Workers Ask NLRB to Overturn Obama-Era Actions Blocking Secret Ballot Votes to Challenge Card Check Unionization
Trump Labor Board urged to reconsider Lamons Gasket precedent that prevents workers from decertifying a union installed through a card check drive
Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2018) – Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington seeking to overturn an Obama Labor Board decision that blocks workers from holding a decertification vote for up to one year after a union is installed through an abuse-prone card check unionization drive.
Foundation staff attorneys represent a group of Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based clerical workers for shipping company USF Holland. The workers oppose Teamsters Union Local 200’s monopoly representation and filed the signatures necessary to hold a decertification election to remove the union. However, the election petition was dismissed when the NLRB Regional Director applied the controversial 2011 Lamons Gasket ruling that bars workers from holding a secret ballot decertification vote for one year after they have been unionized through the card check process.
In Lamons Gasket, an Obama-selected NLRB overturned the 2007 National Right to Work Foundation-won Dana decision that gave workers the opportunity to challenge card check unionization with a secret ballot vote. Under the Dana precedent, workers can collect signatures to request a secret ballot election during a 45-day window following notice that they have been forced into union representation by a card check organizing drive.
The Dana ruling provided an important, although limited, protection for workers against the coercive practices frequently associated with card check, which allow organizers to bully or mislead employees into signing cards that are then counted as “votes” toward unionization. When the Big Labor-friendly Obama NLRB overruled Dana with Lamons Gasket, it meant no matter how many workers signed a petition seeking to oust a union, they would have to wait at least a year before they could file for a secret ballot vote.
The workers in the appeal filed today are six women employed in USF Holland’s clerical office in Milwaukee who object to being placed under the Teamster union’s monopoly “representation” without a secret ballot vote. In January, Teamsters organizers had actually filed to hold an NLRB-supervised vote but had the election cancelled just a week before it was set to occur. Company officials then gave in to the Teamsters’ demands and recognized the union on the basis of the card check.
In response the workers filed for a secret ballot election to remove the Teamsters, but were told they could not hold one because of the Lamons Gasket precedent. Their appeal asks the new Trump NLRB to not only overturn that Obama-NLRB precedent, but to remove all limitations on workers filing to decertify a union following unionization through card check.
“The disastrous Lamons Gasket decision was one of many by the Obama Labor Board that elevated the powers of union bosses over the rights of individual employees, and it should be swiftly overturned,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Nothing in the National Labor Relations Act says that workers should be denied a secret ballot decertification vote on the basis of a card check recognition, which the Act and U.S. Supreme Court view as inherently inferior to an NLRB-run vote.”
“The Teamsters have a long and well-deserved reputation for corruption and violence, so it’s no surprise that the women in this case who filed for a decertification vote would prefer the privacy of a secret ballot to the coercion and pressure tactics inherent in a union card check organizing drive,” added Mix.
Worker Advocate: U.S. Supreme Court Should Hear Challenge to Government-Imposed Forced-Dues Union Contracts for CA Farmworkers
Amicus brief argues California law deprives farmworkers of their Constitutional rights by imposing union contract against their will
Washington, D.C. (May 16, 2018) – Today the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is filing an amicus curiae brief with the United States Supreme Court for the Foundation and several employees of Gerawan Farming, urging the court to grant certiorari in Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB). The brief asks the Court to hear the challenge to California’s law that authorizes the state labor board to impose a union contract on a company and its workers against their will.
Although many states have separate labor laws that specifically cover agricultural workers, California’s law is unique in that it authorizes the state to impose union monopoly bargaining contracts, including so-called “union security” requirements that obligate farm workers to make payments to union officials or else be fired. In the Gerawan case pending before the Supreme Court, a state-appointed mediator imposed a forced dues requirement—that workers overwhelmingly opposed—for the benefit of union officials who hadn’t been heard from in nearly two decades.
As the brief explains, United Farm Workers (UFW) union officials abandoned any attempt to negotiate a union contract in 1995, after which workers successfully worked to determine the terms of their employment without the union for 17 years. Then, in 2012, UFW union officials returned and immediately invoked an amendment to California law authorizing an ALRB-appointed mediator to impose a contract if the union and company cannot reach an agreement.
After UFW officials announced their return, Gerawan workers moved to decertify the union. However, that effort was stifled when the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) refused to count the ballots cast in the decertification vote, leaving the union in power despite what workers believe was overwhelming opposition to union “representation.”
The Foundation’s brief argues that California’s agricultural labor law violates the workers’ constitutional rights by forcing upon them union monopoly representation of a union they oppose – something central to many labor statutes – and by imposing the union monopoly contract that includes forced union dues.
