Massachusetts Educators Ask US Supreme Court to Review State Law Conditioning Workplace Rights on Funding Union Politics
State law lets unions block workers from a say in workplace matters unless they waive their First Amendment rights and fund union political activities
Washington, D.C. (July 8, 2019) – Today, staff attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation are submitting a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the US Supreme Court to hear Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, in which four Massachusetts educators are challenging the application of the state’s monopoly bargaining law for its educational system.
The educators argue that the state law, which is manipulated by union bosses to block teachers who are not union members from voting or otherwise voicing their opinions in the determination of their own working conditions, results in depriving nonmember teachers of their First Amendment rights.
The four plaintiffs hail from the University of Massachusetts and the Hanover School Committee. All have rejected membership in the National Educators Association (NEA) and its local affiliates.
Although the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision guarantees that union fees and membership are strictly voluntary for all public sector workers, the policy in question unconstitutionally forces them to become full union members to be able to speak up about their work environment.
To have any say in their own work conditions, nonmembers like the four educators would have to waive their First Amendment rights under Janus and join the union, which means funding union political causes.
The lead plaintiff, Dr. Ben Branch, is a finance professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a colleague of fellow plaintiff of Dr. Wm. Curtis Conner, who teaches chemistry there.
Plaintiff Dr. Andre Melcuk is Director of Departmental Information Technology at the Silvio O. Conte National Center for Polymer Research at the University. Dr. Melcuk was born in the Soviet Union and opposes the union based on his dislike of collectivist organizations.
Plaintiff Deborah Curran is a long-term teacher in the Hanover Public Schools system. The union officials who supposedly “represent” her attempted to invalidate her promotion to a position mentoring new teachers and pushed to have her investigated and suspended. She ultimately spent nearly $35,000 of her own money battling union officials just to protect her job.
The petition comes after the Massachusetts Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in April.
“The Massachusetts Supreme Court’s refusal to apply the Janus ruling has left these educators facing a legally untenable situation: either they can avoid associating with a union with which they disagree and lose their voices in the workplace, or they can waive their Janus rights and have their money used for ideological causes they oppose,” commented National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “The state of Massachusetts is forcing these educators to fund state legislators’ union political allies if they want even the most limited participation in the government-created bargaining process that controls their conditions of employment.”
“Such schemes are effectively a modern version of Tammany Hall that should be a thing of the past, and it’s time for courts to acknowledge it,” added Mix.
Foundation Hails NLRB Ruling: ‘An Important Step Forward in Removing the Barriers that let Union Bosses Trap Workers in Union Ranks’
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys represented Johnson Control employees seeking to remove UAW union from their workplace
Washington, D.C. – In a victory for the rights of independent-minded workers, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision on July 3 that limits union officials ability to game the NLRB system to trap workers in monopoly union ranks following an employee petition to their employer demonstrating that a majority of the workers oppose unionization.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys represented two workers (Brenda Lynch and Anna Marie Grant) who spearheaded the collection of signatures from a majority of workers opposed to union representation. After UAW officials sought to foist the union back onto the workers despite their clear opposition, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys successfully intervened in the case on behalf of Lynch and Grant.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement about the decision:
“This decision is an important step forward in removing the barriers that let union bosses trap workers in union ranks even when a majority of the workers want out. Instead of union lawyers playing legal games for months or even years to block the removal of a union that lacks majority support, the Board majority takes the common sense position that the easiest way to settle representational disputes is by letting union officials prove their claim of support in a secret ballot vote of the workers.
“As long as union bosses are given the extraordinary power to force every worker in a workplace under their monopoly representation, including those completely opposed to the union, the burden should be with union officials to prove that workers actually want such representation. We urge the NLRB to follow up on this victory by removing the other unnecessary bars, blocks and barriers that workers face when trying to exercise their right to remove a union that lacks majority support.”
