National Right to Work Foundation Staff Attorney Argues Case Before 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Challenging Forced Union Dues
Janus v. AFSCME could be next U.S. Supreme Court case to decide constitutionality of mandatory union fees for public employees
Chicago, IL (March 1, 2017) – On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will hear oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a case challenging mandatory union fees paid by government workers in Illinois. This case builds on recent Supreme Court decisions Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), both of which were won by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
In Janus, the plaintiffs are two Illinois government employees who are represented by staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center.
Under Illinois law, union officials are empowered to require government employees to pay money to a union as a condition of employment. Although state employees aren’t forced to be full-fledged union members, they are required to pay mandatory dues or fees to a union or be fired. This lawsuit seeks to end that practice on the grounds that these fees violate the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.
A victory for the Janus plaintiffs would impact millions of government employees who currently can be fired for refusing to pay dues or fees to union officials. The National Right to Work Foundation currently has seven cases across the country on behalf of public employees seeking a ruling that mandatory union fees violate the First Amendment, with Janus most likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court first.
In 2016, because of the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the High Court split 4-4 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that would have also ended forced dues for public employees. A new justice will be the deciding vote should Janus or another case presenting the issue be taken up by the Supreme Court.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix commented, “Hopefully the Seventh Circuit will rule quickly so the case can go to the Supreme Court, which should uphold the First Amendment by ending the injustice of forcing public employees to pay tribute to union bosses as a condition of working for their own government.”
NLRB Issues Complaint Against Teamsters Officials for Threats in Response to Campaign to End Forced Dues
Teamsters Local 455 officials reprimanded again by the National Labor Relations Board for violating workers’ fundamental rights
Fort Morgan, CO (February, 22 2017) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 455 union for threatening workers with the loss of their benefits, discharge and a lawsuit because they circulated petitions to end forced union dues and remove the union’s business agents. The complaint was issued after NLRB investigators found merit to charges filed against the Teamsters Local 455 by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for Francisco Manjarrez.
Late last year, Foundation staff attorneys assisted the worker in filing federal unfair labor practice charges against the union for threatening him for exercising his rights to circulate a deauthorization petition at his workplace. Under the National Labor Relations Act if a deauthorization petition gains the signatures of thirty percent of employees, the workers then get to vote to end union bosses’ power to require them to pay money to the union or be fired.
After Manjarrez refused to back down from circulating the petition, union officials threatened illegal retaliation against him and his co-workers who had signed the petition.
The charges against Teamsters Local 455 in November of 2016 came just weeks after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision against the union for violating federal labor law by declining to help all workers under their monopoly bargaining control. The union was also charged with lying to workers that they would not be promoted or represented unless they paid full union dues or fees.
A hearing regarding the new charges against the union is scheduled for May 1 before a Regional National Labor Relations judge.
“It is outrageous that union officials threatened workers benefits and employment for simply expressing their rights under the law,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “These particular union officials have a disturbing history of belittling and downright ignoring the rights of the very workers they claim to ‘represent.’ Colorado workers need Right to Work protections to help defend workers from this type of behavior.”
Monte Carlo Bartender Hits UNITE-HERE Union with Federal Charges After Being Illegally Fired for Not Having ‘Union Card’
Union ‘representation’ was imposed on workers without a vote, after which non-member employees were fired in violation of federal law
Las Vegas, NV (February 21, 2017) – A Las Vegas bartender has filed federal Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges against Aramark and the UNITE-HERE Local 165 union after the Local 165 union officials illegally had her fired from her position for not having a “union pour card.” The ULP charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 28 office in Las Vegas, NV.
In November 2016, Natalie Ruisi was hired by Aramark, a concessions contractor, to be a bartender for the then soon to open Park Theater located in the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. In December, Ruisi was informed by Aramark management that the Aramark employees at the Park Theater would be represented by union officials from UNITE-HERE Local 165.
