Chicago Utility Employee Files Unfair Labor Practice Charges Against Union Officials for Illegal Dues Seizures
Union officials failed to follow Supreme Court precedent providing for disclosure to workers of how forced dues are spent
Chicago, IL (May 3, 2017) – A Chicago worker, assisted by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, has filed federal charges against the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) and UWUA Local 18007. The charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 13 office in Chicago.
Gerald Howard is employed by Peoples Gas in Chicago, Illinois. UWUA Local 18007 has 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 explanation for how it arrived at that figure.
To date the UWUA has still failed to provide Howard with the legally required breakdown to justify that non-chargeable activities like union political and lobbying activities only make up ten percent of full dues. Absent those disclosures – as required by the Supreme Court in Beck – union officials cannot legally require Howard to pay any fees, but continue to do so anyway.
“UWUA union bosses are ignoring clear Supreme Court precedent and violating the rights of a worker they claim to ‘represent’ in their grab for 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.”
Twenty-eight states have Right to Work protections for employees. Public polling shows that nearly 80 percent of Americans and union members support the Right to Work principle of voluntary unionism.
Union bosses ignore National Right to Work Foundation-won Supreme Court precedent as they demand worker pay up or be terminated
San Francisco, CA (April 26, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a Eureka-area worker has filed federal unfair labor practice charges against the International Union of Security Police and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA) Local 247 for illegally demanding the security guard be terminated.
The worker, Jeffrey Nyquist, works as a security guard at Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. In January 2014, Nyquist sent the union a “Beck letter” stating his request to object to paying anything more than can be required by law and requested an independent financial audit of the union’s expenditures. Under the Foundation-won Communications Workers v. Beck Supreme Court decision, workers have the right to opt out of paying full union dues that include union political lobbying and spending and have the right to see an independent financial audit of the union’s expenditures.
Union officials ignored Nyquist’s letter requesting more financial information and made no further efforts to contact him. Suddenly, more than three years later, on April 10, 2017, union officials sent Nyquist and his employer a letter demanding that he be terminated after 14 days unless he paid full union dues or fees for February through March 2017. The letter came despite the fact that union officials ignored their legal obligations to Nyquist regarding his Beck objections, which supersedes his obligation to pay the union dues or fees.
This isn’t the first time an SPFPA union has been caught violating workers’ rights when it comes to illegal union dues seizures. Just weeks ago, an SPFPA local was ordered to pay back approximately $20,000 in illegally seized dues from Washington D.C. – area workers despite a majority of workers having voted to end the forced unionism clause in their contract through an NLRB deauthorization election.
“It is outrageous that union bosses think they can pick and choose what parts of the law they want to follow on any given day,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “No worker should be threatened with termination for simply exercising his rights under the law. This case highlights why California workers need Right to Work protections that would ensure that union membership and dues payment is strictly voluntary.”
Illinois Grocery Workers Appeal Decision Blocking Vote to Remove Union Despite Unanimous Opposition to UFCW Union
NLRB asked to review Regional Director’s refusal to process decertification petition signed by workers who unanimously want union ousted
Winnetka, IL (April 14, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, a Chicago area worker has asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to review a case in which she and her co-workers were denied the right to decertify a union claiming to represent them, despite the fact that every employee in the bargaining unit signed a petition to remove union representation.
The worker, Maureen Madden, is employed at Lakeside Foods. On March 2, 2017 she filed a petition to decertify the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1456 (UFCW). Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), if a decertification petition garners signatures from 30% or more of the employees in a bargaining unit, the NLRB will conduct a secret-ballot election to determine whether a majority of the employees wish to decertify the union. Every single employee in Madden’s bargaining unit signed the petition in support of removing the union.
Even though the decertification petition had one-hundred percent employee support, the NLRB regional director refused to honor it, citing the so-called “successor bar.” The “successor bar” stems from a 2011 NLRB decision that strips away the rights of employees to decertify a union if a new employer has taken over a bargaining unit.
Although a “successor bar” does not appear anywhere in the NLRA, and the Act’s stated purpose is to give employees a choice in their representative, including declining union representation, the NLRB Region used this doctrine as its justification to keep employees under union control for up to three additional years. Furthermore, because Madden and her co-workers work in Illinois, a state that does not provide Right to Work protections, the NLRB Regional Director’s decision allows UFCW to continue collecting forced fees from the employees as a condition of employment.
Madden’s petition points out that so-called “successor bars” are in conflict with decisions of the Sixth and Seventh Circuits and the Supreme Court, all of which hold that a union’s presumption of majority support can be overcome by proof that a majority of employees do not support the union, as has happened in this case.
“It is absolutely outrageous that this NLRB Regional Director dismissed a petition filed by a worker with every single one of her co-workers supporting it,” commented Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Far from being a neutral arbitrator as the NLRB claims to be, the NLRB Regional Director is actively allowing UFCW to continue to collect forced fees from workers although one-hundred percent object to the union and its so called ‘representation.’ This case highlights why Illinois workers need the protections that Right to Work provides.”
