Union officials kept electrician in the dark about right to resign union membership, then demanded thousands in fines after he and wife rebuffed union contract demands
Detroit, MI (February 19, 2020) – A Michigan electrician is hitting International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 58 union bosses with federal charges for not telling him about his right to resign his union membership, and subsequently illegally fining him. The charges were filed with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Charles Lanning had worked as an electrician for several different employers since early 2008, before joining his wife’s business in 2018. His charge reports that, though he was on IBEW membership rolls during that time period, IBEW agents had never informed him of his right to resign his union membership, or his right prior to the passage of Michigan’s Right to Work law to pay only the portion of union dues directly related to monopoly bargaining under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision.
Since March 2013, Michigan has had Right to Work protections for workers, which outlaw arrangements where union bosses can require workers to pay them a portion of their paychecks as a condition of getting or keeping a job.
Mr. Lanning’s charge recounts that he left a job with a contractor in March 2018 so he could work for his wife’s business, Homestead Enterprises of Michigan. After doing so, he called the IBEW Local 58 office to find out if he would still be required to pay any kind of fees to the union despite the fact that he “would not be seeking work through the union hiring hall for the foreseeable future.” IBEW officials told him that they would continue to demand quarterly dues from him, and again failed to apprise him that he had the right to resign his union membership completely and exercise his right under Michigan’s Right to Work law to stop all union payments. Because of this misinformation, Mr. Lanning continued to pay quarterly dues.
In September 2019, according to the charge, IBEW union bosses told Mr. Lanning in a text message that they needed to update him on the “contract changes making it possible for members to be contractors.” Mr. and Mrs. Lanning later sat for a meeting with IBEW bosses to discuss these supposed changes, during which the union bosses pressured Lanning’s wife to sign a contract which would force her to bargain with the IBEW union simply for hiring her husband.
Mrs. Lanning did not sign, and IBEW bosses subsequently informed Mr. Lanning that the IBEW had brought union disciplinary charges against him and that “we may forgive them if you decided to become signatory” to the contract. At the proceeding before a union tribunal to determine whether Mr. Lanning had violated the union’s constitution and bylaws, Mr. Lanning was told that “guys lose their retirement for doing this kind of thing” and that IBEW agents would “salt” his wife’s business. “Salting” is a deceptive union practice in which union organizers apply for jobs at nonunion companies with the intention of organizing the workers into monopoly union ranks or instigating costly and often frivolous legal action.
In addition to the threats against his retirement and his wife’s business, IBEW Local 58’s internal trial board convicted Mr. Lanning of violating union rules and demanded that he pay $10,000 in fines. Mr. Lanning’s charge argues that he was never a consensual member of the IBEW because he had never been told that membership was optional. Because his membership was never valid, the charge explains, all of the union-created disciplinary measures are flagrant violations of his rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects workers’ “right to refrain from” union activity.
“Michigan union bosses are shamelessly attacking a man for choosing to work alongside his wife all to expand their coercive power over individual workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This brazen behavior, combined with IBEW bosses’ long-running misinformation campaign against Mr. Lanning concerning his rights, are just one example of the continuing widespread corruption among Michigan union bosses that Foundation attorneys will continue to fight.”
Since Michigan’s Right to Work law became effective in March 2013, Foundation staff attorneys have brought over 120 cases for Michigan workers subjected to coercive union boss tactics.
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.