11 Jul 2024

Foundation to Justices: Workers Opposing Unions Isn’t ‘Harm’ to be Eliminated

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Brief in Starbucks-related SCOTUS case counters Labor Board attempts to impose union control

With the Supreme Court reviewing the standard used when the NLRB seeks injunctions that cement unions in power, the Foundation told the High Court such injunctions should not be allowed to infringe on workers’ legitimate right, under federal labor law and the Constitution, to oppose unionization.

WASHINGTON, DC – “Heads I win, tails you lose”: That’s how a brief filed by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys with the U.S. Supreme Court describes the Biden National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) argument that worker opposition to a union should count as a reason to impose union bosses’ demands on a workplace. The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on this issue in January, with arguments scheduled for late April.

“Evidence that employees support a union is taken to mean they want to support the union,” the brief says. “Evidence that employees oppose a union is taken to mean their employer must have wrongfully caused the employees not to support the union. All evidence conveniently leads to the conclusion desired by current NLRB leadership: employees should support unions.”

The Foundation’s brief before the High Court in Starbucks v. McKinney discusses how NLRB officials use this radical assumption to urge federal courts to hit employers with “10(j) injunctions” that coerce the employers to give into certain union-demanded behavior. As Foundation attorneys explain, the NLRB often tells courts that worker discontent with a union is a “harm” that the courts should rectify with a 10(j) injunction.

Foundation in Starbucks Case: Worker Opposition to a Union is a Basic Right

Foundation staff attorneys push back on this theory in their legal brief, arguing that an employee’s decision to not support a union is not a “harm,” but a “legitimate choice [they] have a right to make” under both the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Union bosses and their allies in the NLRB want the U.S. Supreme Court to establish a rule in Starbucks v. McKinney that permits injunctions against employers if their alleged conduct could potentially coerce workers into not supporting a union. Foundation attorneys instead argue that “the Court must require the NLRB to prove employees were unlawfully coerced not to support a union because, absent such proof, employees have every right to make that choice” (emphasis added).

Starbucks Workers Challenging NLRB Constitutionality

In addition to fighting cynical attempts by Biden NLRB bureaucrats to turn worker opposition to unions into a reason to beef up union officials’ coercive power, Foundation attorneys are assisting two groups of Starbucks workers with federal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Biden NLRB as a whole.

The newest effort comes from San Antonio, TX-area Starbucks employee Reed Busler and his coworkers. They submitted a petition to the NLRB containing enough employee signatures to prompt a vote to “decertify,” or remove, the SBWU union. But an NLRB Regional Director blocked the vote based on union allegations of employer misconduct that have no proven connection to Busler and his colleagues’ effort to vote out the union. Busler himself noted in an NLRB filing that the move to decertify started “because the Union was a divisive force in our store” and ignored workers.

Busler has filed a federal lawsuit against the NLRB arguing its structure violates the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine because NLRB Board Members are insulated from at-will removal. The lawsuit seeks an injunction that halts the NLRB from proceeding with his decertification case until his federal lawsuit is resolved.

“Starbucks is becoming ‘ground zero’ for several key battles over worker freedom,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “Underlying a large portion of the drama is the NLRB’s flawed theory that workers’ exercise of their right to oppose unions is an evil to be eradicated, which unions and their allies in the NLRB bureaucracy are trying to use to force down their agenda on workplaces across the country.

“An even bigger issue, however, is the fact that the NLRB has for decades operated as a kangaroo court run by powerful bureaucrats who exercise unaccountable power in violation of the Constitution,” Semmens added. “American employees shouldn’t be forced to fight for their rights in such a pro-union boss environment.”

3 Jul 2024

Michigan Security Guards Fight to End Union Bosses’ Forced-Dues Power

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Worker blasts state Right to Work repeal: ‘Now… [we] must join or lose our jobs’

Freedom Fighter: Security guard James Reamsma is disappointed that the Right to Work repeal re-imposes forced-dues payments, but he and his coworkers still have a shot to restore their liberty.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – In February, Big Labor allies in the Michigan Legislature and union partisan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer saw their plans to enrich union bosses at the expense of workers come to fruition. The repeal of the state’s Right to Work law — which Whitmer and state legislators backed despite polling showing that 70% of Michiganders wanted the law to remain in place — became effective that month.

Michigan’s Right to Work law, which took effect in 2013, was popular for a reason: It protected the state’s private sector workers from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Michigan then experienced substantial economic gains while the law was effective. Now that union bosses can again force Michigan workers to pay dues or be fired, it’s no surprise that National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are seeing worker backlash to the change.

