26 Dec 2022

Kentucky Worker Hits Steelworkers Union with Complaint for Violation of Right to Work Law

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Steelworkers union bosses seized illegal dues despite passage of Right to Work law in 2017

Right to Work Kentucky Melva Hernandez

The sun has long set on forced union dues in Right to Work Kentucky, but Melva Hernandez reports in her Foundation-backed complaint that union officials are ignoring Right to Work and continue to seize money from her wages illegally.

FRANKFORT, KY – Despite Kentucky’s enactment of a Right to Work law in 2017, some union bosses still act as if Kentucky’s popular law, which safeguards an employee’s right to refrain from formal union membership and dues payment, doesn’t even exist.

Melva Hernandez, who just finished a stint at paper bag manufacturer Duro Hilex Poly in Erlanger, KY, says that Steelworkers union officials forced her into union membership and dues payments when she began working at the facility in 2011. Kentucky’s Right to Work protections didn’t exist at that time to protect her from such coercive demands.

As August 2021 rolled around, however, Hernandez exercised her right to revoke her membership and union dues deduction authorization, thinking that the recently enacted law would permit her dissociation from the union.

Instead, Steelworkers union chiefs illegally rejected her request, scolded her for exercising her rights, and to date have not returned the money they seized from her paycheck in complete violation of Kentucky’s Right to Work law.

Officials Ignored Right to Work, Sought to Control Employee Speech

With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Hernandez submitted a complaint this June to Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link, asking him to prosecute the union for flouting Right to Work. Because the dues seizures and other conduct the union perpetrated are also illegal under federal law, she has also filed federal charges at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 9 in Cincinnati.

Hernandez’s complaint to the Kentucky Labor Cabinet recounts that she first submitted a letter to union officials in August 2021, exercising her right to end her union membership and all dues deductions to the union. A union agent rejected her request, alleging that it would only be accepted within a so-called “escape period” of days created by union officials. The complaint says Hernandez resubmitted her request in April 2022 on a date falling within the “escape period,” only to be redirected by union agents to Steelworkers Local 832 President Tara Purnhagen.

After Hernandez tendered her resignation to Purnhagen, “Ms. Purnhagen scolded and harassed me, accusing me of trying to convince my fellow co-workers to drop their union memberships,” Hernandez’s complaint says. Purnhagen also forbade Hernandez from discussing with her coworkers reasons to refrain from union membership.

KY Labor Secretary Appointed by RTW Opponent Beshear

“As of today’s filing, the company and the union have not reimbursed me for the money seized in union dues in violation of Kentucky law,” the complaint says.

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary is responsible under state law for investigating and prosecuting violations of Kentucky’s Right to Work protections. However, the current secretary, Jamie Link, was appointed by Gov. Andy Beshear, a noted union boss political ally and opponent of Right to Work protections. Teacher union bosses alone pumped well over $1 million into pro-Beshear super PACs last election cycle. It remains to be seen whether Link will shirk his duty to enforce the Right to Work law.

“Steelworkers union officials behave as if Kentucky’s Right to Work protections don’t exist, enforcing contracts that blatantly contradict the law and demanding illegal dues from rank-and-file workers like Ms. Hernandez in clear violation of their rights,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse. “Secretary Link must prosecute this blatant disregard for workers’ rights under Kentucky law and show that no one is above the law, including politically connected union bosses.”

 

22 Dec 2022

IAM Union ‘Becks’ Down in Boeing Technician’s Case Over Unlawful Dues Deductions

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

IAM bosses charged arbitrary higher amount in violation of Foundation-won Beck precedent

IAM union bosses’ illegal fee scheme faced headwinds when Boeing technician Don Zueger defended his rights with Foundation legal aid and won.

SEATTLE, WA – Boeing technician Don Zueger didn’t want to sacrifice a cent from his paycheck to subsidize the activities of International Association of Machinists (IAM) union bosses who currently maintain monopoly bargaining power in his workplace. But, because he works in non-Right to Work Washington State, he can be forced to pay some union fees just to keep his job.

When Zueger found out union officials were calculating his forced fees amount based on financial data from nine other IAM affiliates not just data from his own district union he knew something was amiss.

Zueger sought free legal representation from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and filed a federal lawsuit against the IAM union for violating his rights under the 1988 Foundation-won CWA v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court decision. In Beck, the Court ruled that union officials cannot charge full union dues to objecting private sector workers who have abstained from formal union membership, and can only charge them “fees” which exclude expenses for things like union political activities.