In a related case, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are also providing free legal representation to Uber and Lyft drivers challenging a Seattle ordinance designed to unionize the independent drivers. Like the California law at issue in Gerawan, the Seattle scheme authorizes a government official to impose a forced dues contract over the objections of the company and individual for-hire drivers who are compelled to accept union monopoly representation.
“The injustices Gerawan workers face every day – as a government-imposed contract forces them to pay dues to a union they overwhelmingly oppose– is evidence that the more power government grants to union bosses, the greater the infringement on the rights of individual employees,” stated National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “We hope the Supreme Court will take this case to establish legal limits to the coercive power that government can grant union officials over private employers and employees.”
Federal Appeals Court Rules for Michigan Worker in Case Challenging Union Officials’ Scheme to Block Employees from Opting Out of Dues
Today a three judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected an appeal filed by IBEW union lawyers of a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling won by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys on behalf of Michigan worker Ryan Greene.
In February 2017, the NLRB ruled union officials had violated the law by requiring workers to present their ID in person at the union hall to exercise their rights to resign from the union and cut off all dues payments, as protected by Michigan’s Right to Work law.
In response to today’s Court of Appeals ruling affirming the NLRB decision, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens issued the following statement:
“Today’s ruling is another victory for independent workers seeking to exercise their rights under Michigan’s popular Right to Work law. This case demonstrates that even when union membership and dues payment is voluntary, whether because of state Right to Work legislation or a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, union officials regularly do whatever they can to block workers from exercising their protected legal rights. Instead of cooking up schemes to trap workers like Ryan Greene into paying union dues, union officials should ask themselves why they are so afraid of giving workers a choice when it comes to union membership and dues payment.”
UFCW officials failed to provide legally required disclosures to justify mandatory fees they demanded Danville teenager pay or else be fired
Danville, CA (May 7, 2018) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a teenage, part-time Safeway employee has filed federal charges against a local union for demanding he pay union fees without providing the legally required information on union dues and spending.
Sixteen-year-old Christopher Ratana-Kelley filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 5. The charge states that by failing to disclose their local expenditures or to verify how union fees were calculated, UFCW officials violated his protected legal rights.
When Ratana-Kelley became a courtesy clerk at Safeway, UFCW officials demanded he pay union dues or fees despite choosing not to become a union member. California lacks a Right to Work law, which means workers can be required to pay some fees to union officials as a condition of employment. However, workers cannot be required to fund any activities unrelated to union bargaining, such as political action, and unions must follow certain procedures to justify the amount of the compulsory fee.
When the teenager objected to paying any fees to the UFCW beyond what he could legally be required to pay and asked for a breakdown of how his fees were calculated, union officials failed to provide the information. Concerned by being kept in in the dark about how his fees would be spent, Ratana-Kelley turned to the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance in filing charges. The NLRB will now investigate the charges.
Because California does not have a Right to Work law, employees can be required to pay dues or fees to unions to keep their jobs, even if they are not union members. However, in the Foundation-won United States Supreme Court Beck decision, the Court provided some protection to workers by stating that employees can only be forced to pay union dues for certain union activity. Employees also have the right to have an independent third party audit the union expenditures and certify that the percentage of dues that nonmembers are forced to pay does not include political spending and other non-collective bargaining expenses.
“Christopher is a teenager just entering the workforce,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It takes a lot of courage to stand up to a Goliath, and Christopher has chosen to hold the union giants accountable for their flagrant neglect of workers’ rights. This case underscores the need for California to pass a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments completely voluntary.”
SEIU officials’ backroom deal with hospital sought to “acquire” employees who had previously rejected union organizing attempts
Long Island, NY (May 1, 2018) – A physical therapy assistant’s legal settlement has reversed the corrupt deal between Northwell Health and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East (SEIU 1199) officials that forced her and her colleagues into union ranks without a vote.
The settlement stems from unfair labor practice charges Kathleen Flanagan filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. Flanagan was pushed into early retirement as a result of the backroom agreement between company and union officials to impose unionization on her department. If she had remained an employee, she would have been required to accept union representation, pay union fees, and accept a reduction in benefits.
SEIU 1199 union officials represented some workers at Northwell Health’s facilities, but workers in other classifications, including Flanagan’s physical therapy and occupational therapy department at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, had rebuffed union organizers. In November 2017, a Northwell Health representative informed Flanagan’s department that SEIU 1199 had “acquired them legally.” The department, as well as other departments at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Cohen Children’s Medical Center, was “accreted” into SEIU 1199’s monopoly bargaining unit and forced to accept the union’s unwanted “representation.” At a mandatory union orientation, a SEIU 1199 union official unlawfully told the workers they were required to join the union, and therefore pay full union dues, by January 1, 2018.
