14 Sep 2017

Wisconsin Grocery Driver Wins Settlement with Teamsters Union Officials in Case Over Illegally Seized Union Fees

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Wisconsin’s Right to Work law makes union dues payments voluntary, but union officials continued taking fees

Milwaukee, WI (September 14, 2017) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a Milwaukee employee has successfully won a settlement from Teamsters Local 200 union officials. The settlement requires that Teamsters Local 200 union officials pay the employee all union fees that were improperly seized and the subject of federal unfair labor practice charges.

Christopher Sarenac works as a driver for Roundy’s Supermarket, Inc. in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee. Roundy’s Supermarkets had a monopoly bargaining contract with Teamsters Local 200 until it expired on September 26, 2016. In early February 2017, Sarenac sent a letter to union officials and Roundy’s Supermarket, Inc. resigning union membership and revoking his dues check-off authorization. At this point, a new monopoly bargaining agreement between his employer and Teamsters union officials had not been reached.

Five days after resigning, Sarenac received a letter signed by Teamsters officials acknowledging his withdrawal of union membership. Roundy’s Supermarket, Inc. subsequently ceased deductions of union fees from Sarenac’s paycheck for a time but later resumed deducting fees, likely at the request of union officials.

On March 31 2017, Sarenac sent Teamster officials a letter reminding them of his nonmember status, his freedom to refrain from union payments under Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, and his check-off revocation. His letter requested clarification of the status of his revocation. Sarenac did not receive a response from union officials until after National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys filed an unfair labor practice charge for him with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in June.

In July, union officials finally responded to Sarenac’s request. However in their response, Teamsters officials claimed that he had not successfully revoked his check-off because he was outside of a five day “window period” created by union officials to block revocations. This led to the filing of a new unfair labor practice charge in August challenging the continued deduction of fees from Sarenac’s paycheck as a violation of federal labor law.

Faced with a potential NLRB prosecution, Teamsters union officials settled the cases by paying Sarenac back the amount unlawfully taken by the union from Sarenac’s wages, and union officials agreed to cease all future deductions from his paycheck.

“This case, once again, shows the lengths to which union officials will go to collect every last cent of forced fees they can, even in clear violation of the law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Christopher Sarenac exercised his rights under Wisconsin’s Right to Work law, only to have the very union officials that claim to ‘represent’ him violate his rights. This case shows why every worker in America should have Right to Work protections that ensure that union membership and dues payment are strictly voluntary, and why it is important that those laws be vigilantly enforced.”

3 Sep 2017

National Right to Work Labor Day Statement: 2017 Has Makings of Banner Year in Fight Against Forced Unionism

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Government employees challenging union boss forced dues powers at the Supreme Court, while states continue to pass Right to Work laws

Springfield, VA (September 4, 2017) – Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee, issued the following statement on the occasion of Labor Day 2017:

“This Labor Day, many Americans will enjoy a well-deserved three day weekend. After the festivities, vacations, and beach trips have ended, however many critical fights for employee freedom loom on the horizon.

“Even though polls consistently show that 8 in 10 Americans support Right to Work laws, which makes union membership and financial support strictly voluntary, every day millions of workers are forced to fund a labor union as a condition of employment. These workers are forced to face an ugly choice: pay dues to union officials they may not support or be fired.

“On this Labor Day, every American should pause to consider these victims of compulsory unionism which is embedded in many state and federal laws. Fortunately, help is on the way and they don’t stand alone.

“In over 250 cases over the past year National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys have provided free legal representation to workers who have had their rights violated. These cases show the desperate need for additional protections against Big Labor’s forced dues powers.

“One individual standing up for his rights is Illinois state worker Mark Janus. In June, he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case challenging mandatory union payments as a violation of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court could agree to take the case this September with a ruling coming by the end of June 2018.

“If Janus’ Foundation-provided staff attorneys are successful, 2017 may be the last Labor Day that teachers, police officers, firefighters and millions of other government employees are forced by law to fund union activities as a condition of working for their own government.

