Class-action lawsuit for Michigan workers, now before the Supreme Court, says union boss’ limitations on ending forced dues violate workers’ rights
Washington, D.C. (July 2, 2018) – After the Janus decision was announced, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court, asking the Court to review a 6th Circuit Court decision against grocery store employees Robbie Olendorf and Sandra Adams. The two employees of Oleson’s Food Stores in Michigan are pursuing a class action lawsuit with free legal assistance from Foundation staff attorneys. They contend that United Food and Commercial Workers Local 876 (UFCW) union’s check-off revocation restrictions violate federal labor law.
Michigan’s Right to Work protections, which were signed into law by Governor Snyder in 2012, make union membership and financial support strictly voluntary. However, union officials frequently block workers from exercising their legal rights. Robbie Ohlendorf and Sandra Adams, a part-time stocking clerk and a cashier respectively at Oleson’s Foods Stores, found this out when they attempted to exercise their right to end payments to UFCW officials in 2016.
When the two submitted letters to the UFCW Local 876 revoking their authorization for the union to collect dues, UFCW officials rejected their attempt. The officials cited a “window period” and certified mail rule, which require any revocation to take place only in an arbitrary union-defined time period and only by certified mail.
Believing UFCW’s policies violated their rights, Ohlendorf and Adams turned to National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys for help. With free Foundation-provided legal representation, the pair filed a federal class-action lawsuit in December 2016 against UFCW Local 876. They brought the lawsuit on the grounds that union officials’ restrictions violate their statutory rights and breach the union’s duty of fair representation by limiting dues revocations to a “window period” and demanding that such requests be made via certified mail.
After a Western Michigan District Court judge ruled that the dues deduction authorizations containing the restrictions were binding, Ohlendorf and Adams appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in March declined to overturn the district court’s ruling. For the first time, the Court of Appeals also held that employees cannot bring a lawsuit statutorily challenging a union’s restrictions on revocations.
If their petition is granted and the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, the two workers’ lawsuit may have a resounding impact on whether employees can sue in federal courts to challenge union-imposed window periods, which are frequently used by union officials to prevent workers from exercising their legal right to stop dues payments in Right to Work states.
“Unions have a long history of using these so-called ‘window period’ rules to block workers from exercising their legal rights and continue to seize forced dues against their will,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Even in Right to Work states, Big Labor officials will concoct new methods to keep extracting dues from workers—and now the Supreme Court will have a chance to weigh in and potentially put an end to these abusive union practices.”
“Arbitrary union limitations on ending dues payments violates union officials’ duty not to use their government-granted monopoly powers to discriminate against workers who exercise their legal rights to resign from union ranks,” continued 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 more than 250 cases nationwide per year.