legal aid.”
National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice for Chicago Teachers Facing Strike: You Have Right to Refuse to Abandon Your Students
Recent cases brought by Foundation staff attorneys demonstrate union officials frequently mislead workers about their rights during a union-ordered strike
Chicago, IL (October 16, 2019) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have issued a special legal notice to the over 20,000 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers who will be affected by the strike planned by Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) union officials to begin on October 17.
The legal notice informs rank-and-file CPS teachers of the rights CPU bosses won’t tell them about, including that they have the right to refuse to abandon their students and to 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 strike raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike,” the notice reads. “Employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to be fully informed before they do so.”
The full notice is available at https://www.nrtw.org/ctu-strike/.
The notice clearly outlines the process that teachers should follow if they want to exercise their right to return to work during the strike and avoid punishment from union bosses, complete with sample union membership resignation letters. It also reminds teachers of their First Amendment right as public employees under the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision to cut off union dues deductions from their paychecks at any time. Teachers are encouraged in the notice to seek free legal aid from the Foundation if they experience illegal restrictions on any of these rights.
The Foundation has recently assisted multiple employees who have been targets of union boss rights violations around strikes. Foundation staff attorneys recently won cases for two Massachusetts grocery workers who had been intimidated and harassed during the high-profile April 2019 strike on Stop & Shop ordered by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) bosses.
“CTU bosses appear intent on attempting to shut down Chicago schools with a strike in order to flex their political muscle, even if leaving children out in the cold achieves nothing for the rank-and-file teachers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Chicago teachers must decide for themselves whether abandoning their students at the behest of CTU officials is really what is best for them, and Foundation staff attorneys stand by to assist those teachers who want to continue teaching their students and provide for their families.”
Seattle Nurse Wins Settlement of Federal Charges Against SEIU Union for Illegal Misinformation and Other Rights Violations
Nurse was never informed of her right to object to full union dues as a nonmember and later had union dues illegally seized from her paycheck by union bosses
Seattle, WA (October 9, 2019) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have just won a settlement for Seattle, Washington-based nurse NancyEllen Elster, after Service Employee International Union (SEIU) 1199NW officials were charged with violating federal labor law by misinforming her about her rights and later enforcing illegal restrictions on her right to stop paying for union political activities and other lawfully “non-chargeable” expenses. The settlement, which validates and remedies her unfair labor practice charge against the union, was approved by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 19 in Seattle.
NancyEllen Elster works at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, which is under the monopoly bargaining power of the SEIU. Because Washington is not a Right to Work state, she can be required to pay fees to the union as a condition of employment, but the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision limits this to just the portion of union dues directly germane to bargaining.
Elster reported in her unfair labor practice charge against the union that SEIU officials had never properly apprised her or other workers about this right or provided the independent audit of the union’s calculation of its non-chargeable expenses that is required because of Beck. NLRB prosecutors additionally found that union officials failed to disseminate legally required information about the percentage of union fees employees could pay by abstaining from formal union membership.
Elster recounted in her charge that she sent SEIU bosses a letter in April 2019 resigning her membership and demanding that only the reduced amount of union fees permitted under Beck be taken from her wages. Union officials responded that she had missed a “window period” for Beck objections concocted by the union hierarchy. They also claimed that she would have to submit additional arbitrary paperwork to have her rights recognized. Elster had never been informed of this purported “window period” at any time in the past, but SEIU bosses continued to seize full dues from her paycheck in violation of her rights.
The NLRB settlement, won with free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, orders SEIU officials to post notices that the union will no longer “apply [its] window period to become Beck objectors in order to foreclose employees resigning their union membership” or “fail … to reduce the monthly fee payment of objecting nonmembers” to the amount directly related to bargaining purposes. SEIU bosses also must refund to Elster fees they exacted from her paycheck in violation of Beck and inform employees who refrain from formal union membership of “the percentage of the fees reduction” they would receive by exercising their Beck rights.