“Meanwhile, Right to Work laws continue to expand with Missouri and Kentucky being added to the list of 28 states with laws to protect workers from being fired for not paying money to a labor union. Kentucky is already seeing unprecedented levels of job creation and investment specifically because of its new Right to Work status. Unfortunately for Missouri, union bosses there have launched a campaign to block the law, meaning workers may have to wait until November 2018 to be free of forced union dues.

“Despite these big victories for worker freedom, more work remains. In addition to pushing for state Right to Work laws the National Right to Work Committee is building support in Congress for a National Right to Work Act that would eliminate portions of federal law which authorize forced dues. And even where Right to Work protections exist, workers are frequently required by law to accept a union’s so-called ‘representation,’ even if they would rather negotiate with their employer on their own merits.

“Not satisfied with these unique coercive powers, union officials continue to spend billions of dollars – much of it from the paychecks of workers who would be fired for not paying – on politics and lobbying seeking to expand their powers even further. This reminds us that even as we make historic strides, there is much work is left to do.

“On Labor Day, we should celebrate the hard-working men and women that make America the great nation it is. Properly celebrating America’s workers must include respecting each worker’s individual right to decide for themselves if joining and financially supporting a labor union is right for them. Here at the National Right to Work Committee and National Right to Work Foundation we will not rest until that freedom is fully protected.”

A video version of this statement is available here: https://youtu.be/X_7ctAhhjvE

1 Sep 2017

President Trump Should Suspend the Davis-Bacon Rules to Aid Hurricane Harvey Rebuilding Efforts

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Washington, DC (September 1, 2017) – In light of the damage and devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and National Right to Work Committee president Mark Mix issued the following statement calling for President Trump to use the emergency suspension provision of the Davis-Bacon Act:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of Hurricane Harvey as well as the police, firefighters, first responders, and other volunteers sacrificing their well-being to help their fellow Americans. The relief efforts will require all hands on deck to help Texas and other affected areas recover.

“One step President Trump can take immediately is suspending the outdated 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. This law has the effect of limiting federally funded construction projects to politically-connected unionized firms at the expense of the 86 percent of American construction workers who choose not to affiliate with a union. After a hurricane, the federal government should not be restrained in its efforts to rebuild infrastructure based on whether or not a construction firm is unionized.

“Studies show that the Davis-Bacon Act raises construction project costs by up to 38 percent. So unless Davis-Bacon is suspended, the impact of federal aid dollars will be artificially reduced at the very time when the impact of federal aid must be maximized to quickly and efficiently help rebuild after the damage caused by Harvey.

“This call to action is not unprecedented; The law has been suspended for an emergency four times before, including by both President George W. Bush and his father President George H.W. Bush, to aid in recovery from devastation caused by hurricanes. President Trump should do the same to help Texas and other affected areas recover from what experts suggest may be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. History.”

22 Aug 2017

Chicago Utility Worker Appeals Labor Board Case Against Union Officials for Illegal Forced Dues for Politics

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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.”

31 Jul 2017

Verizon Worker Hits CWA Union Officials with Labor Board Charges for Illegal $22,000 Retaliatory Fine

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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.
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26 Jul 2017

Kentucky Workers Win Motion to Intervene to Defend Bluegrass State Right to Work Law

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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.

21 Jul 2017

Michigan Welder Forces UAW Bosses to Settle Case for Illegal Discrimination and Retaliation

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Union officials prompted employer to illegally decrease pay of worker who exercised right to resign from union under Michigan’s Right to Work law

Ludington, MI (July 21, 2017) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, Richard Dettman, a Ludington, MI welder, has won a settlement against United Autoworkers, Local 811 (UAW, Local 811) union officials and his employer Harsco Rail. The settlement dictates that Union officials and Harsco amend their collective bargaining agreement, as well as pay additional wages to Mr. Dettman for hours, worked between March 13 and April 23, 2017.