IAM Bosses Use Baseless ‘Formula’ to Seize Excessive Forced Union Fees

Zueger’s lawsuit pointed out that IAM officials’ puzzling scheme imposed a dues amount on him that exceeds the limit that Beck established. Now he has won a settlement that requires union officials to decrease his dues payments and return money illegally taken from his wages.

Washington State’s lack of Right to Work protections mean that union officials can legally demand Zueger pay the reduced Beck amount as a condition of staying employed. In Right to Work states, in contrast, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.

According to Zueger’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, he submitted a request to IAM union officials in February resigning his union membership and asking for his dues payments to be reduced as Beck requires.

Zueger’s lawsuit noted that IAM officials’ response to his Beck request claimed that, under IAM’s nationwide policy, the portion of union dues he must pay is based on averages of selected audits that in each case include nine other district IAM affiliates and nine other locals. Unsurprisingly, this policy resulted in IAM officials claiming Zueger is required to pay a greater sum than what would be required if union officials only used the audits for the district and local unions Zueger is forced to fund.

His lawsuit sought to force IAM union bosses to return all money demanded in violation of Beck and to properly reduce his future union payments in accordance with Beck.

Rather than attempt to defend their scheme to increase Zueger’s forced fee amount, IAM union chiefs quickly backed down and settled the case.

IAM union officials have now, as the settlement mandates, returned to Zueger the difference between the proper Beck dues amount and the illegal amount the union imposed on him. IAM bosses are also forbidden from demanding any money above the correctly calculated reduced Beck portion in the future, making the settlement a full vindication of Zueger’s Beck rights.

IAM Must Return Dues That Could Have Gone to Union Boss Political Agenda

Zueger’s settlement comes after union bosses spent near-record sums on politics during the 2020 election cycle, and as Foundation attorneys deal with a flurry of worker requests concerning illegal forced dues for politics. According to a report by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) released in 2021, public data on union expenses shows about $2 billion in political spending during the 2020 election cycle. Other estimates suggest the actual union spending on political and lobbying activities topped $12 billion during this cycle.

“It’s shameful that union officials continue to invent new ways to violate the decades-old Beck Supreme Court precedent and overcharge workers who clearly want nothing to do with union bosses and their agenda a big concern as union politicking heats up in advance of midterm elections,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “This scheme to artificially manipulate forced dues calculations is part of the IAM’s nationwide policy, and the Foundation stands ready to assist other workers around the country who are being subjected to this anti-Beck IAM scheme.”

22 Dec 2022

Foundation Helps Healthcare Workers Remove Unwanted Unions

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Evidence of union boss “serious financial malpractice” exposed as workers seek to vote out SEIU

 Mayo Clinic nurses MNA Healthcare Workers

Nurse Brittany Burgess (front, center) led her fellow Mayo Clinic nurses in decertifying the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) union. She’s “extremely grateful” for Foundation support.

DETROIT, MI – Workers across America are increasingly fed up with union bosses’ self-serving so-called “representation.” National Right to Work Foundation legal aid requests are spiking from workers seeking assistance in filing decertification petitions to end union monopoly bargaining control in their workplaces. In 2021 alone, Foundation attorneys provided legal assistance in 54 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decertification efforts, which together sought to end union boss control of more than 7,000 workers.

This increased demand has continued in 2022, with healthcare workers in particular seeking the Foundation’s legal aid in exercising their legal right to free themselves from union ranks. In one such ongoing case, Foundation staff attorneys assisted Crystal Harper, an employee at Detroit’s Sinai-Grace Hospital, who along with coworkers battled to oust SEIU Healthcare Michigan union officials.

Harper’s initial petition was rejected after an NLRB regional official dubiously dismissed the petition on the grounds that “Midnight, February 8th” in the union monopoly contract was actually unambiguously a reference to the minute after 11:59 p.m. on May 7. This questionable interpretation of union officials’ sloppily written contract meant that the petition filed on the 8th was actually late under the controversial NLRB-created “contract bar” policy.

Undeterred, that decision was appealed and a second petition for a decertification vote was filed in May after the contract bar had expired and a vote was scheduled. Meanwhile, “substantiated allegations of serious financial malpractice” have come to light involving the SEIU local that were so glaring even SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry couldn’t ignore them, as she was pushed to use the SEIU’s “trusteeship” procedures to oust local officials and take full control of the local.

