Hamilton Ohio Employee Hits IUOE Union Bosses with Federal First Amendment Lawsuit Challenging Deceptive Forced Fee Scheme
Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision clearly forbids forced union fees for public employees, but IUOE bosses try to pass them off as “agreement administration fees”
Cincinnati, OH (December 14, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, City of Hamilton employee Timothy Crane is suing International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 20 union officials and the City of Hamilton for seizing a compulsory fee from his paycheck in violation of his First Amendment rights. His complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, contends that union bosses are infringing on his rights under the Janus v. AFSCME decision by forcing him to pay a so-called “agreement administration fee” equal to more than 90 percent of full union dues as a condition of his employment.
In the 2018 Foundation-won Janus decision, the High Court ruled that no public worker can be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of getting or keeping a job. The Court also held that union dues or fees can only be deducted from a public employee’s paycheck if that employee clearly and affirmatively waives his or her right not to pay. Justice Alito wrote for the Court majority that “such a waiver cannot be presumed” by union or state officials.
Crane works for the City of Hamilton. He sent letters to IUOE union officials in both August and September of this year attempting to exercise his First Amendment Janus right to end dues deductions from his paycheck. After sending these two letters, he discovered that an “agreement administration fee” was now being taken from his pay by the City at the behest of IUOE union bosses.
Crane’s lawsuit points out that the most recent contract between the City of Hamilton and IUOE Local 20 requires employees who have revoked their dues deduction authorizations to pay compulsory agreement administration fees. The complaint contends that this fee is just a so-called “agency fee” – compulsory union payments charged to employees who refrain from formal union membership that were definitively outlawed by the Janus v. AFSCME decision – masquerading under a different name.
The suit urges the District Court to declare it unconstitutional for IUOE Local 20 and the City of Hamilton to force him to pay this compulsory union fee. Crane’s lawsuit also seeks a refund of all money that the union illegally took from his paycheck under the unconstitutional arrangement.
Since Janus was handed down by the Supreme Court, Foundation staff attorneys have already won favorable settlements in four cases for Buckeye State public workers who have challenged illegal union-created restrictions on the exercise of Janus First Amendment rights. In a July settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by four state workers, nearly 30,000 Ohio public employees were freed from an “escape period” scheme imposed by Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) union chiefs, which limited to just a handful of days every few years the time in which a public employee could exercise his or her Janus rights.
“IUOE bosses, who may have thought they were going to trick employees into funding their agenda against their will with this blatantly unconstitutional scheme, have now been caught red-handed,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Rank-and-file workers like Mr. Crane now see that IUOE officials are far more interested in keeping hard-earned employee cash flowing into their coffers than in respecting the First Amendment rights of the workers they claim to represent.”
Mix continued: “The string of Foundation victories for independent-minded Buckeye State employees who just want to exercise their First Amendment rights is not going to end here.”
Labor Board to Prosecute IUOE Union Officials for Restricting Rieth-Riley Workers’ Resignations and Dues Revocations
Workers already receiving $1,000+ refunds, Labor Board says that union officials used illegal barriers to prevent workers from ending dues payments
Detroit, MI (December 10, 2020) – In response to federal charges filed by three employees of Rieth-Riley Construction Company, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 7 in Detroit has just hit the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 union with a second consolidated complaint for using unlawful resignation and revocation requirements to trap employees in unwanted membership and dues payments. The three employees are receiving free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
Absent settlement, the case will now go before an NLRB Administrative Law Judge. NLRB Region 7’s complaint comes as IUOE union bosses appear to be hurriedly refunding illegally-seized dues to workers, possibly to avoid further litigation on the issue. While the NLRB case to prosecute the union continues, some workers who had ended their memberships as early as 2019 are already reporting receiving checks from the union of up to four-figure sums, apparently to refund illegally-seized money, most likely in response to the Foundation-backed litigation.
