Union and CVS face federal charges after UFCW officials initiated firing of worker who exercised legal right to refrain from union membership

Chicago, IL (December 22, 2022) – Evanston CVS employee Lynn Gray has won reinstatement after United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 881 union officials had her illegally fired for refusing to join the union. Gray received free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.

Gray filed federal unfair labor practice charges on December 16 at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against both the union and her employer, stating that CVS management illegally fired her after UFCW officials sent her letters threatening termination if she did not become a union member. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the federal law the NLRB is responsible for enforcing, forbids union bosses from having workers fired for refusing formal union membership.

Almost immediately after Gray filed the charges with free Foundation legal representation, CVS reinstated her, likely knowing that the union-initiated termination was a clear violation of federal law.

Although forced union membership is prohibited under the NLRA, Illinois lacks Right to Work protections for its private sector workers, meaning union bosses can force workers under their control to pay them money just as a condition of staying employed. However, the 1988 CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision won by Foundation attorneys prevents union officials from forcing nonmembers to pay for any activities beyond the union’s bargaining functions, such as political and ideological expenses.

In contrast, in states with Right to Work protections (including Illinois’ neighbors Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Kentucky), no worker can be fired for refusal to pay money to unwanted union officials.

Employee Paid Union Dues Under Protest, But UFCW Bosses Still Ordered Firing

Gray’s charge says she began working part-time shifts at the CVS in early October. In late November she received a letter from UFCW union officials stating that she needed to pay full union dues to keep her job, and alleging that she already owed nearly $200 in back union dues. Gray responded on December 5, sending the amount that the union declared she owed but clarifying that she was doing so “under protest and solely to protect my job with CVS.”

“Please note that the enclosed payment in no way indicates my consent to becoming a member of UFCW or any of its affiliates,” Gray’s letter read. She also demanded the union provide her the calculation for the amount they claimed she owed.

Union officials at no point informed Gray of her rights under Beck to pay reduced union dues as a nonmember, or her right to abstain from union membership.

Although a union official acknowledged the receipt of her letter, CVS management contacted Gray only days later to tell her that she had been terminated at union officials’ behest. With Foundation legal aid, Gray filed federal charges against the union and CVS on December 16. Her charge sought an NLRB 10(j) injunction, which if granted would let a court order her immediate reinstatement.

Before NLRB officials could take any action on her charge, however, CVS officials hastily reinstated Gray on December 19.

Foundation President: Forced Dues Are Always Wrong, Even in Non-Right to Work States

Foundation staff attorneys earlier this year aided another Illinois employee, Murphysboro Penn Aluminum International employee Mary Beck, after International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union officials threatened to fire her for refusal to pay union fees. Foundation attorneys argued that the union officials’ contract was so sloppily written that it didn’t even let IBEW bosses enforce their legal privilege (due to Illinois’ lack of a Right to Work law) to force Beck to pay some money to the union just to keep her job.

“Union officials in non-Right to Work states like Illinois have a tendency to play fast and loose with workers’ rights and livelihoods. That’s because the core assumption behind the laws in those states is that union officials’ ability to stock their coffers should trump worker free choice,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While Beck and other Foundation-won court decisions provide at least a check on that privilege in non-Right to Work states, every American worker deserves Right to Work protections so workers can make up their own minds about whether union officials have earned their support.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.

Posted on Dec 22, 2022 in News Releases