Despite Repeal, Western MI Guards Can Still Restore Worker Freedom

In a rebuke to the Right to Work repeal, security guards from government buildings across Western Michigan in February backed a “deauthorization petition” that will kick off a process that could strip union officials of the United Government Security Officers of America (UGSOA) of their forced-dues powers. In a non-Right to Work state, deauthorization is the only option that workers have to remove union bosses’ forced-dues power apart from voting the union out in a decertification election.

Similar to the decertification process, workers who petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a deauthorization vote must obtain signatures from 30% or more of their colleagues to trigger a vote. James Reamsma, the security guard who submitted the deauthorization petition with free Foundation legal aid, had signatures far beyond this threshold.

“UGSOA union officials have threatened to have everyone who does not join the union fired,” commented Reamsma. “Many of us are retired police officers, or military, working part time, supplementing our income by providing security for government buildings across Michigan.

“When Right to Work was in place, guards were never forced to join the union. Now part-time guards are expected to pay the same high dues as full-time guards and all guards must join or lose our jobs,” decried Reamsma.

According to the petition, the requested deauthorization vote will take place among “all full-time and regular part-time security guards . . . performing services for the Company . . . in and around the cities of Alena, Cadillac, Petoskey, Traverse City, West Branch, Flint, Bay [C]ity, [Big] Rapids, Ludington, Mount Pleasant, Owosso, Saginaw, Escanaba, Houghton, Ironwood, Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie, Grand Rapids, Holland, and Muskegon, Michigan.”

In addition to providing free aid to Wolverine State workers like Reamsma and his colleagues who are taking legal action to counter forced dues, the Foundation also issued a legal notice in February to all Michigan workers explaining the new legal landscape.

In New Anti-Freedom Environment, Foundation Keeps MI Workers Informed

The notice explains that while union bosses again have forced-dues power in the private sector, private sector workers can still object to paying dues for union political purposes as per the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision, or end forced dues in their workplace entirely by decertifying or deauthorizing the union.

As for public sector workers, the Foundation’s 2018 victory at the Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME ensures that their freedom from forced dues is still protected by the First Amendment despite the cynical Right to Work repeal.

“Within weeks of Michigan’s Right to Work repeal, we see the harm Big Labor’s coercive policy agenda inflicted on rank-and-file workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Mr. Reamsma and his colleagues, who will be providing security to Western Michigan’s government buildings during what is likely to be another turbulent election year, don’t deserve to be forced into financially supporting a union they disapprove of, nor does any Michigan private sector employee.

“While union boss powers have greatly expanded since the Right to Work repeal, workers still have some rights to resist union boss coercion, and Foundation attorneys stand ready to help them exercise those rights,” Mix added.

28 Jun 2024

MIT Grad Students Slam Union with Federal Discrimination Charges

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union hierarchy forcing students to pay dues, deny legally-required religious exemption

When Will Sussman declared his religious beliefs forbade him from supporting a union engaged in anti-Israel causes, GSU officials shamelessly (and illegally) went on demanding his money.

BOSTON, MA – “First, no principles, teachings, or tenets of Judaism prohibit membership in or the payment of dues or fees to a labor union . . . Secondly, the statements in your letter demonstrate that your objection to paying dues is based on your political views and not your religious belief.”

This was the brazen response of United Electrical (UE) union officials to five Jewish graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who sought legally-required religious accommodations to the forced payment of dues to the Graduate Student Union (GSU, an affiliate of UE). The students, William Sussman, Joshua Fried, Akiva Gordon, Adina Bechhofer, and Tamar Kadosh Zhitomirsky see funding the union as a violation of their Jewish faith due to, among other reasons, the union’s vocal support for the anti-Israel “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement.

GSU Union, MIT Failed to Provide Religious Accommodations

“Jewish graduate students are a minority. We cannot remove our union, and we cannot talk them out of their antisemitic position — we’ve tried,” explained Sussman in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the situation. “That is why many of us asked for a religious accommodation. But instead of respecting our rights, the union told me they understand my faith better than I do.”

The students are now fighting back with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. In March, they each filed federal discrimination charges against UE and GSU with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), declaring that the union is “discriminating against me based on a failure to accommodate my religious beliefs and cultural heritage” and “discriminating against me based on national origin, race, cultural heritage, & identity.”

