New Haven, CT. (February 2, 2004) — A group of cafeteria workers at the Yale-New Haven Hospital have beaten back illegal retaliation engaged in by union officials after the employees refused to walk off the job during a strike last August. With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, thirteen hospital cafeteria employees, led by Arleen DeMaio, filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in November 2003. The charges alleged that union officials from the New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, SEIU/AFL-CIO (NEHCEU) illegally refused to honor the workers’ resignations from formal union membership. In addition, DeMaio and her coworkers alleged that union officials illegally ordered them to appear before a union tribunal to accept formal discipline – possibly including monetary fines – for exercising their legally protected right to work during a strike. As part of a settlement agreement brokered at the NLRB late last week, union officials now must rescind their unlawful membership resignation policy, post notices of workers’ rights conspicuously at the workplace, and rescind all fines, penalties, or other discipline assessed against the workers. “This illegal policy so flagrantly violated workers’ rights, the union hierarchy did not even try to defend it once they faced the possibility of prosecution,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Unfortunately, so long as union officials in Connecticut have the power to fire workers for refusal to pay union dues, this sort of illegal retaliation and harassment will inevitably continue.” The NEHCEU’s illegal membership resignation scheme, outlined in the union’s bylaws, stated that workers wishing to resign must appear before a “chapter hearing board” to gain formal permission. The settlement agreement states that the policy will be eliminated from the union’s by-laws, and notice of that removal must appear in the union’s next newsletter. The NEHCEU union officials’ actions violated workers’ protections recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court case Patternmakers v. NLRB. Under Patternmakers, union officials must allow employees to resign from formal union membership at any time and without restriction. Union officials have no legal right to enforce internal union rules – including rules that require union members to strike – against nonunion members.