Worker contends that union lacks valid contract and thus can’t demand any money from workers, despite recent MI Right to Work repeal

Detroit, MI (April 16, 2024) – An employee of Kroger’s supermarket in the Prospect Hill Shopping Center in Milford, MI, has just hit United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 876 union officials and Kroger management with federal charges. The employee, Roger Cornett, charges that Kroger declared it would fire him unless he signed a union membership form, and authorized union dues deductions and contributions to the union’s Political Action Committee (PAC) from his paycheck. Cornett notably points out that UFCW lacks a legal basis to demand money from any worker.

Cornett’s charges are now pending with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency responsible for governing private sector labor relations. Cornett’s charge recounts that, despite his requesting a copy, neither union officials nor Kroger produced a copy of a union contract containing a so-called “union security clause,” more accurately called a “forced-dues clause.”

Under longstanding federal law, even in a state without Right to Work protections, union officials can only enforce a contract requiring employees to pay dues as a condition of employment if the contract contains a forced-dues clause. To be valid, federal law requires that such clauses have a 30-day grace period before union bosses’ “pay-up-or-be-fired” demands can be enforced.

Since Kroger and UFCW cannot produce a contract that contains such a clause, union demands for dues money should be illegal. This is true notwithstanding Michigan’s repeal of its Right to Work law, a provision that made union membership and union financial support strictly voluntary.

Under federal law, no employee can be required to authorize payroll deductions of union dues or to pay money to a union PAC used to fund union boss-backed political candidates. Additionally, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and U.S. Supreme Court cases like General Motors v. NLRB safeguard the right of workers to abstain from formal union membership, while the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision forbids union officials from forcing nonmember workers to pay money for any expenses outside the union’s core bargaining functions, which includes political expenses.

UFCW Union Unleashed Pressure Campaign on Nonmember Workers After Right to Work Repeal

Michigan’s Right to Work law, which prevented union officials from having workers fired for refusing to join or pay dues to a union, was officially repealed on February 13, 2024. According to Cornett’s charges, in February he asked if there was an updated version of the union contract that would require him and other nonmembers to pay dues as a condition of employment in light of the repeal. Neither UFCW nor Kroger provided Cornett with such a contract in response to his request.

Union officials threatened Cornett and other workers that it was a condition of employment for them to become union members, authorize direct deductions of union dues from their pay, and “sign all or part of the three-part Union membership application and checkoff form,” the latter of which included a page authorizing deductions for the union’s PAC.

Worker Faced Termination After Being Threatened to Contribute to Union PAC

Cornett’s charges state that he received a letter from management on February 28 “informing him that…Kroger terminated [him] for failure to become a member of the Union.” This termination took place within the statutorily-required 30-day grace period before forced-dues contracts can be enforced against union nonmembers – meaning the firing would be illegal even if the union had a valid contract that allowed it to require dues payments as a condition of employment.

Cornett says in his charges that he signed the three-part form in order to keep his job. His charges state that the union’s threats and pressuring of employees “violate the [NLRA], and threaten, restrain, and discriminate against Charging Party and similarly situated employees in the exercise of their Section 7 right to refrain from [union activity].”

“Here we have yet another example of union bosses browbeating the very Michigan workers they claim to ‘represent’ as soon as Right to Work protections are gone,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Security guards at government buildings across Western Michigan are already banding together to oppose forced-dues demands from UGSOA union officials, and we now see UFCW union officials trying to squeeze dues money out of Kroger employees using coercive tactics that are forbidden even in a non-Right to Work environment.

“Especially concerning is Cornett’s charge that he was forced to sign his money away for the union’s PAC, a demand that blatantly violates several federal laws while paying no regard for workers’ free choice,” continued Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys will get to the bottom of this and defend Mr. Cornett’s rights.”

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.

Posted on Apr 16, 2024 in News Releases