Because MIT officials are involved in enforcing GSU union bosses’ forced-dues demands on the students, Foundation attorneys also sent a letter to MIT President Sally Kornbluth, notifying her of the EEOC charges and warning that the university will face similar charges if it does not promptly remedy the situation.

The graduate students are only subject to the union’s forced-dues demands as a result of a controversial Obama National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling, now being enforced by the Biden Labor Board, that deems graduate students at private universities to be “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act. As a result, the MIT graduate students are subjected to the GSUUE’s monopoly union control.

Foundation Attorneys Have Track Record of Defending Religious Objectors

Because Massachusetts lacks Right to Work protections, union officials in the private sector (which includes private educational institutions like MIT) generally have the power to compel those under their monopoly bargaining power to pay union dues or fees. However, as per Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, religious accommodations to payment of dues or fees must be provided to those with sincere religious objections.

For decades, Foundation staff attorneys have successfully represented religious objectors in cases opposing forced dues. While religious accommodations in these cases have varied, all of them forbid union bosses from demanding the worker pay any more money to the union.

Union Already Conceded Some Illegal Dues Practices

Sussman already dealt a blow against GSU officials in late February, when he forced union officials to settle federal charges he filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concerning the union’s dues demands. In those charges, Sussman asserted his rights under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision, which prevents union officials from forcing those under their control to pay dues for anything beyond the union’s core bargaining functions.

While the settlement required GSU union officials to send an email to all students under their control stating that they would now follow Beck, Sussman and his fellow students’ current EEOC charges seek to cut off all financial support to the controversial union, as is their right under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“GSU union officials appear blinded by their political agenda and their desire to extract forced dues,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Their idea of ‘representation’ apparently includes forcing Jewish graduate students to pay money to a union the students believe has relentlessly denigrated their religious and cultural identity.

“GSU union bosses’ refusal to grant these students religious accommodations is as illegal as it is unconscionable, and Foundation attorneys will fight for their freedom from this tyrannical union hierarchy,” Mix added.

20 Jun 2024

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Medieval Times Performers Are Union-Free

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Performers banished union officials after they pushed unpopular, divisive strikes

Hail Queen Dean, Vanquisher of Unwanted Unions: Michelle Dean and her fellow Medieval Times performers ousted AGVA union officials, who had ordered employees on a lengthy and unproductive strike.

WASHINGTON, DC – Medieval Times, a nationwide chain of dinner theater “castles” in which a four-course meal is served while knights spar for Queen Doña Maria Isabella’s favor, provides guests a fun and captivating trip back in time.

But, at the castles in Buena Park, CA, and Lyndhurst, NJ, a more sinister plot was unfolding among the hardworking performers. Officials of the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) union had ordered or were pressuring employees to go on strike, an unpopular move which caused division in the workplaces. At the California location, AGVA bosses issued an edict forcing many performers off the job for roughly nine months.

Majorities of Performers Backed AGVA Removal

Sensing that their fellow performers had had enough of AGVA’s attempts to control them, Artemisia Morley and Michelle Dean — who play the Queens at the New Jersey and California castles respectively — sought free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Both women filed petitions backed by their coworkers asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold votes at their workplaces on whether to banish AGVA union officials.

The NLRB is the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal labor law, which includes administering elections to install (or “certify”) and remove (or “decertify”) unions. Majorities of performers at both castles backed the petitions — far exceeding the 30% threshold needed to trigger an election under NLRB rules.

Rather than face a secret ballot vote of the workers they claimed to “represent,” AGVA union chiefs filed “disclaimers of interest” and fled both castles before either election could take place — likely sensing that the majority-backed petitions signaled a defeat was coming.

Even after Morley had filed a decertification petition indicating the majority of her coworkers wanted a vote to decertify AGVA, union bosses tried to cling to power at the New Jersey castle. They attempted to block the vote by filing “blocking charges,” which are often-unrelated allegations against management meant to derail a vote.

The tide substantially turned against AGVA union officials in New Jersey after Morley’s Foundation attorneys successfully challenged a decision from an NLRB Regional Director that halted the decertification vote based on union officials’ “blocking charges.” Filings in Morley’s case indicated that the performers’ discontent with the union had nothing to do with Medieval Times management and was rather due to “secretive, self-interested, and divisive” behavior by union bosses and their insistence on a strike.

‘Secretive, Self-Interested’ Union Boss Behavior Led to Performers’ Revolt

Meanwhile, in California, AGVA union officials called off a roughly nine-month-long strike at the Buena Park Medieval Times just before Dean filed her decertification petition, likely aware of the tension the strike was causing and the growing number of performers who supported ejecting the union.

