Chicago Utility Worker Appeals Labor Board Case Against Union Officials for Illegal Forced Dues for Politics
Unfair labor practice charges allege union officials failed to follow Supreme Court precedent providing for disclosure to workers of how forced dues are spent
Chicago, IL (August 22 , 2017) – A Chicago worker, assisted by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, has appealed the dismissal of federal unfair labor practice charges against the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) and UWUA Local 18007. Gerald Howard is employed by Peoples Gas in Chicago, Illinois. UWUA Local 18007 union officials have a monopoly bargaining contract in place with Peoples Gas that includes a requirement that workers can be fired for refusing to pay dues or fees to the union.
Under federal law, no worker can be forced to formally join a union. However, because Illinois is not a Right to Work state, workers can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Under the National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court case Communication Workers v. Beck, nonmember workers cannot be legally compelled to pay union dues used for union politics and member-only activities. Workers can also demand a breakdown of the dues and fees paid to see which fees are used for which purpose.
In a letter sent to UWUA Local 18007 on February 18, Howard formally resigned his membership in the UWUA and objected to paying full dues, as is his right under the Beck precedent, but UWUA Local 18007 union officials failed to acknowledge his resignation. A month later on March 15, Howard sent another letter, this time to officials at the UWUA International headquarters in Washington, DC.
In a letter dated April 3, Washington-based UWUA officials finally acknowledged Howard’s resignation and objection to paying full dues as of his February 18 letter. The UWUA official’s letter also claimed that Howard would be required to pay 90% of full union dues, but did not provide any explanation for how it arrived at that figure.
Although the UWUA later provided Howard a breakdown attempting to justify that non-chargeable activities like union political and lobbying activities only make up ten percent of full dues, further evidence suggests the figure is not accurate. In required disclosure reports filed with the U.S. Department of Labor under threat of perjury, UWUA officials do not categorize political spending but their report shows multiple examples of political spending that contradict the figures in the breakdown provided to Howard after he filed his unfair labor practice charges.
“UWUA union bosses are ignoring clear Supreme Court precedent, compelling payment for union political and lobbying activities and violating the rights of a worker they claim to ‘represent’ in their grab for more forced union dues,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This type of disregard for the rights of rank-and-file workers highlights why Illinois desperately needs a Right to Work law making union affiliation and dues payments strictly voluntary.”
In a recent post on the Federalist Society website, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Vice President Legal Director Ray LaJeunesse responded to demands by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) that Trump’s lone remaining current NLRB nominee recuse himself from numerous potential cases:
“Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has suggested that Emanuel should ‘also sit out any case involving the hotly contested question of whether employers can force their workers to sign class action waivers,’ because he ‘has represented parties on the class action waiver issue in a case before the board, . . . his firm is counsel in a number of others . . . and he has also co-written briefs in U.S. Supreme Court cases arguing that the agreements aren’t unlawful restraints on employees’ right to engage in collective activity.’ (Emphasis added.)
However, unless the standards for recusal are more stringent for nominees of President Trump than they were for nominees of President Barack Obama, Emanuel can ethically ignore Senator Warren’s suggestion and need not recuse himself in all class-action waiver cases, even though that is a ‘hotly contested’ issue.”
The post goes on to cite Obama NLRB Member Craig Becker, who refused to recuse himself from a case to end protections for employees who had union monopoly bargaining imposed through the coercive and unreliable “card check” scheme. The Foundation’s press release on that case can be found here. Becker had previously weighed in on the issue as counsel for the AFL-CIO but that didn’t stop him from recusing himself when the NLRB voted 3-2 to end employees’ ability to force a secret ballot vote after a union was installed through card check.
To read the whole post, please click here.
Verizon Worker Hits CWA Union Officials with Labor Board Charges for Illegal $22,000 Retaliatory Fine
Union officials continue to illegally levy fines against Verizon employees who exercised right to work despite union boss-initiated strike
New York, NY (July 31, 2017) – A Brooklyn Verizon employee has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against Communications Workers of America (CWA) union officials for violating federal labor law after she exercised her right to resign her union membership during a high-profile strike in May 2016. The charge was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with free legal assistance provided by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
In April 2016, CWA union officials began a coordinated work stoppage at Verizon facilities and ordered workers up and down the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Virginia, to abandon their jobs. CWA Local 1109, which is the subject of the ULP charges, participated in the multi-state strike.
Soon after CWA union officials ordered the strike, Verizon worker Pamela Ivy, who filed the unfair labor practice charges, returned to work on April 16. On April 19, she officially resigned union membership in a letter mailed to union officials. Under federal law, workers cannot be compelled to join a union-boss ordered strike.
However, under a 1972 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling, workers must resign their formal union membership before to returning to work to protect themselves from court-enforceable union fines. Despite the fact that Ivy resigned on April 19, union officials are attempting to fine her for working after that date. Specifically, it has fined her approximately $22,000 for working through the end of May.
“Once again union officers are blatantly violating the rights of the very workers they claim to represent,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “It is outrageous that union officials are resorting to this type of ugly retaliation to ‘punish’ workers who chose to return to work in order to provide for themselves and their families.”
“The Foundation has successfully defended a number of Verizon workers in the New York area who were also threatened with sham trials and five-figure illegal fines, and we are eager to assist them and any other workers in defending their workplace rights,” added Mix.
Before this case, Foundation staff attorneys have defended fifteen Verizon workers from retaliation by CWA and IBEW union officials after the April 2016 East Coast strike. Seven of those workers were fined up to $14,000 each for exercising their federally protected rights. The remaining eight were threatened by union bosses with “union discipline” that would have resulted in similar fines. In eleven of those cases, union officials have already been forced to settle with the workers and rescind the illegal strike fines and threats.
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys help Kentucky workers defend law to ensure union membership and dues payment remain voluntary
Frankfort, KY (July 26, 2017) – With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Kentucky workers have won a motion to intervene in the recently filed Big Labor-backed lawsuit attacking Kentucky’s new Right to Work law.
“This ruling ensures that Kentucky workers, whose rights are protected by Kentucky’s new Right to Work law, can participate in the defense of the law,” said Patrick Semmens, Vice President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Kentucky union bosses are offering spurious legal arguments in an attempt to restore their power to have workers fired for refusing to pay part of their hard-earned paycheck to a union they don’t support, and this ruling ensures that the Court will hear from pro-Right to Work Kentucky employees.”
For more information please refer to our June 29, 2017 press release on the motion to intervene.