The workers at the Park Theater had never voted on whether or not to join the union. As the charge notes, no evidence exists that a majority of the workers support UNITE-HERE Local 165 as their monopoly bargaining agent. It is illegal for a union and company to agree to an exclusive union contract when union officials have not offered any proof that they are supported by at least a majority of the workers in a workplace.
On January 12, 2017, Ruisi and a number of her co-workers were fired. Ruisi was told that she and her co-workers were being fired because they did not possess a “union pour card.” When she was hired, a union card was not a requirement or condition of employment, and Ruisi was never even given the opportunity to acquire a union card. Of course, Nevada’s longstanding Right to Work law makes it illegal for any employee to be forced to join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
The charges allege that Aramark’s actions in collusion with UNITE-HERE union officials violate Ruisi and her co-workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Specifically, the charges note that, by recognizing a minority union and firing workers for not possessing prior union certification, Aramark has deliberately provided unlawful assistance to UNITE-HERE union officials, and that. UNITE-HERE union bosses likewise violated the NLRA by accepting monopoly bargaining agent status over workers without any demonstration of majority support.
“As this case shows, Right to Work laws are only words on paper unless they are vigorously enforced. Ms. Ruisi was hired to fulfill a job, and was summarily fired without warning simply for not possessing a union card,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “It is shameful that union bosses fired a worker for simply expressing her long protected rights under Nevada’s Right to Work law which has been in place for over 65 years.”
Foundation attorneys are also assisting Ruisi in a second case, originally filed in 2014, that is currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In that case, Ruisi and her fellow plaintiffs are appealing an NLRB decision upholding an unwritten UNITE-HERE policy that inhibits workers seeking to revoke dues-checkoff.
The union policy at issue in that case requires members to submit a written request for the union to provide them with information about the date that they signed their dues-checkoff authorization cards, which serves no purpose except to obstruct workers from exercising their legally protected rights. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 14, 2017.
Including the charges filed for Natalie Ruisi, Foundation staff attorneys currently have over 90 legal actions for employees before the National Labor Relations Board and its regional offices.
Union bosses sought to impose coercive in-person ID requirement on workers seeking to exercise the right to stop paying union fees
Springfield, VA (February 15, 2017) – With legal representation provided by attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a Michigan worker has won a battle against illegal barriers created by union officials seeking to restrict workers from resigning their union membership and exercising their rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law.
In October 2014, after Michigan’s new Right to Work law went into effect, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 58 union officials imposed a new policy governing the procedures for resigning formal union membership and revoking dues checkoff. These procedures demanded that resignations take place in person at the Local 58 union hall in Detroit, Michigan, where the worker would have to present photo identification and a corresponding written resignation and/or dues checkoff revocation.
After the policy was implemented, Ryan Greene, a worker who lives several hours away from the IBEW Local 58 union hall, decided to exercise his right to resign his formal union membership and revoke his dues checkoff authorization. Upon encountering the restrictive policy created by Local 58 union officials, Greene filed a federal Unfair Labor Practice charge with the NLRB alleging that the new policy was unlawful and violated the rights of workers as guaranteed in the National Labor Relations Act.
The ULP charge argued that forcing workers to appear in person with a photo ID violated workers’ rights by illegally hindering their right to resign at any time from the union and to revoke dues checkoff authorizations.
The regional General Counsel for the NLRB investigated and issued a complaint. The administrative law judge who heard the case dismissed the complaint, but the Foundation staff attorneys appealed to the full NLRB for Greene.
After the briefing concluded, the NLRB issued a 2-1 decision determining that the policy set by Local 58 officials infringed on workers rights. The Board’s opinion rules that the policy was an illegal restriction placed by the union on the members’ rights to resign and revoke, because it imposes a significant burden on exercising those rights.
“This case is just another example of union officials’ campaign to prevent the workers they claim to ‘represent’ from exercising their rights under the state’s popular new Right to Work law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Instead of cooking up schemes to trap workers 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.”
Since Michigan enacted its Right to Work law in 2012, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have successfully worked to defend the law against union challenges and assist workers in exercising their right under the law to resign from union membership and stop all payment of union dues and fees. Since the law was enacted, Foundation attorneys have filed some 28 legal actions for Michigan workers seeking to exercise their rights as protected by Right to Work.