“AGVA union officials treated each Medieval Times castle as their own personal fiefdom, but their actions led to an uprising of the rank-and-file they purported to ‘represent,’” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “While the wishes of the Medieval Times performers have finally been obtained, it should be remembered that workers all over the country are subjected to union control they oppose, and they face fierce union and bureaucratic battles to secure secret ballot decertification votes.”.

17 Jun 2024

Foundation Fires Back Against Biden NLRB ‘Card Check’ Mandate

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, May/June 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Brief challenges Labor Board’s attempt to expand coercive, anti-employee organizing scheme

New ‘card check’-friendly Biden NLRB rules could lock workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN, production plant under union power without even a secret ballot vote, Mark Mix warned on Chattanooga’s local NBC station in February.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Union-label bureaucrats at the Biden National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have pulled out all the stops in their attempt to foist union monopoly control on more workers. But perhaps no move from the Biden Labor Board has been as radical as its October 2023 ruling in Cemex Construction Materials Pacific.

In response, Foundation staff attorneys recently filed a brief at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, exposing the NLRB’s sweeping power grab as a ploy to erode workers’ right to vote in secret on union representation. The Foundation is urging the Court of Appeals to overturn the NLRB’s controversial Cemex ruling.

In the August 2023 Cemex decision, the Biden-appointed NLRB majority gave union officials massive new powers to bypass a secret ballot vote among workers when trying to install union control at a workplace. The new standard effectively requires employers to accept a union’s claim to represent workers based on the coercive “card check” process.

Seattle Mariners Employee’s Case Reveals Unreliability of Card Check

Card check is a process that uses “authorization cards” solicited and collected by union organizers as a substitute for workers’ votes in a secret ballot election. The card check process lacks the security of a secret ballot vote and exposes workers to pressure tactics and intimidation from union officials who seek to secure enough authorization cards. Under the Biden Board’s new policy, employers’ options to insist on a secret ballot vote are limited and can be blocked by a union-requested ruling against the employer.

The Foundation’s brief discusses the struggle of Tami Kecherson, a Seattle Mariners retail employee who received free Foundation legal aid during her fight to remove a union in 2023, as a glaring example of card check’s unreliability in gauging workers’ true desires. Kecherson works in one of two retail shops that were under the control of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union up until last year. UFCW union officials gained power over her work unit through a card check, but were then voted out by an overwhelming 50-9 margin once a secret ballot election Kecherson requested was held.

Kecherson was able to request a vote to challenge UFCW’s card check scheme under the auspices of the Election Protection Rule (EPR), a set of Foundation-supported reforms adopted in 2020. The EPR gives workers a 45-day opportunity to request a secret ballot vote to challenge a union’s card check-based claims of majority.

Secret Ballot Vote Leads to Union Ouster 50-9

The Foundation’s legal brief points out that Cemex will create more outrageous situations like Kecherson’s, where union bosses seize power over workers who would reject them if they had a chance to vote: “[UFCW’s] claim to majority support, based on authorization cards the union collected, was totally refuted when tested in the crucible of a secret ballot election.

“Yet under Cemex, the NLRB will routinely impose compulsory union representation on employees based on card checks and without a secret-ballot election,” the brief argues.

Foundation Warns Workers They Could Be in Crosshairs of Cemex

Union bosses may soon use the Cemex standard to overturn elections in which workers reject unionization, or deny workers opportunities to vote in secret entirely. United Auto Workers (UAW) union officials, who are waging a number of aggressive card check-based unionization campaigns at auto factories primarily in the South, already seem to be laying the groundwork for capturing these workplaces using Cemex.

For example, UAW union officials are trying for the third time in a decade to unionize Volkswagen’s (VW) large production plant in Chattanooga, TN. They’ve already filed four unfair labor practice charges against VW management that the NLRB could use as rationales for tossing an employee vote if the election doesn’t go the union’s way. The UAW’s aggressive campaign appears to be employing similar tactics at other non-union facilities, including some run by Tesla and Mercedes-Benz.

Cemex Is a Disgrace to Worker Freedom

The Foundation issued a legal notice to Chattanooga VW workers in February, warning them that UAW bosses can manipulate Cemex to nullify their vote, and that employees have the right to revoke any union cards they might have signed during the card check drive.

“The NLRB’s ruling in Cemex is an insult to American workers, all of whom should have the unfettered right to vote in secret on whether union bosses deserve to have control over them,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director William Messenger. “It’s clear from Ms. Kecherson’s situation and many other Foundation cases that the ‘card check’ process pushed by Cemex is merely a tool to expand union ranks.”