Final Briefs Filed at Appeals Court in Janus v. AFSCME: Case Seeks Refund of Unconstitutionally Seized Forced Union Fees
Seventh Circuit likely to be the first appellate court to rule whether nonmembers can recover dues seized in violation of First Amendment
Washington, D.C. (July 3, 2019) – Today attorneys representing Mark Janus have filed the final brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in the continuation of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31. At issue is whether union officials are entitled to keep money they seized from nonmembers in violation of their constitutional rights. Last June, the US Supreme Court issued the landmark ruling in the case, finding that it is a violation of the First Amendment to mandate that government workers fund union activities.
Mark Janus was an Illinois child support specialist who filed his case with free legal aid from the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The case was successfully argued at the U.S. Supreme Court by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger.
The Supreme Court’s June 27, 2018, decision in Janus’ favor found that any union fees taken from workers like Mark Janus – who was not a member of AFSCME – without the worker’s affirmative and knowing consent violate the First Amendment. Justice Samuel Alito ruled in the majority opinion that compulsory fees “[violate] the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”
Janus will be the first case in which a circuit court will evaluate the so-called “good faith” defense that union lawyers have asserted in response to worker petitions for refunds, arguing that union officials should be allowed to keep funds seized prior to the Janus decision. This contention has generally succeeded in lower courts despite the Supreme Court never suggesting that Janus only requires prospective relief for affected workers. The High Court further noted that union officials have been “on notice” for years that mandatory fees likely would not comply with the High Court’s heightened level of First Amendment scrutiny articulated in the 2012 Knox v. SEIU Supreme Court decision, won by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Mark Janus is asking the Court of Appeals to rule that he is entitled to refunds of approximately $3,000 in fees he was forced to pay since March 23, 2013 (as the statute of limitations permits). However, the case has significant implications for dozens of other cases being litigated around the country for hundreds of thousands of other workers seeking the return of forced fees seized unlawfully by union officials. National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are currently litigating sixteen cases that collectively seek over $120 million in refunds.
“The Janus case is a milestone of worker freedom, but rather than accept that the funding of government unions must be completely voluntary union bosses continue to block workers from exercising their rights and to deny workers refunds for the constitutional violations union officials committed,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We hope the Seventh Circuit will follow the clear logic of the Supreme Court’s decision issued a year ago and establish that union bosses cannot profit from violating the First Amendment rights of workers.”
“Government workers are finally free from forced union fees after the Janus decision, but government unions’ coffers are full from the years of unconstitutional financial support taken from workers,” added Patrick Hughes, president and co-founder of the Liberty Justice Center. “Mark Janus’ fight on behalf of government workers isn’t over. Mark and hundreds of thousands of former agency fee payers are entitled to full relief from the government unions’ wrongdoing.”
Second CRH Companies Worker Illegally Fired for Refusing Union Membership Hits Teamsters and Company with Federal Charges
Federal Unfair Labor Practice charge filed after Teamsters agent misinformed worker of his rights prior to termination
Minneapolis, MN (July 1, 2019) – Another employee at CRH Companies Midwest Region’s Belle Plaine, MN facility has levied unfair labor practice charges against both the Teamsters Local 120 union and the company for firing him illegally upon his rejection of full union membership. The worker filed the charges with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
According to Charles Winter’s charge, a Teamsters representative told employees during a March 28 meeting that membership is required in order to get or keep a job.
The charge also notes that the union membership form that Teamsters officials gave Winter was missing a legally-required estimate of the agency fees that union nonmembers would be required to pay. Because Minnesota does not have a Right to Work law, nonmember workers can be forced to pay some union fees as a condition of employment.
Winter’s charge against the Teamsters maintains that union agents clearly violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which explicitly forbids any union agent from “restrain[ing] or coerc[ing]” employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights, one of which is the right to refrain from union membership.
Additionally, Winter charges the union with ignoring his rights under the Beck v. CWA Supreme Court decision, which requires unions to provide employees who object to full membership a breakdown of the reduced union fees they will be required to pay.
Regardless, CRH Companies swiftly carried out the discipline promised by Teamsters union agents. Winter’s charge against the company states that a company representative informed him that union membership was compulsory. When Winter sent a reply reiterating his desire not to be a union member, the company representative sent him an email terminating his employment.
Both charges ask the NLRB to seek “Section 10(j)” injunctions against the company and union to reinstate Winter while the charges are adjudicated.