Under Obama, National Labor Relations Board became a promoter of forced unionism powers rather than a neutral arbitrator
Washington, DC (February 14, 2017) – This morning, National Right to Work Foundation Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. The Subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), held a hearing titled “Restoring Balance & Fairness to the NLRB.”
LaJeunesse, who has worked at the Foundation, whose staff attorneys have represented thousands of employees in unfair labor practice and representation cases before the NLRB, for over forty-five years, including as Legal Director since 2001, laid out the damage done to independent-minded workers over the past eight years by the Obama NLRB. From forcing nonmembers to subsidize union politics, barring secret-ballot elections in favor of coercive card-check schemes, imposing “ambush election” rules, and gerrymandering bargaining units into “micro-units” to ensure union victories, the damage has been immense.
“I commend you for investigating the adequacy of the National Labor Relations Board’s enforcement of the rights of individual workers under the National Labor Relations Act to refrain from union associations. Unfortunately, the Board majorities President Obama appointed have in many respects denied or diminished those rights,” testified LaJeunesse.
LaJeunesse provided many recommendations to the Subcommittee on how to bring this about, first and foremost by suggesting President Trump nominate two nominees to fill the vacant NLRB seats who will defend the rights of all workers, including those who prefer not to affiliate with a labor union. Other specific recommendations made by LaJeunesse to the Committee include restoring protections for secret-ballot elections as the preferred process for “certifying” a union as the monopoly bargaining representative, more vigorously enforcing employees’ rights not to fund union politics and lobbying, undoing the Obama NLRB’s biased “Ambush Election” Rule, and ending the NLRB’s discretion to certify micro-units.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix commented, “As Mr. LaJeunesse laid out in his testimony before Congress, the past eight years under the Obama NLRB have been dismal ones for the rights of America’s independent-minded workers. I urge Congress to exercise its oversight powers to ensure that the NLRB returns to being a neutral arbitrator rather than, too often, an arm of Organized Labor with the goal of expanding Big Labor’s forced dues ranks.”
National Right to Work Foundation Launches Missouri Task Force to Defend and Enforce New Right to Work Law
Foundation staff attorneys will provide free legal aid to Missouri workers seeking to exercise new Right to Work protections
Springfield, VA (February 13, 2017) – The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced today the creation of a special task force to defend and enforce Missouri’s newly-passed Right to Work law. Foundation staff attorneys will offer free legal advice and aid to Missouri workers seeking to exercise their right to refrain from union membership and union dues payment, as guaranteed by the Right to Work law.
One week ago, on Monday, February 6, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed into law Right to Work legislation, thereby making Missouri the nation’s newest and 28th Right to Work state.
Foundation staff attorneys are prepared to defend the Missouri Right to Work law from any spurious legal challenges brought by union officials. Big Labor, unwilling to give up their forced-dues powers, routinely challenges Right to Work laws in courts despite the fact that Right to Work laws have repeatedly been upheld.
Unfortunately, union officials also often try to stymie independent-minded workers who seek to exercise their rights under Right to Work laws. Any Missouri worker who has questions about his or her rights, or encounters any resistance or abuse while trying to exercise his or her workplace rights, is encouraged to contact Foundation staff attorneys for free legal aid.
“Passing a Right to Work law is just the first step; as these protections for Missouri workers must be defended and enforced,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union bosses will go to great lengths to keep workers in their forced-dues grasp. The National Right to Work Foundation will fight to make sure that every Missourian’s Right to Work is protected because no worker should ever be forced to pay union dues or fees just to get or keep a job.”
Affected employees are encouraged to call the Foundation’s legal hotline toll-free at 1-800-336-3600 or contact the Foundation online at www.nrtw.org to request free legal assistance or to learn more about their new rights.