Union officials seek to continue their forced dues powers over Missouri workers through misleading ballot questions
Jefferson City, MO (April 11, 2017) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys three Missouri workers have filed a legal challenge against an AFL-CIO proposed petition that could repeal Missouri’s new Right to Work law and strip away Right to Work protections from them and hundreds of thousands of other Missouri workers. The plaintiffs, police officers Roger Stickler and Michael Briggs, and nurse Mary Hill, are opposed to mandatory union payments. Each has experienced forced unionism abuses in the past, and could again without the protection of a Missouri Right to Work law. Their lawsuit challenges the deceptive ballot language proposed to overturn the law.
Mike Louis, President of the Missouri AFL-CIO has submitted a repeal petition to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, seeking to delay the enforcement of the recently passed Right to Work bill and submit the issue to the general election ballot in 2018. This petition has been approved by MO Sec. State Jay Ashcroft, and would appear on the 2018 ballot if union organizers obtain a sufficient number of signatures. The workers’ lawsuit challenges the proposed summary statement language as deceptive to voters.
“Once again, rather than be upfront with the Missouri citizens about their intention of restoring their forced unionism powers to have a worker fired for refusing to tender union dues or fees, Missouri union officials are pushing deceptive ballot language,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Right to Work is popular with the people of the state, so Big Labor is hoping to mislead voters into undoing the protections Right to Work provides workers.”
This is not the first legal challenge National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have filed for workers who back Missouri’s Right to Work law that will make union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary. Before the Right to Work bill was signed into law on February 6, AFL-CIO top boss Louis also submitted ten state constitutional amendments to kill the law and give forced unionism state constitutional protection.
Those ten amendments were sent to the desk of former Missouri Secretary of State Kander who approved them just hours before vacating his office. These same three workers sued to challenge the deceptive language that Kander approved. On March 24, the Cole County Circuit Court judge ruled that the ballot language was “unfair and insufficient,” and rewrote the language that will appear on the ballot in 2018 if union bosses collect enough signatures. The unions have appealed the ruling, and National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are continuing to defend against the appeal to protect the lower court ruling.
Worker was fired for seeking to end the forced unionism clause at his workplace and informing co-workers of their rights not to fund union political spending
Los Angeles, CA (April 10, 2017) – The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against Flying Food Group for illegally firing a worker as retribution for distributing a deauthorization petition that would remove the forced unionism clause in its union contract and informing co-workers of their right not to pay for union activities unrelated to bargaining. The complaint was issued after NLRB investigators found merit to charges filed against the Flying Food Group by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for the worker, Douglas Cisneros.
Both activities are protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) even in states lacking Right to Work protections like California. The company has a nationwide agreement with the union that puts its employees under union control.
Cisneros, worked as a cook for the company. In July 2016, he began to circulate a deauthorization petition among his co-workers. If it garners enough signatures a deauthorization petition results in a vote to remove the forced unionism clause in the contract that requires workers to pay fees to United Here Local 11 as a condition of their employment.
Cisneros also circulated information to his coworkers about their rights under the Foundation-won Communications Workers v. Beck United States Supreme Court case. Under Beck, workers have the right to opt out of paying full union dues that include union political lobbying and spending. After learning that Cisneros was exercising these legal rights, company officials terminated his employment on August 16, 2016, falsely claiming that he violated company rules against “engaging in rude or disorderly conduct.”
The NLRB complaint seeks an order requiring Flying Food Group to post notices in Spanish in addition to English and to reinstate Cisneros and reimburse him for back pay resulting from his illegal firing. A hearing is scheduled for June 20, 2017, before NLRB Region 31 in Los Angeles.
“It is outrageous Mr. Cisneros was fired simply for informing his co-workers of their rights and attempting to end union bosses’ power to require him and his coworkers to pay union dues as a condition of keeping their jobs,” commented Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case highlights why Californian workers need Right to Work protections that would ensure that union membership and dues payment is strictly voluntary.”
SPFPA union officials continued to collect dues over workers’ objections despite majority vote by employees that ended mandatory payments
New York, NY (April 3, 2017) – Four Brooklyn Verizon employees have filed federal unfair labor practice (ULP) charges against the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union for violating federal labor law after the employees exercised their right to resign their union memberships during a high-profile strike in May 2016. The charges were filed with free legal assistance provided by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
In April 2016, CWA union officials announced 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, the four workers who filed the charges chose to resign from the union and returned to work. Under federal law, workers cannot be compelled to join a union-boss ordered strike. However, under a 1972 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling, to protect themselves from internal union discipline they must resign their formal union membership before to returning to work, as each of these workers did.