5 Jun 2024

Foundation: Under Janus, Union Boss “Release Time” Violates AZ Constitution

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

So-called “official time” scheme puts tax dollars toward union politics, says Foundation brief

Foundation attorneys argue before the Arizona Supreme Court (above) and Texas Supreme Court that Janus’ ban on forcing public workers to fund union activities shows why state constitutions forbid the same coercion applied to taxpayers.

PHOENIX, AZ – The National Right to Work Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision provided massive new protections for American public employees’ free association rights. In 2018, the Court recognized for the first time that forcing a public employee to pay union dues just to keep his or her job is a First Amendment violation.

The Janus decision, buoyed by National Right to Work Foundation follow-up enforcement actions, means today well over half a million public employees are free of mandatory union payments. Yet, the implications of Janus go even beyond the billions of dollars in previously mandatory dues payments that union bosses can no longer force workers to pay.

Underpinning the Janus ruling was Foundation attorneys’ core argument that all public sector union activities involve influencing the government, and are therefore inherently political speech. Because of this, Foundation staff attorneys now argue that applying Janus to the practice known as union “official time” or “release time” — where government union officials are paid tax money to conduct union business instead of government work — shows how the scheme violates multiple state constitutions.

Foundation Attorneys Bring Janus Expertise to Public Employee Lawsuit

In Arizona for example, Phoenix city employees Mark Gilmore and Mark Harder sued Phoenix mayor Kate Gallego in 2023 for engaging in a scheme that redirects taxpayer funds intended for public employees’ compensation toward political advocacy conducted by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Field II agents.

That case, Gilmore v. Gallego, is now before the Arizona Supreme Court, where Foundation attorneys filed a legal brief arguing that this so-called “release time” scheme violates Arizona’s Gift Clause, which forbids the government from paying out benefits to private parties that serve no public purpose.

The brief points out that, in Janus, the Supreme Court found that all government union bargaining is a form of lobbying designed to influence public policy for the benefit of the union. That means taxpayer subsidies of such union activities inherently violate the Arizona Constitution’s Gift Clause.

Phoenix’s Arrangement Pays Union Bosses to Lobby City

Phoenix’s “release time” scheme funnels taxpayer money into four full-time positions for union officials for the purpose of conducting union business, creates a bank of over 3,000 paid hours to be used by other union official employees for union purposes, and provides multiple other perks for union agents.

The policies unions lobby for “often are matters of substantial public concern, such as how much money the government expends on wages and benefits,” the Foundation’s brief reads. With its release time policy, the City is effectively paying individuals to lobby the City for a private advocacy organization and its members. The notion that this political advocacy serves a public purpose is untenable.”

Foundation attorneys are backing a similar lawsuit at the Texas Supreme Court. In Roger Borgelt v. City of Austin, Texas taxpayers are fighting a scheme that City of Austin officials are using to direct taxpayer dollars to Austin Firefighters Association union officials to conduct union business.

“Union bosses, who will often screech about ‘corporate welfare,’ are more than happy to arrange so-called ‘release time’ schemes in which taxpayer dollars are funneled toward supporting their massive lobbying efforts,” stated National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director William Messenger. “Janus made it plain and simple that compelling public sector employees to fund union activities constitutes forced political speech, and courts everywhere have an obligation to declare such compulsion illegal when foisted on taxpayers.”

30 May 2024

NYC Electrical Workers Prevail in Year-Long Battle to Kick Out Union

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union and NLRB colluded to stop worker vote with unsupported allegations

Shloime Spira and his coworkers fought for months against IUJAT union allegations designed to stop him and his coworkers from ousting the union — only to see NLRB officials admit there was no evidence at all to support them.

NEW YORK, NY – National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) bureaucrats frequently rush to advance flimsy union boss allegations (or “blocking charges”) as a justification for stopping or delaying employees’ efforts to remove an unwanted union. Yet as a recent Foundation decertification victory for a group of workers in New York City demonstrates, sometimes NLRB officials get especially creative when it comes to assisting union bosses’ efforts to trap workers in unionization they oppose.

Take the obstacles Shloime Spira and his colleagues, who work for Brooklyn, NY-based contracting company Horsepower Electric, faced in their effort to remove the International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades (IUJAT) from their workplace. In December 2022, Spira submitted a petition asking the NLRB for a vote to decertify the union.