As a result, in June, Foundation President Mark Mix formally asked the Department of Labor and Department of Justice to investigate the serious allegations of financial and other wrongdoing by SEIU local officials. The letter calling for the federal investigation noted that “any internal SEIU International investigation will be insufficient [given the] long history of union officials attempting to ignore or downplay corruption in their own ranks.”

Foundation Counters Union Legal Tricks to Block Vote

Elsewhere in Michigan, lab technicians at Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital have finally won their effort to be free of unwanted so-called “representation” by union officials of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 40.

During the protracted process, Foundation staff attorneys successfully fought off OPEIU union lawyers’ efforts to block the vote which cited the pending sale of the facility by Ascension to LabCorp as grounds for rejecting the workers’ request for an election. Union lawyers had urged the NLRB regional office to block a vote whether to remove the union on the grounds of an upcoming “cessation of operations” by the employer, a policy previously applied only to certification elections.

In briefs to the NLRB, Foundation staff attorneys countered that union attempts to block the vote were unjustified as a matter of law. Foundation attorneys also noted that the attempt to block the vote was likely a cynical attempt to keep power over the bargaining unit. If the sale ultimately went through, the union would have likely sought to block a decertification vote citing the NLRB-created “successor bar” that insulates union officials from decertification votes after a workplace’s change in ownership.

The Board ultimately rejected the union lawyers’ arguments and scheduled a decertification vote by mail-in ballot. However, rather than go forward with a vote they seemingly knew they were going to lose, OPEIU officials instead disclaimed interest in the unit, finally giving the workers the freedom from unwanted union representation they sought.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, multiple groups of healthcare workers are seeking decertification votes with Foundation legal aid. At the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, Minnesota, approximately 500 nurses filed a petition for a vote to remove the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) union, while two separate units of Cuyuna of the lawsuit, Regional Medical Center healthcare workers located at facilities in Crosby, Baxter, Longville, and Breezy Point, Minnesota, filed for decertification votes to free themselves from the SEIU.

Hundreds of Minnesota Nurses Petition to Be Union Free

“I’m extremely grateful to have the free legal assistance of the National Right to Work Foundation in fighting for our right to hold a vote to remove the union,” commented Mayo Clinic Mankato nurse Brittany Burgess. “I can’t wait until the day when we are all finally free of the MNA.”

One likely reason for the increased decertification activity is Foundation-advocated reforms that were adopted by the NLRB in 2020 to curtail union officials’ abuse of so-called “blocking charges,” which they use to delay or block workers from exercising their right to decertify a union. However, with the Biden-appointed NLRB majority recently announcing it was starting rulemaking to overturn those reforms, Foundation staff attorneys are now gearing up to challenge the Biden Board’s attempt to give union bosses more power to trap workers in union ranks they oppose.

“Foundation staff attorneys will continue to assist workers in exercising their rights under federal law to hold decertification elections to remove so-called ‘representation’ opposed by most workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse. “The Biden NLRB is clearly prioritizing union boss power to the detriment of the rights of rank-and-file workers. Look no further than the fact that just as the Board seeks to expand the ability of union officials to impose unionization on workers through coercive ‘Card Checks’ without even secret-ballot votes, it simultaneously plans to make it easier for union lawyers to block workers from holding votes to remove a union.”

18 Dec 2022

ATU Union Facing Prosecution After Agent Physically Assaults Bus Driver

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Bus driver targeted by union militants for opposing incumbent union officials

Transdev bus driver Thomas McLamb

Driven by Justice: Thomas McLamb did not let ATU union agents get away with upending his career just because he opposed their agenda. The union is now facing prosecution for its abuses.

WASHINGTON, DC – Transdev bus driver Thomas McLamb thought that Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) union bosses at his workplace were mishandling finances and not serving the workers’ interests. In 2015, he led a campaign to vote the union out, and in October 2021 he ran for union office in the hopes of unseating officials he found ineffective.

In response, union agents kicked off a vicious retaliation campaign to punish McLamb for peacefully resisting ATU union bosses’ agenda. This included a union steward physically assaulting McLamb and another union official arranging McLamb’s illegal firing.

McLamb sought out free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation and hit ATU union officials with federal charges for illegal retaliation. He also charged Transdev for the company’s role in his firing. McLamb’s opposition to the ATU union is activity protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which guarantees workers’ right to “refrain from any or all of ” union activities. McLamb’s charges say that ATU and Transdev officials illegally violated his rights under the NLRA.