Winter joins James Connolly, another employee in the same CRH Companies facility, in filing unfair labor practice charges against CRH and the Teamsters for illegal termination. Connolly was fired 10 days before Winter was for similarly refusing full membership in the Teamsters. Both employees sought legal help from Foundation attorneys in filing their charges.
“What the illegal firings of James Connolly and Charles Winter demonstrate all too clearly is the contempt Teamsters bosses have for even the most longstanding federal protections for workers,” explained National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “Minnesota legislators should take note of these abuses of union boss power and adopt a Right to Work law to ensure that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary in The Gopher State.”
All articles from the May/June 2019 issue of Foundation Action are now on the website.
In this issue:
- Foundation Victory: Workers Cannot Be Forced to Fund Union Lobbying
- Hospital Employees Fight Forced Unionization by Bureaucrat Fiat
- Flight Attendant’s Lawsuit Against Southwest and Union for Illegal Firing Will Continue
- Union Faces Federal Prosecution for Failure to Disclose Forced-Fees Amount
- Michigan Workers Halt Union Bosses’ Tactics to Undermine Right to Work
To view other editions or sign up for a free copy of the newsletter via mail, click here.
Foundation-won settlement reaffirms workers’ rights to refuse union membership and compulsory fees in Right to Work states
Detroit, Michigan (June 27, 2019) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, three Michigan workers have a won a federal settlement enforcing their rights to refrain from joining a union or paying union fees as guaranteed by Michigan’s Right to Work law. The victory comes after the workers filed unfair labor practice charges against their employer and the union, Teamsters Local 20.
Wendell Collins and Damani Mincey previously worked, and Arthur Caple still works, as truck drivers for Syncreon America, Inc. based in Michigan. All three chose to exercise their Right to Work without becoming union members or authorizing deductions of union dues and fees from their paychecks.
Despite this, their employer Syncreon deducted union dues and initiation fees from their paychecks, handing them over to Teamsters officials, who accepted and kept them. Teamster bosses also told Mr. Caple that he was required to be a member of the union and pay dues as a condition of his employment, a statement that is untrue. Michigan is one of the 27 states that has a Right to Work law. The law, passed in 2012, prohibits forced union payments, and both the state law and federal law prohibit requiring workers to be formal union members.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB for the three employees for automatically deducting dues and initiation fees despite the lack of signed authorizations allowing union officials to take a cut of their pay. Only after facing a likely NLRB prosecution did Teamsters union officials refund the money skimmed from the employees’ paychecks.
The NLRB’s settlement addressed the issue of the union and employer violating each workers’ rights by deducting dues without authorization, discriminating against them with regard to their employment by encouraging union membership through the illegal deductions, and in the case of Mr. Caple, the union illegally telling him he had no choice but to become a union member and sign off on paying dues.
The settlement requires both union officials and the employer to post extensive notices highlighting workers’ rights and promising not to engage in the illegal activity again. Part of the notice the union is required to post reads: “We will not threaten employees with loss of job bidding rights, loss of employment or diminishment of any other terms and conditions of employment because they refuse to join Local 20, International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Union) and/or refuse to pay union membership dues.”
“Foundation staff attorneys are committed to vigorously defending workers’ rights from Big Labor’s coercive practices, including in Right to Work states like Michigan,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Unfortunately, Michigan has become a battleground for worker freedoms as scofflaw union officials continually flout the Right to Work law and illegally subject independent-minded workers to forced union dues.”
Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases for Michigan workers since the state passed Right to Work legislation in 2012.
National Right to Work Foundation Celebrates Anniversary of Janus Decision Which Freed Public Sector Workers from Forced Union Dues
Foundation president: Union boss violations of Janus rights still widespread but Foundation will keep fighting
Washington, D.C. (June 27, 2019) – Today is the one-year anniversary of the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision – issued June 27, 2018 – which found that mandatory union payments violated the First Amendment rights of public sector workers. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney William Messenger represented plaintiff Mark Janus in the case, including in oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2018.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix issued the following statement on the occasion of the decision’s one-year anniversary:
“Today we celebrate the Supreme Court’s affirmation of a simple constitutional truth: that no American public sector worker’s employment ought to hinge on whether they pay fees to an organization whose actions and political speech they may bitterly disagree with. As the High Court articulated in its decision, only when union officials obtain the voluntary and affirmative consent of workers before collecting union dues and fees are workers’ First Amendment rights respected.