The NLRB complaint consolidates the cases of Rieth-Riley employees Jesse London, Rob Nevins, and John Shipkosky, who each charged the union this year with ignoring their letters exercising their right to resign from the union and to stop any dues deductions. The complaint specifically says that union officials illegally required dues authorization revocations to be submitted by registered or certified mail, and additionally failed to inform employees that “revocation is effective at any time upon the expiration of” the union’s monopoly bargaining contract.
According to the complaint, the union’s enforcement of these restrictions violated their and their coworkers’ right to refrain from union activities guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The complaint now seeks a ruling from an NLRB Administrative Law Judge that will order union officials to “[m]ake whole any affected employees, for any financial loss” that resulted from the union’s illegal dues deduction scheme.
NLRB Region 7’s consolidated complaint also comes just weeks after Rieth-Riley employees submitted an emergency appeal in support of their effort to vote IUOE Local 324 bosses out of their workplace. They are challenging Region 7’s November 9 decision to suppress the ballots just hours before they were scheduled to be tallied, due to unverified charges IUOE bosses made against Rieth-Riley management. Foundation attorneys argue in the workers’ appeal that Region 7’s decision ignores new NLRB rules that require that employee votes be counted before such charges are dealt with.
“Operating Engineers union bosses were caught red-handed illegally seizing dues from Rieth-Riley workers in violation of their rights. Returning those ill-gotten funds is just the first step to fully vindicate the rights of IUOE’s victims,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys are proud to stand with the hardworking men and women of Rieth-Riley, including in their effort to have their votes counted to free themselves from unwanted union so-called ‘representation.’”
Federal Appeals Court to Hear United Airlines Worker’s Lawsuit Challenging Forced Union Dues “Opt-Out” Scheme
Foundation attorneys argue IAM union opt-out requirement to escape payment for union officials’ political activities violates Supreme Court’s Janus precedent
New Orleans, LA (December 9, 2020) – Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments in United Airlines fleet service employee Arthur Baisley’s class action lawsuit against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union. The case, which Baisley filed with free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, challenges the requirement that employees opt out during a brief “window period” in many instances or else be required to pay for union officials’ political and ideological activities.
Baisley’s attorneys will argue the opt-out scheme violates workers’ rights under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), and the First Amendment under the standard laid out in the landmark 2018 Supreme Court Janus v. AFSCME decision. They contend that, under Janus and the 2012 Knox v. SEIU Supreme Court case – both of which were argued at the High Court by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys – no union dues or fees can be charged beyond the maximum that can legally be required without a worker’s affirmative consent.
The employee, Arthur Baisley, is not a member of the IAM but is still forced to pay union fees despite being based in the Right to Work state of Texas. The Railway Labor Act pre-empts state Right to Work protections which make union membership and financial support strictly voluntary. However, under longstanding law, even without Right to Work protections nonmembers cannot be required to fund a union’s ideological activities such as lobbying and politics.
The lawsuit challenges the burdensome procedure IAM union officials created for workers seeking to exercise their right not to fund the “nonchargable” activities. The complaint lays out the convoluted union boss-created process that workers must jump through just to prevent dues from being taken in violation of their First Amendment rights.
Baisley’s experience with these requirements demonstrates how the opt-out procedure is used to violate workers’ rights by forcing them to pay for union politics without their consent. Even though he sent a letter to IAM agents in November 2018 objecting to funding all union political activities, union officials only accepted his objection for 2019, and told Baisley he had to renew his objection to full dues and fees the next year or else be charged for full union dues.
The complaint challenges this union-created policy on the grounds that it “require[s] employees to opt-out of paying union fees that they have no legal obligation to pay” and thus breaches workers’ First Amendment rights. The complaint also alleges that the IAM’s “opt-out requirement” violates the RLA, which governs labor in the air and rail industries and “protects the right of employees to ‘join, organize, or assist in organizing’ a union of their choice as well as the right to refrain from any of those activities.”
The class action lawsuit asks the court to strike down the op-out requirement not only as it is applied to Baisley, but also for his coworkers whose rights are similarly restricted by the IAM’s illegal policy. Union officials would then be required to get nonmember workers to give affirmative consent to paying for union boss activities beyond what nonmember workers can legally be required to subsidize under the RLA.