Following an investigation, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a formal complaint against the ATU union, confirming all McLamb’s charges and scheduling a trial against ATU for its campaign of illegal retaliation. As this edition of Foundation Action went to press, a trial over the union’s misconduct had concluded. McLamb is now awaiting a decision from an NLRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

Union President Encouraged Followers to Assault Dissident Workers

In a statement filed in November 2021, McLamb said that the ATU Local 689 president, Raymond Jackson, had told other union officers to “slap” employees who were opposing his agenda. Shortly after, McLamb’s statement reported, a union shop steward assaulted him. Both incidents occurred while McLamb was campaigning against the incumbent officers to serve on Local 689’s board.

The NLRB’s complaint and notice of hearing in the case echoed McLamb’s charge. It stated that “[o]n November 11, 2021 . . . [union steward] Tiyaka Boone, at the Employer’s Hubbard Road facility, in the presence of employees, physically assaulted the Charging Party.”

McLamb reported in another federal charge that, shortly after this incident, ATU official Alma Williams demanded that Transdev management fire him. The NLRB’s complaint confirms this accusation: “On November 11, 2021, Respondent, by Alma Williams, at the Employer’s Hubbard Road facility, requested that the Employer discharge the Charging Party.”

On November 16, Transdev gave McLamb a letter stating that he had been placed on “Administrative Leave without pay” pending the outcome of an investigation.

For its part, Transdev backed down and settled immediately, reinstating McLamb and paying him full back wages for the period of his suspension. The ATU union, however, remains defiant.

“The union should not be run as the personal fiefdom of union bosses who do everything they can to insulate themselves from accountability, yet that’s how ATU officials have treated it, complete with threats and violence against me for calling out union officials’ shortcomings,” McLamb told The Washington Free Beacon shortly after a trial was scheduled in his case.

Case Highlights Need for Right to Work Protections

“No American employee should have to go to work thinking that they could be fired, mugged, or slandered merely for exercising their right to oppose union officials. The NLRB’s issuance of a complaint against the ATU in Mr. McLamb’s case is a small but significant step toward justice,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “However, due to Maryland’s lack of Right to Work protections for its private sector employees, Mr. McLamb is still required to sacrifice part of every paycheck to the same union hierarchy that is now facing prosecution for instigating violence against him.”

“Although we’re happy that the scales are finally tipping in Mr. McLamb’s favor, it’s unfortunately the reality in the 23 non-Right to Work states that workers are forced to pay fees to union hierarchies that act against their interests, sometimes even violently so.”

16 Dec 2022

Foundation Client Wins $5.1 Million Verdict After Union Boss-Instigated Firing

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, September/October 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Trial exposed emails advocating ‘targeted assassinations’ of union critics

Charlene Carter on her Foundation-won trial victory: “I am so humbled and thankful for today’s decision and for everyone who’s supported me these past five years.”

DALLAS, TX – Ex-Southwest Airlines flight attendant Charlene Carter prevailed in a federal jury trial in her lawsuit against the Transportation Workers Union of America (TWU) Local 556 union and Southwest. She charged both the company and union with illegally firing her for opposing the political activities of the union hierarchy, and with discriminating against her religious beliefs. Carter received free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas awarded Carter $5.1 million in combined compensatory and punitive damages against TWU and Southwest for their respective roles in her unlawful termination.

“Today is a victory for freedom of speech and religious beliefs. Flight attendants should have a voice and nobody should be able to retaliate against any employee for engaging in protected speech against her union,” said Carter reacting to the victory.

Flight Attendant Called Out Union Officials for Their Political Activities

Carter resigned from union membership in 2013 but was still forced to pay fees to TWU Local 556 as a condition of her employment. The Railway Labor Act (RLA), the federal law that governs labor relations in the air and rail industries, permits the firing of employees for refusal to pay dues and preempts the protections that state Right to Work laws provide.

However, the RLA does protect employees’ rights to remain nonmembers of the union, to speak out against the union and its “leadership,” and to advocate for changing the union’s current “leadership.”

In January 2017, Carter, a pro-life Christian, learned that then-TWU Local 556 President Audrey Stone and other Local 556 officials used union dues to attend a political rally in Washington, D.C., which was sponsored by activist groups she deeply opposed, including Planned Parenthood.

Carter, a vocal critic of Stone and the union, sent private Facebook messages to Stone challenging the union’s support for political positions that were contrary to Carter’s beliefs, and expressing support for a recall effort that would remove Stone from power. Carter also sent Stone a message emphasizing her commitment to a National Right to Work law after the union had sent an email to employees telling them to oppose Right to Work.

