UFCW officials charged with illegally collecting forced union dues and threatening worker for seeking vote to remove unpopular union
Selbyville, DE (April 28, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a Delaware-based employee of Mountaire Farms has just filed federal charges against the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 27 union for threats and other violations of federal law.
The employee, Oscar Cruz Sosa, contends that union officials are violating his and his coworkers’ rights by seizing union fees from them under an unlawful forced dues provision in the union contract. The charges also allege that a union official violated his rights when in March he visited Sosa at home uninvited and threatened him for submitting a petition signed by his coworkers seeking a vote to remove the union from their workplace. His charges were filed at Region 5 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Baltimore, Maryland.
Sosa’s charges come after the NLRB Region 5 Director rejected union arguments that the decertification election requested by Sosa and his coworkers should be blocked. Under a controversial NLRB-created policy known as the “contract bar,” employees’ statutory right to hold a decertification vote to remove a union can be blocked for up to three years when a union contract is in place. However, under longstanding precedent, the “contract bar” to decertification does not apply when the union contract in place contains an unlawful forced dues clause.
In April, the Regional Director found that the UFCW contract with Mountaire Farms contains a so-called “union security” clause which unlawfully mandates that workers’ immediately pay union dues upon hiring or be fired. That meant that, although the contract was adopted less than three years ago, the workers’ vote can still proceed. Despite the longstanding precedent supporting the Regional Director’s ruling, UFCW union lawyers have petitioned the NLRB to overrule the Regional Director. Sosa’s Foundation staff attorneys are also defending the workers’ right to hold a vote in that proceeding.
In light of the Regional Director’s finding that the forced dues clause is unlawful, Sosa’s charge asks that the Regional Director order union officials to refund all dues and fees seized from him and his coworkers under that clause. Although Delaware lacks Right to Work protections for its workers, and thus union bosses can have private sector workers fired for not paying certain union fees used for bargaining purposes, the National Labor Relations Act explicitly provides that newly hired workers have 30 days before they can be required to pay those dues. Under longstanding precedent, a forced fee clause that does not give employees that 30-day “grace period” is invalid and unenforceable.
Sosa’s charge also recites that a UFCW agent came to his house uninvited on March 8, 2020, and warned him “that the decertification process being undertaken was ‘illegal’” and that a court battle was coming. Sosa’s charge asserts that this was “threatening” and “coercive behavior” and a clear attempt to restrain him and his coworkers in the exercise of their NLRA Section 7 right to vote out an unwanted union.
“The threats and dues deductions in this case show how union bosses regularly trample workers’ rights in order to keep forced dues rolling into their coffers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We hope that NLRB Region 5 will immediately prosecute the union for these violations, and ultimately order that the union refund all union dues and fees collected from Mountaire Farms workers under the unlawful forced dues clause.”
Mix continued: “While UFCW officials were caught red-handed in this case, these types of forced union dues abuses will continue until Delaware workers have the protection of a Right to Work law, which ensures that all 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.