“For too long union bosses have enforced deliberately complicated opt-out requirements with the aim of trapping workers into paying for union boss politics despite the fact that, as nonmembers, they have already chosen not to affiliate with the union,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Supreme Court ruled in the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME case that government unions must get consent before forcing public sector employees to fund a union because all speech directed at the government is inherently political.”
“This case seeks to apply the same legal standard to workers like Mr. Baisley who are subjected to mandatory union payments under the Railway Labor Act by requiring union officials to get workers to opt in to the portion of dues that the union already admits it spends on ideological and political activities,” added Mix.
Judge Rules for ABC Cameraman in Case against NABET Union Officials Who Seized Illegal Dues from His Paycheck
Union bosses ignored his attempts to exercise his rights, now must refund all illegally taken money
Portland, OR (December 7, 2020) – Portland-area ABC cameraman Jeremy Brown has just won a decision in his case charging National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) Local 51 union officials with demanding and seizing illegal dues from him and for ignoring his multiple attempts to exercise his right to refrain from union membership and not pay for union political activities. He is represented at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
A December 3 ruling by an NLRB Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that NABET union bosses have, since April 2019, breached federal labor law by violating Brown’s rights under the Foundation-won CWA v. Beck Supreme Court decision. Beck stipulates that union bosses can only compel employees, like Brown, who have objected to formal union membership to pay for specific, limited costs directly related to the union’s bargaining functions. An employee cannot be required to pay for the union’s political, lobbying and other non-bargaining expenditures. Beck also requires union officials to provide such employees an independent audit of the union’s financial breakdown and the process by which they calculate the reduced fee amount, among other disclosures.
According to the ALJ’s decision, Brown resumed work with ABC in 2016 after periods of intermittent hire since 1999, at no point joining the union. A new president, Carrie Biggs-Adams, took over the NABET union in the workplace in late 2018 and sent Brown a series of letters in early 2019 which claimed that, as a condition of employment, he had to pay nearly $10,000 dollars in initiation fees and “back agency dues.”
Because Brown works primarily in states without Right to Work protections, which make union membership and financial support voluntary, he can be required to pay a fee to the union as a condition of employment.
Brown, who according to the ALJ’s decision was unaware until 2019 that he was under the NABET union’s bargaining power, emailed Biggs-Adams in April 2019 asking for “clarification” regarding the fee demands and also exercised his Beck rights by objecting “to the collection and expenditure by the union of a fee for any purpose other than” certain bargaining activities. The decision also recounts that Brown informed Biggs-Adams that he filled out an application for formal NABET membership (which included an authorization for full dues deductions from his paycheck), but did so under duress, believing that he would be fired if he did not agree to pay dues.
Several follow-ups by Brown were not acknowledged by Biggs-Adams. According to the ALJ’s ruling, she “believed Local 51 had no obligation to do so because Beck objections” are handled only by the union’s national headquarters under NABET rules. Biggs-Adams never told Brown that his Beck objection was misdirected nor provided any of the disclosures Beck requires under prior Board decisions, and the union never reduced his fee amount in accordance with Beck.
The ALJ’s decision holds that the NABET Local 51 union violated Brown’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) through its officials’ omissions and the failure to reduce his dues. The ALJ orders that NABET Local 51 provide Brown with “a good faith determination of the reduced dues and fees objectors must pay,” “reimburse Brown for all dues and fees collected” beyond what is required by Beck with interest, and post notices informing the employees in Brown’s workplace of the decision.
“NABET union bosses flat out ignored multiple attempts by Mr. Brown to exercise his Beck rights, all the while stuffing their coffers with well over the limit of cash that they could legally demand from him,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “While this decision vindicated Mr. Brown’s legal rights, it also demonstrates why every American worker deserves the protection of a Right to Work law to shield them from union boss threats to pay up or be fired.”