After a meeting at which Southwest officials confronted Carter about her posts protesting union officials’ positions, the company fired Carter. In 2017 Carter filed her federal lawsuit, challenging the firing as a clear violation of her rights under two federal laws. She maintained that she lost her job because of her religious beliefs, standing up to TWU Local 556 officials, and criticizing the union’s political activities and how it spent employees’ dues and fees.

Ultimately, concluding an 8-day July trial, the federal jury agreed with Carter and her Foundation staff attorneys. In its verdict, the jury found in favor of Carter on all counts of the lawsuit, while awarding Carter $950,000 in damages against the TWU union local and more than $4 million in damages against Southwest.

Union Zealot Advocated ‘Targeted Assassinations’ of Union Dissidents

In email communications unearthed and introduced at trial by Foundation staff attorneys, TWU union militants advocated for “targeted assassinations” of union dissidents and mocked Carter for being unable to stop her money from going toward union-backed causes she opposed.

Carter’s Foundation-backed lawsuit also revealed ugly examples of the hostility TWU officials and activists had for workers like Carter who spoke out against the incumbent union hierarchy. Foundation staff attorneys are preparing to counter already-announced appeals by both Southwest and TWU.

“This long-awaited verdict vindicates Ms. Carter’s fundamental right to dissent from the causes and ideas that TWU union officials support while forcing workers to bankroll that agenda,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Verdicts like this show not only that one brave worker standing up to union bullies can make a difference, but also send a message to union bosses that their unlawful tactics will not go unpunished or unchallenged.”

24 Oct 2022

Forced Dues For Politics: CWA Union Hit with Federal Charge by Pennsylvania Metal Worker

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, July/August 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

CWA officials defied decades of law by rejecting worker’s resignation

NILRR Graphic Election Cycle Spending

Coates’ case challenging illegal seizure of forced dues for politics comes after one analysis found that union officials likely spent over $12 billion on political activities during the 2019-2020 election cycle, far more than union officials publicly admit.

GALETON, PA – An employee of metal corporation Catalus hit a Communications Workers of America (CWA) union local this May with federal charges for illegally seizing full union dues from his paycheck, including dues for politics. Curtis Coates, a metal worker for Catalus, is receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Foundation attorneys filed Mr. Coates’ charges with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 6 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Region is now investigating the charges.

CWA Union Officials Continue to Collect Dues from Worker, Despite Lack of Authorization

On October 20, 2021, Mr. Coates sent a message to CWA union officials declaring that he was resigning from his position as shop steward and terminating his union membership.

Because no union monopoly contract was in effect, under longstanding law, Coates should have been able to immediately cut all financial support for the CWA union which he no longer supports. The charges say a union official rebuffed both of Mr. Coates’ requests the next day, insisting that he had to remain both a union member and a shop steward.

From December 2021 to February 2022, Mr. Coates followed up with union officials several times via email and mail. He repeatedly asked when union officials would cease taking dues money from his paychecks and what process he had to follow to revoke his dues deduction authorization to stop money from being seized from his paychecks.

“To date, the Union has not responded . . . and dues and contributions continue to be deducted from his wages,” the charge reads. Because Pennsylvania currently lacks a Right to Work law, union officials can legally force employees to pay some union fees just to keep their jobs. However, those forced fees cannot be demanded when no union contract is in effect.

Further, even in states without Right to Work protections full union membership cannot be required. Additionally, under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in CWA v. Beck (1988), won by Foundation attorneys, forced fees are limited to only the part of union dues that union officials claim goes toward a union’s core “representational” functions and cannot be collected for other activities like union politics and lobbying.

Conflict of Interest: NLRB General Counsel is a Former CWA Union Official

Currently, the NLRB General Counsel is former CWA attorney Jennifer Abruzzo, who has expressed support for a number of policies which give union officials greater power to force workers into dues-paying union ranks, even without a vote. Foundation attorneys requested last year that Abruzzo recuse herself from a case involving an Oregon ABC cameraman who accused another CWA local of demanding illegal dues from him, including dues for politics.

Coates’ case represents another potential conflict of interest for Abruzzo, who has repeatedly sided with union officials against the rights of workers opposed to union affiliation.

“Mr. Coates’ right to refrain from funding union activities is being ignored by CWA union officials as they continue to unlawfully seize full union dues, which includes money used for union political activities,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. “This case shows why Pennsylvania workers need the protection of a Right to Work law to make all union payments strictly voluntary: So union bosses cannot so brazenly collect money to which they are not entitled under longstanding federal law.”