Flanagan challenged this so-called “accretion” as unlawful by filing charges with the NLRB. Northwell and SEIU 1199 have now settled the charges. Pursuant to the settlement, Northwell must cease recognition of SEIU 1199 as the monopoly bargaining representative of the illegally accreted hospital workers, and SEIU 1199 must relinquish monopoly bargaining privileges over those employees. The employees are now free from the unwanted union representation and will be reimbursed for union fees paid to SEIU 1199. Notices will be posted at Long Island Jewish Medical Facility and Cohen Children’s Medical Center and emailed out to affected employees to inform them of their rights.
“The so-called accretion doctrine, which is not mandated by the National Labor Relations Act, empowers union bureaucrats to coerce workers into unions without a vote, frequently after the targeted workers specifically reject union organizing attempts,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “However, the collusion between the company and union brass in this case was so egregious and flagrantly illegal that the NLRB had no choice but to take action.
“Thanks to Kathleen Flanagan, a power-grab by union officials was successfully halted and reversed,” continued Mix. “To protect workers across the country from being forced into unwanted unions, the Trump NLRB should overturn this outrageous accretion doctrine.”
While Missouri still lacks Right to Work protections for employees, IBEW union officials hiked forced fees without providing financial disclosure required by law
St. Louis, MO (March 21, 2018) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a Missouri power plant worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 53 union for failing to provide an adequate breakdown of how the union spends workers’ forced union dues.
In November 2017, IBEW Local 53 union officials informed James Feagins that, beginning in 2018, he would be required to pay union fees of approximately 95 percent of formal membership dues, a substantial increase over the average of approximately 50 percent of union dues he was previously required to pay.
Because a union-backed ballot petition has blocked Missouri’s Right to Work law from going into effect, workers like Feagins currently can be fired for refusing to hand over part of their paycheck to a union they choose not to join. In the 27 states with Right to Work laws in effect, union membership and financial support is strictly voluntary.
Feagins had previously attempted to exercise his rights under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court precedent Communications Workers of America v. Beck to opt out of union membership. Under Beck, workers in states without Right to Work protections cannot be compelled to pay the part of union dues used for a union’s political and member-only activities.
Beck also requires union bosses to provide workers with an independently-verified audit breaking down chargeable and non-chargeable expenses, but IBEW Local 53 union officials only provided Feagins with an unaudited statement. Moreover, IBEW Local 53’s statement of expenses included so-called “per capita taxes” sent to affiliate unions without disclosure regarding how the affiliates spend that money.
The charges allege that Local 53 union officials further violated Feagins’ Beck rights by illegally charging him for certain advertising, overhead, and organizing expenses. Further, Feagins asked union officials to provide him with a copy of the monopoly bargaining agreement, but they refused to do so in violation of federal labor law.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Regional Director in St. Louis will now investigate the charges.
“Union bosses add insult to injury by threatening workers to pay fees or else be fired, and then keeping them in the dark about where the money is going,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case underscores the need for Right to Work protections in Missouri to make union membership and dues payments completely voluntary.”
Worker Advocate Seeks Unpublished NLRB Report and Additional Disclosures Over Labor Board’s Apparent Recusal Double Standard
FOIA request seeks to bring to light information regarding efforts to prevent a full five-member Labor Board from reviewing pro-forced unionism Obama-era precedents
Washington, DC (March 19, 2018) – The National Right to Work Foundation, a charitable organization that provides free legal assistance to employees nationwide, today submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), asking for information regarding the NLRB’s standards for recusal and the Board’s determination to reconsider and vacate a recent decision.
“National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are currently providing free legal aid to workers in more than eighty NLRB cases,” stated Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse, who submitted the FOIA request. “These victims of compulsory unionism abuses deserve fair and impartial hearings from properly constituted NLRB panels.”
Barack Obama’s NLRB, which was dogged by accusations of its partiality throughout Obama’s two terms in office, overturned thirty years of precedent in Browning-Ferris Industries in 2015. This past December, in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, the NLRB overruled Browning-Ferris and restored “the principles governing joint-employer status that existed prior to that decision.”
Since the decision in Hy-Brand, one Board Member’s term expired. Then, the NLRB’s Inspector General concluded that another should have been recused in Hy-Brand because his former law firm represented an employer that was a party in Browning-Ferris. Citing the Inspector General’s report, the other three Members of the Board in late February vacated the Hy-Brand decision.
