News reports detail that United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union bosses are preparing to call employees out on strike at Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway grocery stores across Oregon and southwestern Washington.
The situation raises serious concerns for employees who believe there is much to lose from a union-ordered strike. That is why workers confronted with strike demands frequently contact the Foundation to learn how they can avoid fines and other vicious union discipline for continuing to report to work to support themselves and their families.
Earlier this year, UFCW officials in New England misinformed workers about their rights by claiming they had “closed shop” or “union shop” contracts with Stop & Shop that made union membership mandatory. Others retaliated against non-striking workers with slurs and threats when they defied the strike. With free legal help from the National Right to Work Foundation, workers have filed two unfair labor practice charges against UFCW officials for lying to them and for the harassment they experienced for exercising their right to work during a strike.
The fact is, employees do not have to become or remain members of the UFCW or any other union to get or keep their jobs. Despite the often-misleading language in collective bargaining contracts, no employee is actually required to be a member of the union. And if an employee is not a member of the union, then union officials have no power to fine or discipline him or her. In this way, employees have the right to rebuff union strike demands under federal labor law, but it is important you read the following before you do so.
You should learn about your rights from independent sources and should not rely on what self-interested union officials tell you. For five decades, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has worked in the courts to expand and protect the rights of individual employees in such situations. It is the nation’s premier organization exclusively dedicated to providing free legal assistance to employee victims of forced unionism abuse.
Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway employees should know they have the following rights:
1) You have the right to resign your membership in the union. If you don’t support this union, you can send the union a letter resigning your membership.
2) You have the right to go to work even if the union bosses ordered a strike. Union officials can (and often do) fine actual union members who work during a strike. So, you should seriously consider resigning BEFORE you return to work during a strike, which is the only way to avoid these union fines and discipline. See Union Discipline and Employee Rights.
3) You also have the right to revoke your dues check-off and stop allowing the union hierarchy to collect money from your paycheck every week. You can send letters to the union and your employer revoking your authorization to have union dues deducted from your paycheck during periods when there is no collective bargaining agreement in effect.
4) If you wish to eject an unaccountable union hierarchy from your workplace, you have the right to sign a decertification petition to obtain a secret ballot election to do so. See Decertification Election.
A sample letter for employees who wish to resign their union membership and revoke their dues check-off is here.
NOTE: If possible, use certified mail, return receipt requested, and save copies of your letters and the return receipt to prove delivery. If you hand deliver a resignation and/or dues deduction revocation, make sure that you have a reliable witness to the delivery. In our experience, it is not uncommon for angry and dishonest union officials to pretend they did not actually receive resignations and initiate proceedings against non-striking workers anyway.
Go to About Your Legal Rights: Private Sector Employee to learn more about your rights, and contact the NRTW with any questions