“Further, Mr. Coates’ case demonstrates the obvious conflict of interest that exists as Abruzzo, a former CWA lawyer, is charged with enforcing workers’ rights violated by her former CWA union colleagues,” Semmens added.

22 Oct 2022

Worker Wins $18,000+ for Illegal Firing at IAM Union Bosses’ Behest

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, July/August 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union bosses got car dealership to illegally terminate employee for not joining union & paying full dues

New York Mechanic Headlines

IAM officials illegally demanded full dues and membership from Remmington Duk on pain of discharge. The Foundation helped Duk file his case and got the word out about his struggle, and he has now won thousands in a settlement.

BUFFALO, NY – Fired New York car dealership employee Remmington Duk won more than $18,000 from International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Automotive (IAM) Lodge 447 and Robert Basil Buick GMC. Mr. Duk filed federal charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on January 31, 2022, against IAM Lodge 447 and his former employer with free legal representation from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

Rather than defend the illegal firing, both the car dealership and union hastily settled, paying Duk a combined $18,416 in addition to posting notices informing other workers that they cannot legally be fired for refusing to join the union and pay full union dues.

The charges stated that on October 7, 2021, IAM union officials demanded Mr. Duk sign paperwork authorizing union membership. Union officials threatened that if he did not sign, he would be terminated from the company. After Mr. Duk refused to sign the documents, Robert Basil Buick GMC fired him on October 12, 2021, at IAM officials’ behest.

IAM Settles for Nearly $17,000 for Union Officials’ Role in Illegal Firing

Because New York State lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, employees can be fired for refusing to pay union fees. However, full membership and full union dues cannot legally be required. In contrast, in the 27 states currently with Right to Work laws on the books, union membership and all union financial support are strictly voluntary.

To make the federal unfair labor practice charges against the union go away, IAM officials paid Mr. Duk $16,916 and were required to post a notice in his workplace informing other workers of their right not to be union members. Union officials must also inform future new employees of that right. The union check payable to Mr. Duk reflects the amount of money he would have earned had he not been fired.

Car Dealership Pays Additional $1,500 for Union Instigated Firing

Mr. Duk also won a settlement from Robert Basil Buick GMC for $1,500 for firing him at the IAM union officials’ behest. In that settlement, Robert Basil Buick GMC also agreed to post a notice in the workplace for 60 days informing other workers of their right not to be union members, and to inform future new employees of that right.

“Understandably, Remmington Duk is no longer interested in returning to work for an employer who went along with IAM union officials’ illegal threat to have him fired for refusing union membership and dues payment, even though he was entitled to have his job back under federal law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens. This case is yet more evidence of why Empire State workers need the protection of a Right to Work law to make all union association strictly voluntary.”

2 Oct 2022

Slot Machine Technicians Appeal Outrageous Decision Denying Decertification Vote

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, July/August 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

NLRB Regional Director stacks deck against Las Vegas employees opposed to union affiliation

 

Despite massive opposition from rank-and-file casino workers including protests outside union headquarters, biased NLRB rulings keep workers trapped in union ranks.

LAS VEGAS, NV – Red Rock Casino slot machine technician Jereme Barrios has asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, to reverse an NLRB Region’s decision that blocks his and his coworkers’ right to vote out a union that a large majority of them have already expressed interest in removing. Barrios is receiving free legal representation from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

In March, Barrios submitted a majority-backed petition to NLRB Region 28, asking the agency to conduct a union “decertification vote” amongst his fellow slot technicians on whether to kick out International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 501 officials.

Foundation Attorneys Excoriate Decision: ‘a Scattershot Mess’

However, the Region did not schedule the vote as Barrios and his coworkers had asked. NLRB Region 28 Director Cornele Overstreet instead ruled in April that largely unverified and unrelated allegations (also called “blocking charges”) union officials had made against the management of Station Casinos, Red Rock’s parent company, blocked the technicians from exercising their right to vote whether to remove the union.

Barrios’ Request for Review argues that the Region’s decision is unfounded, and requests that the NLRB in Washington, DC, reverse it and allow them to have an immediate decertification vote.

Barrios’ Request for Review begins by explaining that, even if any of the union’s “blocking charges” have merit, the NLRB Regional Director was ignoring Foundation-backed reforms in the rules regarding “blocking charges” that the NLRB formally adopted in 2020.

The reforms generally prevent union “blocking charges” from stalling an employee vote. Nevertheless, “The Regional Director ignored the current Election Rules and even refused to cite them,” Barrios’ Request for Review says.