Labor Board Stalled Litigation to Keep Union in Power

The petition contained the requisite number of employee signatures to trigger such a vote. While the vote eventually took place in March 2023, NLRB bureaucrats sat for months on charges that IUJAT officials had levied against Horsepower Electric management, which delayed the ballot count and permitted IUJAT union officials to stay in power. Months later, following litigation at the NLRB and in federal court, it became apparent the NLRB lacked any evidence that could justify that delay.

Spira received free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in defending his coworkers’ right under federal law to remove the union, and in suing the NLRB for the delays. Only at the end of 2023, after a year of delays and litigation, did IUJAT union officials finally back down and file a “disclaimer of interest” to end their control over the Horsepower Electric workers.

“While my colleagues and I are pleased with this result, it’s simply ridiculous that the NLRB sat on our ballots for so long over union charges that were apparently meritless,” Spira commented on his experience. “The NLRB is supposed to protect employees’ right to choose whether or not they want a union, not delay that process indefinitely to maintain union officials’ power.”

Federal Court Action ‘Shocks’ Labor Board into Ending Delays

Union “blocking charges” contain claims of employer misconduct that are usually unverified and often have no connection to employees’ desire to vote out the union. NLRB officials inexplicably refused to hold a hearing or otherwise advance the IUJAT’s “blocking charge” case for months, effectively using it as a pretense for delaying the vote count in Spira and his coworkers’ effort to remove the union.

The delayed ballot count meantIUJAT union bosses stayed in power, and also meant that forced union dues continued to flow out of Spira and his colleagues’ paychecks. Because New York lacks Right to Work protections that make union affiliation and financial support strictly voluntary, union bosses could force the Horsepower Electric workers to pay the union as a condition of keeping their jobs.

Eventually, the NLRB faced a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York, alleging due process violations because the delay in the “blocking charge” case was being used to justify the delay of the decertification ballot count. That case, initially bought by the employer, was soon joined by Spira who successfully intervened with the help of his Foundation attorneys. The District Court demanded an explanation from the NLRB about the delay.

NLRB Agents Found Zero Witnesses to Back Union ‘Blocking Charges’

Faced with the threat of a federal court order to proceed with the ballot count, NLRB officials finally moved forward on the “blocking charge” case. But just minutes before a December 2023 hearing the NLRB had scheduled in the case — which Spira’s Foundation-provided attorneys had traveled all the way to New York to attend — NLRB lawyers conceded they could produce no witnesses to testify in support of the union’s charges against Horsepower Electric.

The NLRB formally dropped its complaint against Horsepower Electric that very day, clearing the way for the ballots to be counted. To avoid facing a vote result that would have very likely been an embarrassing loss, IUJAT union officials announced a “disclaimer of interest” that would finally result in the union leaving. With the union conceding defeat, both the NLRB and federal cases surrounding the union decertification election wrapped up in January.

Workers’ Struggle Shows NLRB Needs Reform

“That union officials were so easily able to manipulate NLRB processes to block Mr. Spira and his colleagues from exercising their basic right to choose whether they want union representation shows that the agency is desperately in need of reform,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “It is outrageous that it took a federal court case to force the NLRB to admit that it had no evidence to back up union officials’ allegations that were being used to trap workers in a union they opposed.

“Worker free choice is supposed to be the center of the National Labor Relations Act. Foundation attorneys will continue to defend this principle, even as the Biden Labor Board continues to grant union officials sweeping new powers to coerce workers into union ranks,” Semmens added.

23 May 2024

CA Fire Safety Inspector Wins Reinstatement, Back Pay After Union-Instigated Firing

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

IUOE tried to compel union membership, settlement now mandates $9,000+ payout

Beaming: Fire safety inspector Alexandra Le can now return to her vital work knowing her rights are fully vindicated. Her settlement goes beyond reinstatement and provides refunds of illegal dues.

PLEASANTON, CA – Even in states like California that lack Right to Work protections, U.S. Supreme Court precedents forbid union bosses from compelling workers to become full union members. Thanks to the National Right to Work Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision, workers in non-Right to Work states who wish to abstain from formal union membership also can’t be required to pay union dues for expenses beyond what the union claims goes toward its bargaining costs.

Union bosses have a legal obligation to inform workers of these rights. But that wasn’t the experience of Pleasanton, CA, fire safety inspector Alexandra Le, whom International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) officials got fired over her refusal to formally join the union in late September 2023. On top of that, union chiefs also deducted full union dues from her paycheck without her permission in violation of Beck — meaning she was likely paying for union political activities against her will.