Unfortunately, rather than follow the law and honor workers right to choose whether or not to fund a labor union, union bosses and many of their political allies in state governments have engaged in a widespread and systematic campaign to undermine, ignore and block employee rights under the Janus decision. Across the country union officials are attempting to trap workers in dues payment schemes that are designed to ‘work around’ the constitutional protections of the Janus decision.
In response to Big Labor’s refusal to respect public employees’ constitutional rights, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have already filed dozens of cases for workers seeking to enforce the Janus decision, including many that have resulted in union officials backing down by returning past forced dues and eliminating unconstitutional policies that restrict workers’ rights to stop dues payments. We’re proud to fight for these workers and we will continue to work tirelessly to assist more workers in enforcing their rights under the Foundation-won Janus decision.”
A video version of the statement can be viewed here.
National Right to Work Foundation Staff Attorney Who Argued Janus Testifies Before Congress Against Federal Forced Unionization Bill
Experienced constitutional lawyer: Congressionally-imposed monopoly bargaining for state and local government infringes on workers’ rights
Washington, D.C. (June 26, 2019) – Today, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger will testify before the House Committee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, and urge the body to reject legislative proposals that would install monopoly bargaining across all states for public sector workers. Messenger’s testimony falls approximately one year after the Supreme Court issued its decision in the landmark Janus v. AFSCME case, which Messenger successfully argued for Illinois public employee Mark Janus.
Messenger’s testimony exposes the various tactics that union bosses use to shore up their grip on power, but identifies monopoly bargaining – which forces employees under union officials’ representation even against their will – as at the core of Big Labor’s coercive powers. Messenger’s written testimony explained why those powers are particularly offensive in the government sector:
“In the private sector, negotiations between an employer and a monopoly bargaining representative concern issues that affect that employer and its employees. In the public sector, negotiations between government officials and union representatives concern political issues that affect third-parties: individual citizens…In state after state where unions have gained monopoly bargaining powers in the public sector, costs skyrocket while quality of service declines. But monopoly bargaining allows unions to become the most powerful force in state politics and to pour millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours into electing public officials, allowing unions to sit on both sides of the negotiating table.”
Messenger instead praises legislation like the National Right to Work Act (NRTWA), which would reorient public and private sector labor law to protect the individual freedom of workers. Messenger emphasizes in his testimony that “rank-and-file workers want Congress to protect them from Big Labor, not to give union officials even more power to control their lives and paychecks.”
“No American worker should be forced to surrender their workplace voice to a private organization,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The endgame of the anti-worker legislation that is currently being considered by the House of Representatives is clear: granting Big Labor control over public policy at all levels of government to the detriment of taxpayers, voters and the freedoms of the very workers government union bosses claim to represent.”
Another Stop & Shop Worker Hits UFCW Union with Federal Charges for Illegal Threats Related to Union Boss-Ordered Strike
According to charge, UFCW bosses told other employees to conduct surveillance on and impede work of charging employee who worked during strike
Boston, MA (June 21, 2019) – Another Stop & Shop employee has turned to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for free legal aid in the wake of the April strike by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) against the supermarket chain. The unfair labor practice charge just filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) maintains that the worker was misled regarding his rights, and that union officials made illegal threats and engaged in unlawful retaliation against the worker because he exercised his right to continue working despite the union strike demands.
According to his charge, Saood Rafique began working at Stop & Shop in 2011 and joined the UFCW as a result of misinformation given him that union membership was required as a condition of employment. Rafique works in the meat department at Stop & Shop’s Jamaica Plain location.
When the strike was declared in April, he exercised his right to continue to work during the strike but abstained from formally renouncing his union membership because he still believed it was compulsory. Eventually he discovered that mandatory membership is a violation of federal labor law and then resigned from the UFCW.