But Barrios’ Foundation-provided attorneys go even deeper and show that many of the IUOE union officials’ allegations against casino management would not even be sufficient to block a vote under the old rules, primarily because they deal with workplace units other than Barrios’.

By that logic, “any employer’s unfair labor practice could block any decertification in any of its other units, no matter how remote,” Foundation staff attorneys argue.

The remaining union “blocking charges,” including an allegation that Red Rock management did not bargain over COVID-19 protections, either do not reveal actual violations of federal labor law by Red Rock management or have no causal connection to Barrios and his colleagues’ desire to remove the union.

More Workers Battle Unpopular Unions and Biased NLRB with Foundation Help

The slot techs’ effort comes as Red Rock hospitality and foodservice staff, led by Foundation-backed employee Raynell Teske, are battling an order from a federal district court judge that forces them under the “representation” of Culinary Union bosses. That order was issued despite the fact that a majority of the hospitality and foodservice employees voted in a secret-ballot election to reject Culinary Union officials’ effort to install themselves at the casino.

Foundation-represented Palms Casino engineering worker Thomas Stallings is also in a situation similar to Barrios’. Stallings and his coworkers are fighting another decision from NLRB Regional Director Overstreet that traps them under the monopoly control of unpopular IUOE and International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) officials, merely on the basis of “blocking charges” having little if anything to do with Stallings’ work unit.

Independent-Minded Workers Showing Courage in Face of Coercion

“Las Vegas is now where regional NLRB officials have, in multiple instances, reflexively sided with union boss requests to remain in power at workplaces in which a clear majority of workers want the union gone,” commented National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse. “Las Vegas is indeed ‘Sin City,’ if the sin is disrespecting workers’ fundamental right to choose freely whether or not union bosses should speak for them.”

“Foundation attorneys are proud to stand by these courageous workers, who are fighting not only union coercion but an NLRB Regional Director seemingly determined to undermine the rights of workers opposed to union affiliation,” LaJeunesse added.

30 Sep 2022

South Jersey Bus Drivers Challenge Dues Trap Scheme in New Janus Lawsuit

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, July/August 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here.

Union officials concocted policy to stop drivers from ending union dues deductions

Tyron Foxworth

Tyron Foxworth followed union instructions to the letter when he tried to cut off IFPTE union dues late last year — but union bosses continued taking a cut of his pay.

CAMDEN, NJ – National Right to Work Foundation attorneys continue to defend the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision, helping workers across the country in fighting union boss schemes that restrict when public employees can exercise their right to cut off dues to a union they oppose.

Foundation attorneys are now aiding a group of drivers for the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) who are facing a particularly egregious example of union bosses’ resistance to the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling. According to the suit filed in May, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) union bosses are refusing to stop dues seizures — overtly violating the provisions of the union cards workers signed when they initially authorized the dues.

In Janus, the Court declared it a First Amendment violation to force public sector workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The Court also recognized that union officials can only deduct dues from the paycheck of a public sector employee who has voluntarily waived his or her Janus rights.

In their federal civil rights lawsuit, SJTA drivers Tyron Foxworth, Doris Hamilton, Karen Burdett, Karen Hairston, Ted Lively, Arlene Gibson, and Stanley Burke assert that IFPTE union officials violated their Janus rights by seizing dues from their paychecks after their dues deduction revocations should have been effective.

The drivers’ lawsuit says they signed forms indicating they could ask that dues deductions stop, but that such requests would not be effective until either the January or July following the request. The suit notes that currently union officials are ignoring those terms of the dues deduction cards and continue to deduct money despite the drivers’ objections.

IFPTE Union Siphoned Dues in Contradiction to Signed Documents

All of the plaintiffs submitted letters to SJTA officials between October and November 2021 requesting that IFPTE dues deductions cease. They expected the deductions to stop in January 2022, as the cards they signed provided. But, the lawsuit notes, “each Plaintiff had union dues seized from their wages after January 1, 2022 despite providing a notice of withdrawal prior to that date.”

The IFPTE’s monopoly bargaining contract with SJTA restricts workers’ dues revocation requests to only July, clearly at odds with the cards the drivers signed. Union officials never informed the drivers of this restriction or asked for their consent to it.

“These South Jersey Transportation Authority drivers are just the latest in a long line of Foundation-backed public workers who have discovered, after trying to dissociate from an unwanted union, that union officials brazenly locked them in restrictive dues schemes without even a whiff of consent,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix told Politico after the suit’s filing.

