News outlets reported on March 9, 2021, that Massachusetts Nurses Association officials ordered more than 800 hospital workers to strike against Tenet Healthcare at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, beginning on March 9.

This situation raises serious concerns for hospital employees who believe there is much to lose from a union boss-ordered strike and who do not want to abandon their jobs and their patients.

Employees have the legal right to rebuff union officials’ strike demands, but it is important for them to be informed before they do so.


The Foundation wants you to learn about your legal rights from independent sources. You should not rely on what self-interested union officials tell you. For more than five decades, Foundation attorneys have worked in the courts and labor agencies to protect and expand individual employees’ rights in situations such as strikes. It is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuses.

Employees of Tenet Healthcare at St. Vincent Hospital should know they have the following rights:

1) A union has no disciplinary power over nonmembers and cannot discipline them for crossing a picket line and working during a strike. If you are currently not a member of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, you have the right to go to work even if the union bosses order a strike.

2) If you are currently a union member, you have the right to resign your union membership. Union officials can (and often do) levy large fines against union members who work during a strike. If you are currently a union member and want to work during a strike, you should seriously consider resigning your union membership at least one day BEFORE you return to work. That is the only way to avoid possible ruinous union fines and other discipline. To have the best legal defense possible against fines the union may try to impose, you should give the union notice of your resignation BEFORE you cross the picket line so that when you return to work you are not a union member.

The decisions whether to resign your union membership and/or cross the picket line are wholly yours. The Foundation is simply providing this information so that your decisions are informed. If you are a member and decide to resign your union membership, please follow this link.

3) You also have the right to revoke your dues checkoff and stop allowing the union to collect money from your paycheck every week. When there is no collective bargaining agreement in effect you can send letters to the union and your employer revoking your authorization to have union dues deducted from your paycheck.

NOTE: Although not legally required, the best practice is to send your resignation and checkoff revocation letters to the union and employer by certified mail, return receipt requested, and save copies of your letters and return receipts to prove delivery. If you hand deliver a letter, make sure that you have a reliable witness to the delivery. In our experience, angry and dishonest union officials often pretend they did not actually receive resignations and initiate discipline against non-striking workers anyway.

4) If you are already not a union member, you have a right to pay only the portion of union dues directly germane to the union’s bargaining functions, pursuant to the 1988 CWA v. Beck US Supreme Court decision. You can send letters to union officials and St. Vincent Hospital officials asking for a reduction to be made in dues deductions to your paycheck in accordance with Beck.

5) If you wish to eject an unwanted union hierarchy from your workplace, you have the right to petition for a secret ballot decertification election to do so. Information about decertification elections can be found here.

If you encounter any difficulties exercising any of your rights discussed in this notice, including your right to work during a strike, or need advice about how to do so, you can contact the Foundation to request free legal aid here.