Since 1992, Dettman has worked as a Harsco welder and was a UAW member, but in February 2017 he exercised his right to resign his union membership. He had achieved “Journeyman” status because of his long tenure, which guaranteed him a $0.75 per hour premium based on the workplace contract. An employee’s “Journeyman” card is granted after years of apprenticeship or completion of work related qualifications.

Shortly after his resignation, union officials retaliated against Dettman by stripping him of his “Journeyman” card, and Harsco Rail lowered his wages under the union boss-negotiated monopoly bargaining contract. This violated not only the National Labor Relations Act but is contrary to Michigan’s Right to Work protections.

In response to the illegal retaliation, Dettman filed federal unfair labor practice charges against both the UAW and Harsco with the National Labor Relations Board, utilizing free legal representation from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys. Faced with clear evidence that they had violated Dettman’s legal rights, UAW and Harsco officials settled the case.
Harsco and UAW officials agreed to pay Dettman back wages for hours worked during March-April 2017. But the case was also a victory for all Harsco employees. Harsco and Union officials amended their monopoly bargaining agreement to respect Michigan’s Right to Work law. The agreement now allows any employee, union affiliated or not, to apply for and receive the Journeyman premium if they meet certain requirements.

“Rather than operating as an organization workers would want to join voluntarily, UAW officials resorted to illegal tactics against a worker who bravely exercised his rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “As this case shows, passing Right to Work laws is only the first step in protecting the workplace rights of all workers. Without stringent enforcement of the law, greedy union bosses will do everything they can, including lowering workers’ wages, to stop workers from exercising their rights and resigning their union membership.”

18 Jul 2017

National Right to Work Foundation Issues Special Legal Notice to Nissan Employees in Mississippi Facing UAW Unionization Vote

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Foundation offers free legal aid to Nissan Canton employees facing UAW coercion and pressure tactics in run up to vote

Canton, MS (July 18, 2017) – Recently, United Autoworkers (UAW) union officials announced a push to impose monopoly control over all front-line employees at the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. In light of the tactics union organizers frequently utilize while pushing for monopoly bargaining powers over workers, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have issued a special legal notice for Nissan Canton workers.

Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation released the following statement regarding the notice and offer of free legal aid:

“UAW officials in Detroit have spent millions of dollars attempting to unionize this plant and others in Right to Work states where auto manufacturing is thriving. In Canton, UAW organizers failed in 2013, but now UAW union officials are once again targeting Canton as they look for new sources of revenue following the loss over two-thirds of their members in recent decades.

“Workers facing UAW organizing drives in the past have endured intimidation, misleading statements, and pressure tactics. Because of this, the National Right to Work Foundation wants every Canton Nissan employee to know they have a place to turn for free legal if they face such tactics or have a question about their right to oppose UAW monopoly representation in the run up to the vote.”

The legal notice details what is at stake in the vote and offers free legal aid to employees facing possible illegal conduct by UAW officials or their agents. The full notice can be found online at: http://www.nrtw.org/NissanCanton.

Affected employees may also call the Foundation’s legal hotline toll-free at 1-800-336-3600 or contact the Foundation online at http://www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid to request free legal assistance.

13 Jul 2017

Missouri Workers Ask MO Supreme Court to Review Misleading Anti-Right to Work Ballot Language

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Workers opposed to forced union dues appeal ruling allowing deceptive ballot language for union boss-backed constitutional amendments

St. Louis, MO (July 13, 2017) – Yesterday, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed an appeal for a group of Missouri workers asking the state Supreme Court to review a lower court decision permitting misleading ballot language on a series of union boss-backed constitutional amendments designed to overturn the state’s recently enacted Right to Work law.

On June 27, 2017, the Missouri Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s ruling on potential 2018 ballot amendments, determining that most of the amendments addressing the Right to Work law enacted in February adequately described the ballot propositions, even though none mentioned the recently-passed Right to Work law.