IUOE Officials Backed Off Illegal Demands Following Foundation Involvement

Le sought out free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys, who filed unfair labor practice charges for Le at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 32 in Oakland, CA. “It’s outrageous that IUOE union officials believe they can get me fired simply because I don’t agree with their organization and don’t want to support or affiliate with them,” Le said at the time. “IUOE union officials have been far more concerned with consolidating power in the workplace and collecting dues than caring about me and my coworkers, and I hope the NLRB will hold them responsible for their illegal actions.”

Rather than defend their blatantly illegal actions against Foundation staff attorneys, IUOE union officials backed down in January and settled the case. Now, as per the settlement, Le’s employer (Construction Testing Services) must reinstate Le, and both the union and company must jointly pay out to her over $9,000 in back wages and benefits.

Employee Highlights Struggle Against Forced Dues to U.S. House of Representatives

As Le’s case was ongoing, Le sought to expose the injustices that forced-dues and forced-membership demands impose on workers. Le submitted written testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce for a November hearing on a federal law which aims to expand Right to Work protections and make union dues and membership strictly voluntary nationwide.

In her testimony, she described the impact the illegal union-instigated firing had on her life: “My absence significantly set me back from a financial standpoint and has led to the stressful process of having to fight for my rights via the legal process . . . [a]nd while the union fees cause a notable decrease in my hard-earned take-home pay, the time lost and stress incurred by asserting rights that I had to discover independently has been equally detrimental.

“Simply put, nobody should be forced to join or pay any dues or fees to a union that they do not want to join,” Le concluded.

Despite Legal Victory, CA Workers Need Right to Work

Foundation attorneys’ favorable settlement for Le goes far beyond requiring just reinstatement and back pay from the company and union. The settlement also dictates that the company will only deduct the reduced Beck amount of union dues from Le’s paycheck going forward. The union will also waive fees totaling roughly $1,700 that its officials tried to force Le to pay from the time her case began back to the date of her hiring.

“Ms. Le’s battle to protect her freedom of association from IUOE union officials is courageous, but no worker should ever have to fight this hard to protect their livelihood from dues-hungry union officials,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director William Messenger. “It’s also unfortunate the Golden State’s lack of Right to Work permits the same IUOE bosses who instigated her illegal firing to collect mandatory union fees from her.

“Workers themselves — not union bosses — should be in charge of determining whether a union is worthy of receiving their hard-earned cash,” Messenger added.

15 May 2024

Healthcare Employees in PA, MN Oust Unions with Foundation Aid

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Over 270 workers now free of AFSCME at Philly hospital; Steelworkers union booted in MN

After being told by a union official that “the union isn’t going anywhere,” outpatient service coordinator Shidiah Jackson (back right) and her coworkers led a successful effort to kick the AFSCME union out of St. Christopher Hospital.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – In December 2023, National Right to Work Foundation-supported workers added two new victories to the growing string of successful union decertification efforts around the country.

In Philadelphia, a 270+ worker unit comprised of medical assistants, office coordinators, medical secretaries, and many other support employees voted by a nearly 60% margin to remove the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union from St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

Outpatient service coordinator Shidiah Jackson led the union decertification effort with free legal advice from the Foundation.

In Austin, MN, patient care specialist Erin Krulish and other support workers at the Austin Mayo Clinic location forced Steelworkers union officials out of their facility. That ouster follows multiple recent union removals involving other Minnesota healthcare employees, including nurses at Mankato Mayo Clinic, support staff at Mankato Mayo Clinic, and nurses at St. James Mayo Clinic, all of whom received free Foundation legal aid.

Both Krulish and Jackson kick-started these efforts by submitting decertification petitions to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Each petition contained enough signatures from employees interested in having a union removal vote to prompt the NLRB to hold such a vote.

Healthcare Professionals Free of Monopoly Bargaining and Forced Dues

Both Pennsylvania and Minnesota lack Right to Work protections for their private sector workers, meaning that union officials had the power to enter into contracts with management that would force Krulish, Jackson, and their coworkers to pay union dues or fees just to keep their jobs. In contrast, in Right to Work states, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.

Steelworkers Officials Depart MN Clinic to Avoid Likely Embarrassing Vote

If a majority of workers vote against a union in a decertification vote or otherwise force a union out, the union loses not only its ability to demand forced dues from employees, but also its monopoly bargaining power.

Such power permits union officials to dictate the contract provisions of all employees in a unit, even those who oppose or voted against the union’s presence in the first place.