Task Force Staff Attorneys Filed Lawsuit Challenging Biased Ballot Petition Language Approved in Political Payback by Big Labor-backed former Secretary of State
Previously, with free legal representation from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys three Missouri workers filed legal challenges in late January against ten separate initiative-petitions that designed to block the Right to Work law that was at the time being considered for final passage by the Missouri Legislature. If approved by the voters in the 2018 general election, the ballot measures would prevent the Missouri General Assembly from prohibiting forced-unionism agreements, essentially overturning the Missouri Right to Work law.
All three of the plaintiffs – a nurse and two Kansas City Police Officers – will be directly affected by the passage of any of the union boss-backed ballot measures because they would lose their Right to Work without being compelled to subsidize a labor union.
With passage of Right to Work looming and Governor Eric Greitens pledging to sign the bill into law, union bosses scrambled to put numerous initiative-petitions to kill the law on Big Labor-friendly Jason Kander’s desk for his approval before he left office. Secretary Kander unsuccessfully challenged Senator Roy Blunt in the 2016 election, with his campaign largely funded by the union boss political machine that submitted these petitions.
Secretary Kander approved all ten just hours before vacating his office on January 9, with the intent of having them appear on the 2018 general election ballot if the measures’ Big Labor-backers obtain the required number of signatures.
Although required to draft summary statements to inform petition signers and voters of the effect of the proposed amendments, former Secretary of State Kander’s midnight actions seem designed to hide from Missouri voters what the ballot measures would put in Missouri’s constitution. None of the proposals even mention the Right to Work law that they are clearly designed to nullify.
National Right to Work Foundation Actively Defending Recently-Enacted Right to Work Laws
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has a long history of assisting employees seeking to exercise their Right to Work rights, most recently under Right to Work provisions enacted in Kentucky, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana
The Foundation created a special legal task force to protect and enforce the newly passed Kentucky Right to Work law. The task force also released a special legal notice to Kentucky workers detailing their rights under the new law and have been taking calls from dozens of workers seeking information.
Late last year with the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys an employee at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, Reginald Gibbs, filed a motion to intervene in the ongoing lawsuit concerning the West Virginia Right to Work law that was passed in early 2016. Although the State of West Virginia was already defending the law in the case, the motion noted that Gibbs has a special interest in defending Right to Work and his attorneys can offer legal arguments distinct from those raised by state lawyers. Foundation staff attorneys have also filed several amicus briefs defending the Right to Work law.
In Wisconsin which passed a state Right to Work law in 2015, Foundation staff attorney’s submitted amicus briefs in both federal and state court in response to union boss lawsuits that allege that Right to Work laws constitute an “illegal taking” of union resources. A Federal Judge struck down the Federal lawsuit and the State lawsuit is pending.
In Michigan, which passed both private sector and public sector Right to Work in 2013, Foundation staff attorneys filed two amicus curiae briefs defending the Right to Work laws against two lawsuits. Both lawsuits were eventually unsuccessful. Additionally, Foundation attorneys have filed over 88 actions for Michigan workers seeking to exercise their Right to Work.
After the passage of a Right to Work law in Indiana in 2012, union bosses sought to wipe out the law with two lawsuits in State court and one in Federal court. Foundation staff attorneys submitted amicus curiae briefs in both State court cases and conferred with the State’s lawyers about what legal arguments to make for the State against the union boss challenge to Right to Work in federal court. The Right to Work law was ultimately upheld in all three union boss lawsuits.
Union bosses used controversial rule to gain a foothold in Chattanooga VW plant after previous floor-wide votes failed
Washington, D.C. (February 3, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a worker in the Chattanooga, Tennessee Volkswagen plant has filed an amicus curiae brief with the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals asking the court to overturn the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision that allowed United Auto Workers (UAW) union bosses to gain access to the plant’s workers through a micro-unit scheme.
In February 2014 workers at the plant rejected UAW union representation in an NLRB sanctioned election. Undeterred, UAW bosses sought to gain a foothold in the plant through a 2011 NLRB decision that allows for what is termed “micro-unit organizing.” The recent NLRB decision allows union officials to gerrymander specific groups of employees into micro-units for union representation votes. In December 2015, the UAW used this tactic to win a vote for a micro-unit, thus imposing a coercive one size-fits-all monopoly bargaining contract on those workers.