In December, Mike Louis, the Missouri AFL-CIO’s top official, submitted to the Missouri Secretary of State ten proposed amendments to the state constitution. Each seeks to overturn Missouri’s Right to Work law enacted in February. These amendments contain language that is confusing and misleading.
The language was approved by outgoing Secretary of State Jason Kander, who ran a failed U.S. Senate campaign that was funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars in union contributions. He approved the ballot language just hours before vacating office, ignoring the fact that none of the petitions even mentioned the Right to Work law that they are designed to nullify. One or more of the amendments could appear on the 2018 ballot if union organizers obtain a sufficient number of signatures.

Foundation staff attorneys argued that Kander’s summary statements contained misleading and insufficient language. In March, Judge Jon Beetem of the Cole County Circuit Court agreed, ruling that the proposed language was “unclear and insufficient” to accurately reflect that the amendments — if passed — would nullify the Right to Work law. Judge Beetem re-wrote the summary statements to provide a balanced and accurate description of the effect of the proposed amendments.

However, Judge Beetem’s decision was overturned by the Missouri Court of Appeals. The appellate court ruled that Kander’s summary statements for eight of the ten amendments contained sufficient language, while two needed minor revisions. The court also noted that it was an unusual case as it was the first occurrence of the legislature enacting a law that was simultaneously being addressed by the Secretary of State.

If any of the Big Labor-backed constitutional amendments are put on the ballot and approved by the voters, they would repeal the new Right to Work law and block future passage of any state legislation to protect workers from mandatory union fees. Any future attempt to pass Right to Work would first require another amendment of the state constitution.

“Big Labor continues to resort to any tactic in an attempt to block Missouri’s new Right to Work law,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Big Labor knows that the citizens of Missouri believe it is wrong for an employee to be fired simply for refusing to pay union dues or fees to a union boss. That’s why the union bosses are so intent on confusing voters about their goal of restoring their forced dues powers.”

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys are also assisting Missouri employees in challenging misleading language in a repeal referendum being pushed by Missouri union bosses. In that case, not only was the Secretary of State’s language misleading, but it also included grammatical errors, something the judge noted when he rewrote it in that case.

29 Jun 2017

Kentucky Workers Move to Defend Bluegrass State Right to Work Law

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National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys help Kentucky workers defend law to ensure union membership and dues payment remain voluntary

Frankfort, KY (June 29, 2017) – With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Kentucky workers has filed a motion to intervene in the recently filed union-backed lawsuit attacking Kentucky’s new Right to Work law.

These pro-Right to Work Kentuckians wish to intervene to defend the law because their rights are at stake as workers’ who could be forced to pay union dues or fees without the protections of the Right to Work law which was signed into law in January. In addition to protecting workers freedom of choice when it comes to financial support for union activities, the law has been cited as a reason for historic levels of investment and job creation in the Commonwealth in the months since its passage.

The workers have chosen to intervene to support the law because they believe that it is their right to be free from compulsory unionism, and as workers currently employed in Kentucky, they may suffer from direct harm if union lawyers win their case. In the workers’ motion, National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys argue that various union claims to overturn the Right to Work law have been correctly rejected by courts in other states.

Although the State of Kentucky is already defending the law in the case, the motion notes that these workers have a special interest in defending Right to Work and their attorneys can offer legal arguments distinct from those raised by state lawyers.

“Big Labor’s newest attack on the Right to Work comes in a state where there is dramatic support for the measure, and where the citizens are already starting to see the benefit of living in a Right to Work state,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “That’s why we’re committed to defending the rights of workers against any attempt to block or overturn Kentucky’s law making union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary.”

“Big Labor lawyers have been working overtime in recent years, unsuccessfully attempting to slow the spread of Right to Work and restore union bosses’ forced-dues powers,” continued Mix. “If union bosses spent more time making workers want to join a union voluntarily instead of seeking legal loopholes to keep them trapped into paying dues, maybe they wouldn’t fear the choice that Right to Work provides workers so much.”