Back pay award ends case against employer, federal charge against union for instigating illegal termination still under NLRB investigation
Jackson, MN (August 25, 2022) – Jannie Potgieter, who was a freight employee at industrial park USF Holland in Jackson, Minnesota, filed federal charges against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 120 union and his employer in May for illegally terminating him for exercising his right not be a union member. Now Mr. Potgieter has received approximately $10,512 in back pay from USF Holland in exchange for dropping the charge against the company. The charge against the union for union officials’ role in the illegal termination is still pending.
Mr. Potgieter’s charges were filed on May 27, 2022, at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 18 with free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Fountain staff attorneys. The charges stated that on May 18, 2022, a USF Holland manager fired Mr. Potgieter because he exercised his rights under the Communications Workers of America v. Beck (1988) U.S. Supreme Court precedent not to join the union.
In the non-NLRB settlement with USF Holland, Mr. Potgieter agreed to withdraw his unfair labor charge in exchange for the back pay plus employer-provided training for management about workers’ Beck rights and a prohibition on firing workers who refuse to join a union. The NLRB Regional Director approved the settlement, but continues to investigate the charge against Teamsters Local 120.
Because Minnesota lacks Right to Work protections for private sector employees, unions can force them to pay union fees as a condition of keeping their jobs. However, under Beck, a U.S. Supreme Court decision won by Foundation staff attorneys, formal union membership cannot be required, nor can payment of the part of dues used for non-bargaining expenditures like union political activities. In contrast, in the 27 states with Right to Work protections, union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.
“Mr. Potgieter’s illegal firing for exercising his basic rights shows why Minnesota workers need the protection of a Right to Work law to ensure all union membership and financial support is strictly voluntary,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While we’re glad USF Holland has belatedly taken responsibility for its role, union bullies must also be held accountable for instigating this blatantly illegal firing.”
“With Labor Day right around the corner, this case serves as a reminder that being pro-worker must mean rejecting compulsion and allowing each and every working American the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not to spend their hard-earned paycheck on union dues,” added Mix.
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 about 200 cases nationwide per year.