Final settlement requires notice informing workers of legal rights and opportunity to obtain refunds of dues taken because of omissions
Portland, OR (November 4, 2020) – Two Bon Appetit foodservice workers at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, have just won a settlement in their case charging UNITE HERE Local 8 union bosses with hindering the informed exercise of their right to choose whether or not to be union members by failing to provide employees the percentage reduction in union dues they would be required to pay as nonmembers. The workers received free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Bon Appetit employees Terry Denton and Alejandro Martinez Cuevas originally filed charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against UNITE HERE Local 8 in August 2018, arguing the lack of information infringed their rights under the National Labor Relations Act and the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Because Oregon lacks a Right to Work law, private sector employees who refrain from formal union membership can be required to pay some fees to a union as a condition of employment. However, union officials must follow the requirements of the Beck decision and cannot require workers to pay dues or fees for activities unrelated to the union’s bargaining functions, such as union political activities.
The Regional Director for NLRB Region 19 issued a formal complaint against UNITE HERE officials in August 2019. This complaint came after a memo from the NLRB General Counsel’s office which advised the Regions that the NLRB requires union officials to keep all workers apprised of Beck fee reductions.
Union bosses and the Regional Director attempted to settle this case without offering a remedy for all bargaining unit members. This initial settlement merely required union agents to post notices announcing that they would inform employees of the reduction in union fees that would result if they asserted their rights under Beck, but did not require the union to offer employees who had received the deficient notice the ability to resign their union memberships retroactively and recover the dues that had been taken unlawfully from their wages.
Denton and Martinez Cuevas objected to the terms of the settlement agreement. They had filed charges for themselves and their fellow employees, who also deserved an opportunity to exercise their rights.
Despite the two employees’ objections, the Regional Director approved the settlement. Foundation staff attorneys then filed an appeal to the NLRB General Counsel, which was sustained in November 2019. The General Counsel’s decision noted that the original settlement agreement did “not provide an appropriate remedy” and ordered Region 19 to move forward with the charges.
Faced with the threat of a renewed prosecution by the NLRB, UNITE HERE officials backed down and settled the case with a more complete remedy. Union officials now must provide notices informing all employees, current and future, of the reduction that will be made to their union dues if they choose to be nonmembers. UNITE HERE officials will also reimburse current employees who resign their union memberships retroactively for dues money that they have paid in excess of the nonmember rate.
“Although it’s good news that after over two years Ms. Denton and Mr. Martinez Cuevas have finally vindicated their and their coworkers’ right under Beck to refrain from funding union political activities as a condition of employment, no worker in America should be forced to accept or pay for one-size-fits-all union boss ‘representation’ that they do not want,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “All American workers need Right to Work protections, which put the decision to join and financially support union activities exactly where it should be – in the hands of individual 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 more than 250 cases nationwide per year.