Workers receive back pay from employer but charges against Teamsters for union officials’ role in illegal termination and rights violations are still pending
Minneapolis, MN (March 25, 2020) – Two Minnesota building materials employees won a settlement in their unfair labor practice cases charging their former employer, OMG Midwest, for illegally firing them after the workers refused to formally join the Teamsters Local 120 union. The two workers charged that company and union officials told them several times – falsely – that union membership was required as a condition of employment. The settlement was won with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
As a result of the settlement, OMG Midwest will now pay over $30,000 in back pay to the two men. They will also “remove all references to the termination” from the two employees’ personnel files, post notices at OMG’s Belle Plaine, Minnesota, facility, and distribute those notices to individual employees. The notices will explain that workers cannot be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. Charges against the union for violating the two workers’ rights are still pending.
James Connolly recounted in his charges that he asked Teamsters officials via email on April 9, 2019, whether or not he would be compelled into joining the union as part of the job. The same day a union official wrongly replied, “Sorry James but yes you do have to join.” Later, on May 1, a representative of OMG Midwest reiterated the same false information to Connolly. Connolly responded to the company in a May 9 email, in which he repeated his unwillingness to formally join the Teamsters. OMG Midwest fired Connolly the next day. Connolly then filed unfair labor practice charges against OMG Midwest and the Teamsters union at National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 18 with Foundation aid.
Later, in June, Charles Winter filed similar charges against OMG Midwest and the Teamsters union. Winter reported in his charges that at a company-wide meeting a Teamsters representative had told him and other employees that union membership is required in order to get or keep a job. When Winter later received an email from a company representative reiterating the false information that union membership was compulsory, Winter replied on May 20 holding firm that he would not join. He was fired in an email from the same company representative that same day.
Winter’s charge also alleged that the union membership form that Teamsters officials gave him was missing a legally-required estimate of the reduced union fees that union nonmembers would be required to pay under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision.
Both men’s charges argued that the misinformation about membership and their firings clearly violated Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the “right to refrain from any or all” union activities. Winter also charged that the union violated his right under Beck to be a nonmember and pay only the part of union dues directly germane to bargaining. As part of the settlement, OMG Midwest is required to include “a Notice of Beck Rights” in the rights notices it will disseminate to all bargaining unit employees.
Because Minnesota has not enacted Right to Work protections for employees, union bosses can have private sector workers fired for not paying fees to a union. However, union officials can only require workers to pay the portion of dues allowed by Beck and must follow certain Beck procedures before seizing such forced fees from workers who are not union members.
“Although it’s good news that Mr. Connolly and Mr. Winter have won these settlements which require OMG Midwest to make reparations for violating longstanding worker protections, the fact is that Mr. Connolly’s and Mr. Winter’s charges against the Teamsters union are still pending,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “NLRB Region 18 must swiftly prosecute Teamsters Local 120 officials so these two men’s rights can be fully vindicated.”
Mix added: “Ultimately, Minnesota legislators need to pass Right to Work protections for their state’s private-sector employees which will ensure that union bosses must use persuasion – not illegal intimidation or threats of firing – to secure the support of workers.”
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.