Chicago Mental Health Counselor Files Federal Class Action Suit Against SEIU for Dues Seizures in Violation of First Amendment
Lawsuit seeks to end scheme that blocks University of Illinois workers from exercising constitutional right to stop union dues deductions
Chicago, IL (December 7, 2020) – With free legal representation from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, Johnathan Shepard, a mental health counselor working for the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System (UI Health), has filed a federal class-action civil rights lawsuit against Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 and the University’s Board of Trustees.
The suit challenges Local 73 union officials’ policy enforced by the University that blocks University employees from exercising their First Amendment right to stop payments to the union outside of a fifteen-day annual “escape period.” The lawsuit seeks refunds of all dues seized as a result of the unconstitutional policy.
The complaint states that SEIU officials and the University of Illinois are breaching the First Amendment protections recognized in the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision. In Janus, then-Illinois state employee Mark Janus was represented before the Supreme Court by William Messenger, the veteran Foundation attorney who is also handling Shepard’s case.
In its ruling in Janus, the High Court struck down mandatory union fees as violating the First Amendment rights of government employees. The Court ruled that any union dues taken without a government worker’s affirmative consent violates the First Amendment, and that these rights cannot be restricted absent a clear and knowing waiver by employees of their First Amendment rights.
The lawsuit explains that Shepard sent a letter to SEIU officials exercising his right under Janus to resign union membership and cut off all dues payments during a strike ordered by SEIU union bosses. According to the complaint, SEIU officials confirmed receipt of the letter but said that they would continue to seize dues from Shepard’s paycheck unless he sends another revocation letter during an annual fifteen-day escape period that does not open until July 2021.
SEIU and the University of Illinois’ escape period policy effectively prohibits employees from exercising their First Amendment rights under Janus for 350 days of the year (351 during leap years). Shepard contends in his lawsuit that SEIU and the University of Illinois violate the First Amendment by seizing payments for union speech from employees who resign their union membership and object to dues deductions outside of this short escape period. The complaint asks the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to order the SEIU and the University to stop enforcing the unconstitutional escape period and to order SEIU to refund to employees the dues it has unlawfully seized from them over their objections.
“Once again, SEIU officials are violating the First Amendment Janus rights of workers they claim to represent just so they can keep dues money rolling into their union’s coffers,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation is proud to stand with Mr. Shepard, and will continue to defend all healthcare employees who simply want to serve their patients without being forced to subsidize union activities.”
NLRB Moves to Prosecute Yotel Boston and UNITE HERE for Violating Workers’ Rights in Coercive ‘Card Check’ Unionization
Labor Board complaint says hotel officials illegally assisted union boss organizing drive used to impose union monopoly ‘representation’ on housekeepers
Boston, MA (December 1, 2020) – Yesterday the Acting Boston Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against the Yotel Hotel and the UNITE HERE Local 26 union after the hotel illegally assisted union officials with foisting the union on workers. Housekeepers Cindy J. Alarcon Vasquez, Lady Laura Javier, Yesica Perez Barrios, and Danela Guzman filed unfair labor practice charges with the Board in December of 2019 with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys.
The charges, which resulted in today’s complaint, say the hotel illegally assisted the union’s coercive “card check” drive, during which employees were pressured by union operatives into signing union cards. These cards were later counted as “votes,” and were used to bypass a secret ballot election that would have determined whether the workers actually support union representation.
The NLRB has long held that an employer taints employees’ efforts to remove a union if it gives those employees support such as a list of bargaining unit employees or use of company resources. The worker’s attorneys here argue that Yotel Boston similarly tainted the union’s organizing campaign by providing assistance to UNITE HERE union organizers that amounted to more than permitted “ministerial aid.”
Such assistance, while it is presumed to taint the results of decertification votes, has often been overlooked by the Board when the assistance benefits union officials in their efforts to gain monopoly representation powers over rank-and-file workers.
By issuing the complaint, the NLRB is finally applying the standard equally no matter whether the assistance is used to impose or remove union monopoly representation. Further, the complaint finds that Yotel violated the law when they recognized UNITE HERE as the workers’ monopoly representative as a result of the illegal assistance.
