Union boss demanded personal emails of Sacramento-Yolo District workers seeking information about holding a vote to remove the union from their workplace
Sacramento, CA (January 27, 2021) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, three Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District employees just received a favorable decision from a California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The employees’ case charged that International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 3 officials interfered with their rights under California law to remove the union from their workplace by targeting their protected communications through a California Records Act request.
The ALJ decision confirms the workers’ charges that IUOE union officials had “unlawfully surveilled [their] protected conduct” and also finds that the workers were “harmed by the unlawful surveillance when they learned of it.” As a result, the decision orders union officials to immediately stop monitoring the workers’ email activity about the union. The decision also requires IUOE Local 3 to post copies of the decision in all Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District workplaces where the union maintains monopoly bargaining power and to send the decision to all bargaining unit employees through electronic means, including email.
The employees, Brett Day, Ryan Wagner, and Mark Pipkin, were targeted by union officials after they discussed with other District employees how to exercise their rights as public workers under California’s Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA). That statute guarantees public workers “the right to refuse to join or participate in the activities of employee organizations” and “the right to represent themselves individually in their employment relations with the public agency.” Union agents requested from their employer all emails the three and other named employees had sent containing the words or phrases “decertification,” “PERB,” “union,” “decertify,” “how to get rid of union,” “Public Employee Relations Board,” and “Meyers Milias Brown Act.”
That request was made as IOUE officials sought to block a push for a decertification election, in which workers would vote in secret to determine whether a majority want to end the union’s monopoly representation. Under the 2018 Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the dissenting workers finally have the legal right to stop financial support of the union, yet California law still forces the union on them as their monopoly bargaining agent.
Day, Wagner, and Pipkin defended themselves by obtaining free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys and filing charges with PERB. The workers’ charges argued that the union’s demand for employee emails interfered with their right to communicate with their coworkers about voting out the union, as protected by the MMBA. In May 2019, PERB found merit in Day, Wagner, and Pipkin’s charges and issued a complaint on which to prosecute the union.
The decision notes that employees’ knowledge of being spied on by union officials “has a deleterious effect on [their] future exercise of rights” and thus ruled that Day, Wagner, and Pipkin “suffered harm to their protected right to communicate with coworkers about unionization, decertification, and the Union in general.” The ALJ’s decision will become the PERB’s official decision in 20 days, unless one of the parties files exceptions to it.
“IUOE union bosses’ conduct in this case clearly demonstrates that they were far more interested in maintaining their one-size-fits-all bargaining power over Day, Wagner, and Pipkin’s workplace than in respecting the rights and privacy of the very workers they claim to represent,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This favorable decision underscores why government sector union bosses should not have the privilege of forcing their so-called ‘representation’ on all employees in a public workplace, especially not over the objections of employees who oppose the union.”
“Even though the Foundation-won Janus decision eliminated the scourge of forced union dues for public employees, there is ultimately no place for compulsory unionism of any kind in state or federal labor law,” Mix added.
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.