Union agents previously misinformed worker about his rights, and now seek to impose punitive strike fines in internal union kangaroo court
Northampton, Mass. (May 20, 2019) – Matthew Coffey, an employee of a Northampton, MA Stop & Shop, has filed a new unfair labor practice charge against the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1459. Coffey, one of thousands of Stop & Shop employees across New England who were ordered to strike by UFCW union officials in mid-April, added to his earlier charges against the union by alleging that UFCW officials have illegally moved to discipline him for exercising his right to continue to work during the strike.
The new charge points out Coffey had never been a voluntary union member and therefore cannot be subject to internal union discipline, a process in which union officials punish workers who defy their orders. In some instances, union officials have levied fines as high as tens of thousands of dollars against rank-and-file workers they claim to “represent.”
As the charge notes, Coffey had been misled by union officials into believing that Stop & Shop is a “closed shop” since the beginning of his employment in December 2017. He was thus coerced into joining the UFCW thinking that union membership was required to keep his job. It wasn’t until the April strike that he discovered that “closed shops” are illegal under federal law and that he had the right to refrain from formal union membership. Because of this he was never actually a voluntary member of the UFCW, a condition necessary for union discipline to be legally imposed.
Armed with this new knowledge, he filed his first charge against UFCW Local 1459 on April 17 with help from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Foundation. That charge detailed the union misinformation regarding his legal right to refrain from union membership and resign before the strike. It also detailed harassment he received, including personal slurs, because he continued to work during the strike.
According to Coffey’s new charge, also filed with free legal aid from the Foundation, UFCW Local 1459 officials sent him a letter on April 30 which “inform[ed] him that he would be disciplined” for continuing to perform his job during the strike. The letter demanded that Coffey appear before a union tribunal on May 14 to defend himself from the disciplinary charges.
Because Coffey had never been informed of his right to refrain from union activities, his charge alleges that the proposed disciplinary action is a further breach of his rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
“This case shows that strikes ordered by Big Labor bosses often include violations of workers’ individual rights,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “Matthew Coffey chose to exercise his right to work and support his family, and rather than respect that decision, UFCW bosses are doubling down on their illegal bullying.”
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.