The effort by Krulish and her coworkers at Mayo Clinic Austin to remove the Steelworkers union was unique in that they had already stripped union officials of their forced dues power through a “deauthorization election,” which can be petitioned for in the same way as a decertification election. In December 2022, Krulish and her fellow employees voted 49-17 to revoke the union’s power to compel them to pay dues.

Deauthorization is the only way employees in non-Right to Work states can stop a union from seizing dues from workers as a condition of employment, outside of completely decertifying the union.

Krulish and her coworkers resorted to this option because the NLRB’s questionable “contract bar” doctrine prevented them from kicking the union out in December 2022, simply because the union’s contract was still active.

After experiencing a big loss in the deauthorization election, Steelworkers officials likely knew another devastating defeat was coming after Krulish filed her decertification petition. They departed the hospital before the election could take place.

Philly Workers Reject One-Size-Fits-All Union Bureaucracy

In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jackson related that she had no contact with the union until she tried to ask for a raise she felt she had earned, at which point hospital administrators said her salary and benefits were a union matter. When she voiced her displeasure with the situation to the union and asked what the union actually did for her, a union official suggested her views didn’t matter anyway because “the union isn’t going anywhere.”

“OK, we’ll see about that,” she told the union agent, according to the Inquirer. Soon after, she proceeded with her decertification effort, which ultimately resulted in the overwhelming vote among her colleagues for ending the union’s so-called “representation.”

“It seems that American medical employees are discovering that union officials’ one-size-fits-all ‘representation’ doesn’t always work to their benefit, nor does it help them take better care of their patients,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “It’s easy to see why healthcare workers would want to avoid compulsory dues payments, or being ordered to strike and abandon their patients during a busy time.

“Those in the healthcare industry should know that they have a right to petition the NLRB for a vote to remove a union, and that National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys can assist them through this daunting process,” Mix added.

14 May 2024

DC-Area ‘Union Kitchen’ Employees Vote 24-1 to Remove UFCW Union

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, March/April 2024 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Foundation now defending workers against union attempt to overturn employee vote

Union Kitchen, a unique grocery concept that helps local DC entrepreneurs get their food products to market, was the target of a dangerous UFCW picket scheme.

WASHINGTON, DC – Ashley Silva, an employee at independent DC-area food store Union Kitchen, could sense in July 2023 that her coworkers had had enough of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union in their workplace.

UFCW union officials had been ordering contentious boycotts and pickets on the stores, and some of the demonstrations even required police intervention after union picketers blocked store exits.

“The vast majority of the workers at Union Kitchen are sick and tired of the UFCW’s picketing, harassment of employees, and constant disruptions of our day-to-day work life,” Silva said at the time.

Despite Searing Worker Rejection, UFCW Bosses Trying to Cling to Power

With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, Silva filed a decertification petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), asking the federal agency to hold a vote among the employees of Union Kitchen’s five stores on whether the union should be ousted. The vast majority of her coworkers signed the petition.

UFCW union officials levied allegations against Union Kitchen management in an attempt to stop the vote from happening. Despite some delays, Silva and her coworkers cast ballots in October 2023, and a January 2024 vote count revealed that she and her colleagues had voted against the union 24-1.

The union challenged eight employee ballots, meaning the full tally of votes against the union is most likely 32-1.

Once the NLRB certifies this election result, Silva and her coworkers will be free of the union. However, in an attempt to stop this, UFCW officials continue to press the “blocking charges” against Union Kitchen management that they filed at the NLRB before the vote, and have also piled on objections to the election that contain the same basic accusations as the blocking charges.

Blocking charges are often unverified or unrelated charges of employer misconduct that union officials can manipulate to stall a ballot count or a certification of results in a union decertification case.

If the NLRB issues a complaint against an employer based on a union’s “blocking charges,” the decertification process is halted.

Foundation Will Fight UFCW Bid to Overturn Vote

Foundation staff attorneys are defending Silva and her colleagues’ victory at the ballot box from UFCW union officials’ bald-faced attempts to oppose their will.

“We’re happy that Ms. Silva and her coworkers were finally able to exercise their right to vote out a union they oppose,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “It’s unfortunate, though hardly surprising, that despite such an overwhelming rejection UFCW union officials won’t take a hint and stop attempting to impose their unwanted so-called ‘representation’ on Union Kitchen employees.

“The Foundation is proud to defend Silva and her coworkers against these union tactics as they seek freedom from coercive unionism,” Semmens concluded.