NLRB GC: Settlement NLRB Region 19 approved did not order sufficient remedies for Unite Here union officials’ illegal omissions in employee rights information
Portland, OR (November 22, 2019) — With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, two foodservice workers at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, have successfully appealed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel in Washington, DC, their case charging Unite Here Local 8 union bosses with illegally failing to inform employees of their rights.
The two employees, Terry Denton and Alejandro Martinez Cuevas, filed federal charges last August against Unite Here for violating federal law when union officials did not disclose the reduced amount of union fees employees could pay by refraining from formal union membership and asserting their rights under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court decision. This omission, their charges state, illegally restrained workers in the exercise of their Beck rights by preventing employees from making informed decisions about whether or not to become union members.
Because Oregon lacks a Right to Work law, private sector employees who refrain from formal union membership can still be required to pay some fees to a union as a condition of employment. However, union officials must follow the requirements of the Beck decision and cannot require workers to pay dues or fees for activities unrelated to the union’s bargaining functions, such as union political activities.
In response to Denton’s and Martinez Cuevas’s charges, the Regional Director for NLRB Region 19 issued a formal complaint against Unite Here officials in August, after which union bosses attempted to settle the case. The Regional Director’s complaint came after February advice memos from the NLRB General Counsel’s office which stated that the NLRB requires union officials to keep all workers apprised of Beck fee reductions.
The settlement the Regional Director approved, however, merely required union agents to post notices announcing that they would inform all future new employees of the reduction in union fees that would result if they asserted their rights under Beck.
Attorneys for Denton and Martinez Cuevas objected to the settlement agreement, pointing out that it did not require Unite Here bosses to inform current employees of the reductions in union fee payments they would receive by asserting their Beck rights. They also contended that the settlement did not permit current employees to resign their union memberships retroactively and recover dues that had been taken from their paychecks while they were kept in the dark about their Beck rights by Unite Here bosses.
Despite the objections, the Regional Director approved the settlement. Foundation staff attorneys then filed an appeal to the NLRB General Counsel, which was sustained on November 7. The General Counsel’s decision noted that the original settlement agreement did “not provide an appropriate remedy” and ordered Region 19 to move forward with the charges.
This marks yet another victory against union boss coercion for Denton, who earlier this year obtained free Foundation legal aid and hit Unite Here officials with federal unfair labor practice charges for demanding several months’ worth of illegal dues from nonmembers, including for months when the nonmember workers had not worked or had already paid in full. Union bosses eventually backed down and began waiving fee payments for nonmembers, but only after Denton filed her charges.
“While it is certainly good news that the General Counsel has ruled in favor of Ms. Denton, Mr. Martinez Cuevas, and their coworkers, it should not require an appeal to Washington, DC, to secure the right of workers to make an informed decision about union membership,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Future abuses of Beck can’t occur under a Right to Work law, which would ensure that union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.”
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 more than 250 cases nationwide per year.