The case is not the first in which the NLRB has addressed this double standard. In July NLRB Region 19 issued a similar complaint in another case involving a hotel worker whose employer illegally assisted UNITE HERE Local 8 union officials in its card check drive at Embassy Suites in Seattle. There the NLRB also agreed that the employer had provided more than “ministerial aid,” and therefore UNITE HERE officials “did not represent an uncoerced majority of the unit.”
“The NLRB is finally addressing the double standard that for too long has favored union bosses in their coercive card check unionization drives,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Union bosses pressure workers and get illegal assistance from employers to impose their so-called representation on workers, but they cry foul when that same assistance is given to workers attempting to remove unwanted forced representation.”
“With these complaints against UNITE-HERE union bosses the Board is correctly finding that what qualifies as more than ‘ministerial assistance and support,’ and thus violates the National Labor Relations Act, cannot depend on whether the employer is helping outside union organizers impose unionization on workers or is assisting workers in exercising their right to remove an unwanted union.”
Swedish Medical Center Worker’s Appeal Challenges SEIU Policies that Trap Workers in Full Union Dues
Worker’s brief to NLRB top lawyer: SEIU officials suspected of using forged signature to justify illegal deduction of full union dues
Seattle, WA (November 17, 2020) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys just filed an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel for Swedish Medical Center employee Daniel Dalison.
The appeal challenges the Seattle NLRB Regional Director’s conditional dismissal of unfair labor practice charges brought by Dalison against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW. The Swedish Medical Center worker’s charges argue SEIU officials illegally created a needlessly restrictive set of procedures designed to trap workers into paying union dues in violation of their legal rights.
Dalison sent multiple letters to union officials resigning his membership and exercising his right under the Foundation-won Beck Supreme Court decision to only pay fees directly related to union bargaining. He also requested copies of his past membership cards and dues checkoff authorizations, which were the supposed basis for the SEIU continuing to deduct dues.
Dalison requested all membership and dues authorization documents he signed because he became concerned that one or more of them may have been forged, a suspicion shared by other workers. SEIU affiliates in the Pacific Northwest already face several federal lawsuits filed by workers alleging forgery of signatures on dues authorization cards in the aftermath of the Foundation-won Janus decision.
Though union officials did not provide Dalison with a copy of his earlier membership card, they eventually provided a card he allegedly signed in February 2019. This card was preprinted with Dalison’s information filled in. Some of this information is erroneous, including his phone number. Dalison does not recall signing the document or filling it out, and is concerned that it is a forgery.
To obtain his own membership documents, Dalison was told he had to complete SEIU’s three step procedure. He had to submit a request in writing, make an appointment with a union official, and appear in person and/or present an approved photo ID. Employees at Swedish Medical Center already must act quickly to revoke their dues authorizations during a narrow “escape period” that differs for each employee. The period is determined by the date the employee signed a membership and dues authorization application, the very document that can only be obtained by completing the union’s three step process.
Dalison’s charges argue the SEIU’s “write us a letter, make an appointment, and show up in person with a photo ID” restrictions are an illegal barrier to receiving time-sensitive information that allows employees to exercise their legal right to revoke their dues checkoffs and not fund union political speech. His charges say that SEIU’s restrictions violate his rights under federal law, and demands the union provide all his older membership cards, without delay or burdensome procedures, to ensure their authenticity.
Another Swedish Medical Center employee, Roger White, recently won an appeal in a separate but related case against SEIU 1199NW. With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, the NLRB General Counsel in Washington, DC, found the Seattle Regional Director was wrong not to prosecute SEIU officials for keeping White in the dark about his right not to pay any union fees during a contract hiatus, and for the union’s “confusing and ambiguous” union dues and membership authorization card.
“As this and so many other workers’ cases demonstrate, SEIU bosses won’t hesitate to violate the rights of those they claim to ‘represent’ just to stuff their pockets will illegal forced union dues,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “These cases show why workers in Washington State desperately need the protection of a Right to Work law that makes all union payments strictly voluntary.”
