Union officials threatened workers with loss of access to employer-sponsored healthcare if they did not retroactively “authorize” illegally seized union dues
San Juan, PR (April 28, 2021) – Employees at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) have received health insurance cards that were being withheld from them by union officials as retaliation for their refusal to sign union dues forms. Union officials and the university faced pressure to restore the dissenting employees’ healthcare coverage from a legal motion filed by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
Jose Ramos and Orlando Mendez filed a class-action suit in May 2020 against the University and the University of Puerto and its Workers Union for infringing on employees’ rights as recognized in the 2018 Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision. In Janus the High Court ruled that public employees cannot be required to pay union dues as a condition of their employment, and that union fees can only be taken from public employees if they affirmatively waive the right not to pay.
Ramos and Mendez never authorized union dues deductions and never signed membership forms, yet union officials continued to collect dues from their paychecks. In an attempt to make their years of unauthorized dues deductions legal, union officials demanded workers sign a document retroactively approving all previously deducted dues and consenting to an unspecified number of future deductions. Union officials said the workers would lose access to their healthcare plan if they did not comply.
Ramos and Mendez refused to sign the form, and union officials withheld the employee’s permanent insurance cards, forcing them to rely on temporary insurance certifications. The temporary certifications weren’t received consistently, and there were gaps when the workers were left uninsured. Foundation attorneys filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to immediately restore full access to the employees’ healthcare plan.
Union bosses finally backed down, and the plaintiffs received their permanent insurance cards, restoring access to on-the-job benefits the union threatened in an attempt to coerce workers into approving years of past illegal dues deductions.
The workers’ class action suit against the union and the university for the unlawful dues deductions will continue. The employees seek an order forbidding further enforcement of the unconstitutional dues deductions from nonconsenting employees, and a refund of the dues that were illegally seized “within the…15-year statute of limitations period for breach of contract.”
“Union bosses used their control over employees’ healthcare to try and cover their tracks after illegally seizing dues for years,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix. “Instead of seeking workers’ voluntary support, union bosses threatened their healthcare hoping they would cave.”
“While we’re thankful these workers are no longer being illegally denied access to their healthcare plan, their Foundation staff attorneys will pursue the lawsuit until these workers’ First Amendment rights are fully vindicated,” added 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.