Elster’s settlement comes on the heels of SEIU 775 in Washington State being forced to refund well over $3 million to home-based healthcare providers in the state who asserted in a 2014 lawsuit that the SEIU had diverted a percentage of Medicaid payments from them to the union in violation of their statutory and constitutional rights.
“Whether it’s a nurse in the private sector like NancyEllen Elster, or just private citizens who provide healthcare at home to relatives, SEIU officials are more concerned with stuffing their bank accounts with illegal forced union dues than respecting the legal rights of those they claim to represent,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Beck provides at least a check on this coercive power for private sector workers, but Foundation staff attorneys will keep fighting until no workers in America are forced to sacrifice part of their paychecks to union bosses they oppose.”
Stop & Shop Employees Win Settlement Against UFCW Union Officials for Labor Law Violations Around Recent Strike
Settlements: Union officials must inform employees of their rights to refrain from formal union membership and halt their illegal discipline during or after strikes
Boston, MA (October 2, 2019) – Staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have won favorable settlements for Stop & Shop supermarket employees whose rights were violated by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) officials before, during, and after the union boss-ordered strike on the grocery chain in April 2019. The extraordinary settlements were directed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 1 in Boston.
Two employees, Matthew Coffey and Saood Rafique, had been misled by union agents from the start of their respective employments into thinking that joining the UFCW was a condition of employment at Stop & Shop. Such an arrangement, sometimes called a “closed shop,” was outlawed by the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. Having never informed the employees that they had the rights to refrain from formal union membership and to pay reduced fees as nonmembers, UFCW bosses also charged each of them full union dues for years.
After independently learning their rights at the onset of the April strike, both men decided to resign union membership and return to work. UFCW officials then threatened them with illegal union discipline for violating their alleged “membership” oaths.
The settlements require UFCW union officials to post remedial rights notices in over 70 Stop & Shop stores, as well as on the internet and in the union’s monthly newsletter, to properly inform employees of their rights to both abstain from union membership and pay only the amount of union fees directly germane to bargaining. These settlements enforce the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. The remedial notices also announce that UFCW officials will return to Coffey and Rafique dues seized from them in violation of their Beck rights.
Also included in the remedial notices are declarations that UFCW officials will “process resignations and objections of [all] bargaining unit employees who have resigned” union membership and “will not threaten [employees] with internal union discipline or fines” for returning to work during a strike. The settlements totally vindicate the unfair labor practice charges filed by the two grocery workers.
Both Coffey and Rafique experienced vicious backlash and retaliation from UFCW agents for exercising their right to rebuff the union bosses’ strike orders. Coffey’s initial unfair labor practice charge, filed with free assistance from the Foundation, reports that UFCW agents targeted him with personal slurs, threats of violence, and other forms of harassment after he went back to work.
Rafique asserted in his charge, also filed with Foundation help, that a UFCW steward told other employees not to work with him once the strike concluded “to make his job duties…more difficult to carry out.” After the strike, Coffey received letters from union bosses containing illegal demands that he appear before a UFCW tribunal to face punishment for exercising his right to remain on the job rather than participate in the union boss-ordered strike.
The settlements come amid similar UFCW boss strike threats up and down the West Coast, from California to Washington State. They also occur during continuing tensions arising from the United Auto Workers’ strike against General Motors while its current and former heads are embroiled in a widening fraud and embezzlement investigation that has already led to multiple convictions. Just as Foundation staff attorneys issued a special legal notice in the Spring to workers affected by the Stop & Shop strike, Foundation attorneys have issued a notice of their rights for GM workers affected by the UAW boss strike: www.nrtw.org/UAW-GM.
“This victory for Mr. Rafique, Mr. Coffey, and their co-workers should serve as a reminder to all American employees – and union officials – that the individual rights of workers don’t cease to exist when union bosses call a strike,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Workers have a legal right to defy union boss strike demands, and workers subjected to union threats, harassment or worse for exercising those rights can turn to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal aid in holding union bosses accountable for their illegal actions.”