On March 16, 2017, these workers were notified by CWA officials that they were being tried by the union on internal charges of violating the union’s constitution, despite the fact that these workers were not union members when they returned to work and thus are protected by federal law. These four workers turned to the Foundation for assistance, and filed ULP charges with the NLRB.
The union has notified the workers that an internal tribunal, which has no legal jurisdiction over the workers, is scheduled for April 16.
“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 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 these and any other workers in defending their workplace rights,” added Mix.
In 2016, Foundation staff attorneys defended eleven Verizon workers from retaliation by CWA and IBEW union officials after the same April 2016 East Coast strike. Seven of the workers were fined up to $14,000 each for exercising their federally protected rights. The remaining four were threatened by union bosses with “union discipline” that would have resulted in similar fines. In all eleven cases, union officials were forced to settle with the workers with all of the illegal strike fines and threats rescinded.
Federal Settlement Forces Union Officials to Refund $20,000 After Illegally Seizing Union Dues from Workers
SPFPA union officials continued to collect dues over workers’ objections despite majority vote by employees that ended mandatory payments
Washington, DC (April 3, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, two Washington D.C. area workers have won a federal settlement from International Union of Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA) union officials. The settlement dictates that union officials pay back approximately $20,000 in illegally seized dues, with interest.
The two workers, Troy Golson and Yasir Maatoug, work as security guards in the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Washington, D.C. In November 2015, employees in their company, Coastal International Security, won a deauthorization election against the SPFPA union. A deauthorization election can be called by employees to negate the forced-unionism clause that allows union bosses to have a worker fired for refusing to pay the union dues or fees.
After the successful deauthorization vote, more than 30 Coastal employees sent union officials a dues check-off revocation letter, which legally stops the collection of forced union dues from their paychecks. However, union officials ignored some of the letters and continued seizing dues from many employees’ paychecks, erroneously claiming workers could not stop payment except in a union-determined “window period.”
Under current National Labor Relations Board law, workers who win a deauthorization election have the right to halt automatic deductions from their paychecks immediately simply by sending the union a revocation letter.
The settlement also allows for other workers to receive refunds for illegally seized dues if they can show that they revoked their dues check-off following the deauthorization election in November of 2015. Furthermore, union officials must post and e-mail a notice stating that they “will not collect dues from bargaining unit employees who have revoked their authorizations for payroll deduction of union dues or fees following the deauthorization of the union security clause.”
“This case epitomizes the lengths to which union officials will go to collect every last cent of forced dues they can, even in violation of longstanding law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Even after a majority of the very workers the union claims to ‘represent’ voted to strip union officials of their forced dues powers, SPFPA union officials continued to illegally seize thousands of dollars in forced dues from them. This case shows why every worker in America should have Right to Work protections that ensure that union membership and payment of union fees are strictly voluntary.”
National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys help Iowa teacher file Motion to Intervene in support of the recently passed reform legislation
Des Moines, IA (March 29, 2017) – With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Waverly-area school teacher has filed a motion to intervene in the recently filed lawsuit attacking Iowa’s new government union reform law. Kevin Rohne, a public school special education teacher, seeks to intervene in the court case (AFSCME v. State of Iowa) to defend the law, which limits union monopoly bargaining powers and mandates regular recertification elections to determine if union officials are actually supported by the rank-and-file they claim to represent.
Mr. Rohne wishes to intervene to support the law because his rights are at stake as a public sector worker currently forced to accept government mandated union bargaining. Rohne opposes having government-imposed union “representation” and supports efforts to eliminate or reform monopoly bargaining powers granted to union officials under Iowa law.
The unions’ complaint asks the court to overturn the recently-enacted public sector union bargaining reform law. This law, which passed the Iowa legislature on February 16, is similar to Wisconsin’s Act 10 legislation which also instituted yearly renewal elections for most public sector unions and rolled back union monopoly bargaining powers.
Wisconsin’s Act 10 law faced multiple union legal challenges but was ultimately upheld in all of the cases. Moreover, the 2007 National Right to Work Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court case Davenport v. WEA reaffirmed the right of the states to pass laws limiting compulsory unionism powers granted to public sector union officials.
Rohne’s motion is particularly important at this time due to the fact that the state official charged with defending the law, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, has publicly refused to defend the law in court. Miller in the past has been supported by the same public sector unions that are affected by the new law.
“It is outrageous first, the Attorney General will not do his job and secondly, that AFSCME union officials reject the right and the authority of the Iowa legislature to reform the extraordinary monopoly bargaining powers that were previously granted to them by the legislature,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Public sector monopoly bargaining elevates the voice of a single organization speaking to the government over the voices of the tens of thousands of workers and taxpayers who elect the government. The Foundation will proudly continue to represent workers who seek to defend their rights against union boss-lawsuits, as it did in helping to defend Wisconsin’s Act 10.”