The FOIA request seeks information, documents, and communications regarding the Inspector General’s recusal determination in this case, any other recusal determinations since January 1, 2009, and the three-member panel’s reconsideration of Hy-Brand. In addition to communications between or among Board Members and the Inspector General, the Foundation seeks their communications regarding these matters with members and staff of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the press, or union officials.
“The NLRB’s Inspector General appears to be setting a troubling double standard regarding recusals, especially considering the same office looked the other way when former Service Employees International Union lawyer and Obama appointee Craig Becker refused to recuse himself from cases involving the SEIU and its affiliates,” explained National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix.
“The public deserves to know the truth surrounding this double standard, especially given that it advances the concerted effort by Big Labor and its allies to block a full NLRB from reviewing controversial Obama-era rulings that limit the rights of workers who don’t want to associate with a labor union,” continued Mix.
Air Traffic Controller Forces Settlement from FAA Concerning Religious Discrimination Committed at Behest of Union Bosses
Union retaliated against worker for resigning from membership, had worker transferred to force him to work on Saturday in violation of his religious beliefs
Warrenton, VA (March 8, 2018) – A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employee has won a federal settlement after the agency complied with union officials’ demands to punish him for resigning his union membership by transferring him to a position that caused a scheduling conflict with his religious obligations.
In 2013, Matthew Gray, a Seventh-day Adventist who works at the FAA’s Potomac facility, filed federal charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) union and FAA.
With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Gray filed the charges after he was informed by a union official that he was being removed from his detail and transferred to another in which he would be required to work on Saturdays as punishment for resigning from the union. Federal law ensures that independent-minded employees of the federal government, like Gray, cannot be required to pay any dues or “fees” to a union as a condition of employment.
Gray resigned union membership because he believes union membership is contrary to his faith. A central doctrine of Gray’s church is weekly worship, and not working, on Saturday. Gray’s original position allowed him to avoid any scheduling conflict between his work and religious obligations. By removing him from that detail, however, NATCA union officials effectively forced Gray to work on Saturday, unless he found a replacement or took leave every week, or lose his job.
Instead of standing up to the union’s ugly retaliation against a worker who chose to exercise his legal rights, Gray’s manager at the FAA told him that he was complying with the union’s transfer request because Gray “no longer represent[s] the best interests of NATCA.”
Before this settlement was reached, the EEOC had found cause to believe that the union violated Gray’s rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and Gray had won settlements resolving unfair labor practice charges he filed with the Federal Labor Relations Authority against the union and FAA.
“Make no mistake, union bosses punished Matthew Gray for simply acting on his deeply-held religious beliefs,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Hardworking Americans should not face religious discrimination or any other retaliation for exercising their right to refrain from union membership.”
5 Times Obama NLRB Member Split with Fellow Democrats to Favor Union Officials over Independent-minded Workers
At the Federalist Society blog, National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond J. LaJeunesse has a new commentary discussing the extreme anti-worker freedom record of Barack Obama appointee Mark Gaston Pearce, who still sits on the National Labor Relations Board:
The current term of Mark Gaston Pearce as a Member of the National Labor Relations Board expires on August 27, 2018. Traditionally, the Board has consisted of three Members from the President’s party and two from the other major party. It has been publicly reported that Member Pearce, a Democrat who represented labor organizations before coming to the Board, is lobbying for reappointment. However, Member Pearce has a record that shows that he is a particularly virulent opponent of the rights of private-sector workers who choose not to support unions and object to being forced to subsidize them, more so than other Democrat appointees to the Board. Specific cases that demonstrate this follow.
On Monday, February 26, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger argued at the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME, arguing that forcing government workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment violates the First Amendment.
After oral argument, Messenger appeared live from the Court steps on Fox Business Channel:
SCOTUSblog provided a summary of the oral argument:
The Supreme Court heard oral argument today in Janus v. American Federation of State, Municipal, and County Employees, a challenge by an Illinois child-support specialist to the fees that he is required to pay to the union that represents him, even though he does not belong to any union. Although this is the first trip to the Supreme Court for Mark Janus, the employee, it was the third time in four years that the justices have taken the bench to consider the issue presented by Janus’ case. After roughly an hour of sometimes testy debate in the courtroom, the outcome almost certainly hinges on the vote of the court’s newest justice, Neil Gorsuch – who did not tip his hand, opting instead to remain silent.
Mandatory fees require dissenting nonmembers to support beliefs they reject. But the right of free speech, as the court long has recognized, includes the freedom not to speak. To force someone to pay for the advancement of political positions without his or her consent is incompatible with the First Amendment.
For background on Janus, click here.