Patrick Penderfraft is one of the workers in the VW micro-unit who voted against union representation. He opposed the UAW’s gerrymandering of workers to gain a victory in the vote. The Foundation has now assisted him in filing a brief in D.C. Circuit Court arguing that his vote on union representation was diluted because the micro-unit was substantially made up of pro-union employees rather than the whole workplace which had already rejected unionization.
In previous years, Foundation attorneys assisted workers in fighting back against other UAW union boss schemes to unionize the plant, including through card check organizing.
National Right to Work Foundation Mark Mix commented, “The gerrymandering scheme that union bosses used to gain a foothold in the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant is unfair to the workers who voted against union representation only to have the ground rules changed and now are forced into a monopoly union. All workers should have the right to decide on union membership through a secret-ballot election, like the one that took place in 2014 in which union bosses were rejected, instead of through manipulated micro-unit schemes.”
Check out the lead article in the January/February 2017 Foundation Action Newsletter “Foundation Cases Poised to Challenge Forced Dues at Supreme Court”
Foundation Cases Poised to Challenge Forced Dues at Supreme Court
Cases to overturn forced dues could quickly reach Supreme Court with new Trump Justice
To read the rest of the January/February 2017 issue, please click here.
Washington, D.C. – Over the past few months, Foundation staff attorneys have been busy litigating hundreds of cases on the behalf of independent-minded workers across the country. Two of those cases have the potential to reach the Supreme Court this year and answer the unresolved questions left in the wake of the 4-4 split in the Fredrichs v. California Teachers Association.
One of those cases, Janus v. AFSCME, stems from an executive order from Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner that placed any union fees that nonunion members were forced to pay into an escrow account until the constitutionality of those fees was resolved. Governor Rauner subsequently filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and argued that collecting forced dues or fees from state employees as a condition of employment violated the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Foundation staff attorneys then filed a motion to intervene as plaintiffs for Mark Janus and other state employees who are forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment. A Judge eventually ruled that Governor Rauner did not have standing in court but let the Foundation-represented employees continue to challenge the constitutionality of forced fees.
After the Supreme Court reached a 4-4 deadlock in a similar case earlier this year, Friedrichs v. CTA, a District Judge ruled against Janus and the other state employees. Foundation attorneys immediately filed an appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and are awaiting a decision. It is possible that a petition for a writ of certiorari could be filed with the Supreme Court later this year.
The second case, Serna v. Transportation Workers Union (TWA), is a class-action lawsuit brought by several American Eagle Airlines and Southwest Airlines employees U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas was pending with the Supreme Court as this issue of Foundation Action went to press. That suit challenges the constitutionality of the Railway Labor Act’s sanction of agreements that require compulsory union fees as a condition of employment.
Even though these employees work in the private sector, the Supreme Court has previously ruled that because the Railway Labor Act (RLA) effectively mandates forced fees for railway and airline workers, it effectively fosters the same Constitutional issues as were raised for government employees in Friedrichs. Therefore, success in Serna on the First Amendment claims against forced dues would effectively overturn forced dues for public sector workers.
After the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the airline employees citing the Friedrichs deadlock, Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. The Court was scheduled to consider the petition on January 6 and a decision whether to take the case or not could follow shortly after, or the Justices may decide to hold the case in light of the potential for a 4-4 tie until a ninth Justice is seated.
“Both of these cases have the potential to answer the ultimate question that was left unresolved by Friedrichs and that is whether or not it is constitutional to force workers to pay union bosses tribute to get or keep a job,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said.
In addition to Serna and Janus, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have two additional cases working their way through the courts – one on behalf of university professors in Massachusetts and one for school employees in Kentucky – that directly challenge the constitutionality of mandatory union dues. More cases directly challenging the constitutionality of government-mandated forced union dues are expected to be filed by Foundation staff attorneys in 2017.