Union bosses launched a campaign of illegal retaliation against Rafique when the strike was ending, his charge notes. A UFCW steward “[told] employees to not work with Charging Party in order to make his job duties in the meat department more difficult to carry out.” Later, UFCW union agents posted a notice in Rafique’s Stop & Shop store which scolded him and others who had continued to work during the strike and instructed employees to surveil Rafique and the other listed individuals and report their activities to union officials.
Additionally, UFCW bosses sent Rafique a letter which threatened illegal union disciplinary action and even his termination from Stop & Shop. The letter read in part that “workers have the right to bring you to trial in front of the Executive Board.” It claimed, contrary to federal law, that the union tribunal had the power to cause Rafique and the other workers to be “fired from Stop & Shop since it is a union shop.” The “union shop,” where full membership is required, was outlawed under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1947.
Rafique’s charge argues that the union boss-devised campaigns against him and others who chose to work during the union work stoppage are blatant violations of worker rights under the NLRA, which protects “the right to refrain from any or all” union activities and prohibits union officials from “restrain[ing] or coerc[ing]” any employee in the exercise of that right. The charge also asserts that Rafique was never a voluntary member of the UFCW because he was never properly informed of his rights, and thus cannot legally be subject to any union discipline.
Rafique joins Matthew Coffey, a clerk at a Stop & Shop in Northampton, MA, in filing unfair labor practices against the UFCW union with the help of the Foundation. Coffey was another victim of misinformation about his legal rights and also was targeted with personal slurs by UFCW agents after he exercised his right to continue to work during the strike.
“Once again, union bosses have been caught red-handed lying to workers about their legal rights, then retaliating against workers who eventually learn the truth and exercise their right to defy union officials’ strike demands,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “As these cases demonstrate, the legal rights of rank-and-file workers are frequently the first casualty when union bosses attempt to bully workers into abandoning their jobs as part of union strike actions.”
Providers file motion to intervene after union bosses and their allied AGs filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Center for Medicaid Services’ rule to end illegal skim
San Francisco, CA (June 21, 2019) – A group of 10 Medicaid providers have moved to intervene in a recently filed federal lawsuit challenging a rule adopted by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that would stop union officials from skimming union dues directly out of taxpayer-funded Medicaid payments. AFSCME and SEIU union officials, and the pro-Big Labor Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington State, recently filed the challenge to the rule, which was adopted in May.
The providers filed their motion with free legal representation from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Washington State-based Freedom Foundation. The providers support the Trump Administration’s rule because it helps ensure their right not to fund union activities in violation of their First Amendment rights. They argue that the blanket prohibition in the Medicaid statute against assigning payments to third parties has no exemption for assignments to unions and their PACs, and thus the new rule simply puts the Medicaid regulations back into alignment with the law.
The Obama Administration attempted in 2014 to provide union officials with legal cover to siphon over $100 million every year in Medicaid funds into union political and lobbying activities by a special exemption for union officials to the Medicaid regulations. All told, union officials siphoned off a total of more than $1 billion in Medicaid funds over the past 15 years.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court held in the National Right to Work Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn case that it is unconstitutional for states to force homecare providers receiving Medicaid funds to pay union fees. However, citing the Obama rule, union officials continued siphoning the money from hundreds of thousands of providers, including many who attempted to stop the union dues seizures and others who were unaware they could not be required to make the payments. Some, while attempting to stop the payments, found that union agents had forged their signatures to authorize the payments.
In August 2018, the Foundation submitted formal comments to CMS supporting the agency’s proposal that would clarify that the diversion of Medicaid payments from providers to third parties, including unions, violates federal law. Those recommendations were finally adopted in early May, and are set to go into effect on July 5, 2019.
“Providers are right to oppose this lawsuit’s blatant attempt to enable union bosses to skim union dues in violation of federal law,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Contrary to the wishes of union bosses and their political allies, union officials are not entitled to a special exemption from federal law.”
“Nothing in this rule stops union officials from collecting voluntary dues from voluntary union members, it just says that taxpayers and government shouldn’t act as the bagman for such dues payments,” added Mix. “The hysterical response by Big Labor and its political allies to this simple clarification of what is longstanding federal law suggests they are worried that many members union officials claim to represent won’t pay dues once they realize they have a choice.”