Foundation attorneys argue in Foxworth and his colleagues’ lawsuit that IFPTE union officials, by taking union dues after January 1, 2022, without the workers’ consent, “violate Plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to free speech and association.” The drivers seek a judgment making union officials permanently stop deducting dues from their wages, and return all dues already taken from their paychecks illegally.

Drivers Demand Return of Dues Union Seized Unconstitutionally

“IFPTE officials clearly value union dues revenue more than the rights of the workers they claim to ‘represent.’ Not only are those officials rebuffing clear notice from workers that they no longer want to support the union’s activities, but they’re enforcing a restrictive dues policy about which workers had absolutely no knowledge,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix.

“Janus was unambiguous: A worker’s affirmative consent is required for any kind of dues deductions to occur, and that standard was clearly not met here.”

 

29 Sep 2022

Foundation Client Wins $5.1 Million Verdict After Union Boss-Instigated Firing

The following article is from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s bi-monthly Foundation Action Newsletter, July/August 2022 edition. To view other editions of Foundation Action or to sign up for a free subscription, click here

Trial exposed emails advocating ‘targeted assassinations’ of union critics

Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Charlene Carter

Charlene Carter on her Foundation-won trial victory: “I am so humbled and thankful for today’s decision and for everyone who’s supported me these past five years.”

DALLAS, TX – Ex-Southwest Airlines flight attendant Charlene Carter prevailed in a federal jury trial in her lawsuit against the Transportation Workers Union of America (TWU) Local 556 union and Southwest. She charged both the company and union with illegally firing her for opposing the political activities of the union hierarchy, and with discriminating against her religious beliefs. Carter received free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas awarded Carter $5.1 million in combined compensatory and punitive damages against TWU and Southwest for their respective roles in her unlawful termination.

“Today is a victory for freedom of speech and religious beliefs. Flight attendants should have a voice and nobody should be able to retaliate against any employee for engaging in protected speech against her union,” said Carter reacting to the victory.

Flight Attendant Called Out Union Officials for Their Political Activities

Carter resigned from union membership in 2013 but was still forced to pay fees to TWU Local 556 as a condition of her employment. The Railway Labor Act (RLA), the federal law that governs labor relations in the air and rail industries, permits the firing of employees for refusal to pay dues and preempts the protections that state Right to Work laws provide.

However, the RLA does protect employees’ rights to remain non-members of the union, to speak out against the union and its “leadership,” and to advocate for changing the union’s current “leadership.”

In January 2017, Carter, a pro-life Christian, learned that then-TWU Local 556 President Audrey Stone and other Local 556 officials used union dues to attend a political rally in Washington, D.C., which was sponsored by activist groups she deeply opposed, including Planned Parenthood.

Carter, a vocal critic of Stone and the union, sent private Facebook messages to Stone challenging the union’s support for political positions that were contrary to Carter’s beliefs, and expressing support for a recall effort that would remove Stone from power. Carter also sent Stone a message emphasizing her commitment to a National Right to Work law after the union had sent an email to employees telling them to oppose Right to Work.

After a meeting at which Southwest officials confronted Carter about her posts protesting union officials’ positions, the company fired Carter. In 2017 Carter filed her federal lawsuit, challenging the firing as a clear violation of her rights under two federal laws. She maintained that she lost her job because of her religious beliefs, standing up to TWU Local 556 officials, and criticizing the union’s political activities and how it spent employees’ dues and fees.

Ultimately, concluding an 8-day July trial, the federal jury agreed with Carter and her Foundation staff attorneys. In its verdict, the jury found in favor of Carter on all counts of the lawsuit, while awarding Carter $950,000 in damages against the TWU union local and more than $4 million in damages against Southwest.

Union Zealot Advocated ‘Targeted Assassinations” of Union Dissidents

In email communications unearthed and introduced at trial by Foundation staff attorneys, TWU union militants advocated for “targeted assassinations” of union dissidents and mocked Carter for being unable to stop her money from going toward union-backed causes she opposed.

Carter’s Foundation-backed lawsuit also revealed ugly examples of the hostility TWU officials and activists had for workers like Carter who spoke out against the incumbent union hierarchy. Foundation staff attorneys are preparing to counter already-announced appeals by both Southwest and TWU.

“This long-awaited verdict vindicates Ms. Carter’s fundamental right to dissent from the causes and ideas that TWU union officials support while forcing workers to bankroll that agenda,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Verdicts like this show not only that one brave worker standing up to union bullies can make a difference, but also send a message to union bosses that their unlawful tactics will not go unpunished or unchallenged.”