Michigan Rieth-Riley Workers Petition NLRB to Overturn Regional Decision After All Votes Were Cast to Cancel Election to Remove Union
NLRB Region 7 in Detroit abruptly issued order dismissing workers’ petition for the vote just hours before the ballots were scheduled to be counted
Detroit, MI (November 16, 2020) – Employees of the Rieth-Riley Construction Company have just filed an emergency appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC, asking the Board to overturn an NLRB Regional Director’s last minute decision cancelling the workers’ vote whether to remove International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 from their workplace. The Region issued this order just hours before the ballots were to be counted and after the workers’ votes had all been cast.
Staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation represent the construction workers in the case without charge. This is the latest development in a months-long effort by Rieth-Riley workers to eject unpopular IUOE officials, in which employee Rayalan Kent and his coworkers have submitted two successive petitions to obtain a decertification election.
Although an election by mail finally began last month, on November 9, mere hours before the NLRB Detroit Region was to count the votes, the Regional Director issued a decision dismissing Kent and his coworkers’ petitions. Absent action by the NLRB in Washington, DC, the workers’ votes in their long-sought decertification election will be destroyed and never counted.
Kent submitted his latest petition for a vote to remove the union in August, with signatures from well over the number of his coworkers required by law to trigger such a vote. This petition was submitted in the hopes that new protections from the NLRB in Washington, DC, which became effective at the end of July, would better safeguard from union legal maneuvering their right to vote out the union. Kent’s Foundation-provided attorneys also invoked those reforms in a Request for Review submitted this April in defense of his first decertification petition, which the Board denied.
The NLRB Regional Director in Detroit dismissed Kent and his coworkers’ two petitions by citing unproven allegations IUOE officials have made against Rieth-Riley management in so-called “blocking charges.”
The Region’s decision flies in the face of reforms the NLRB enacted through the rulemaking process that largely eliminate “blocking charges” as a means for delaying a vote. The reforms instead mandate a system in which employees usually can exercise immediately their right to vote on whether a union should stay before the NLRB deals with any unfair labor practice charges filed against their employer.
The purpose of the reforms, which heavily cited comments Foundation attorneys submitted to the NLRB, is to stop union officials from imposing themselves on dissatisfied workers for months or even years while often-unrelated union allegations against employers are litigated. The NLRB’s final rule, in response to arguments made in the Foundation’s comments, specifically requires that votes be tallied and results announced unless the charges allege that the employer has improperly aided the decertification petition, and even then the votes will be counted unless a complaint against the employer has been issued within sixty days.
Nevertheless, the NLRB Regional Director declined to even hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether there is a causal link between IUOE union bosses’ claims and Kent and his coworkers’ effort to remove the union, claiming that the Region’s “investigation” was sufficient and takes priority over the NLRB’s new rules regarding “blocking charges.”
The workers’ appeal points out that, “even under the old rules, the Region is misapplying the law by dismissing the petitions.” It explains that the “unfair labor practice allegations do not relate to the election itself. Further, the Region did not conduct a hearing before it found a causal connection between the Employer’s alleged conduct and the decertification petitions.”
Commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix: “Rieth-Riley employees have already had to endure many months of union boss stonewalling just to exercise their right to vote out an unpopular union. NLRB Region 7’s current decision to stifle further the employees’ will makes the whole situation even more outrageous and rigged in favor of union power. The NLRB in Washington should immediately overturn this decision and order the Region to count the ballots as NLRB rules dictate.”
Mix added, “NLRB Region 7’s decision completely ignores the amended rule the NLRB in Washington issued in July, which clearly delineates why employees’ right to vote should not be delayed or hindered by unproven or unrelated union accusations against an employer. We will continue to fight for Mr. Kent and his coworkers until their long-overdue right to free themselves from the unwanted Operating Engineers union is vindicated.”
NLRB top prosecutor says SEIU officials illegally kept employees in the dark about their legal right not to pay union fees during contract hiatus
Washington, DC (November 11, 2020) – With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Roger White won an appeal to the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in his case against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare 1199NW.
In mid-January 2020, White sent union officials a letter resigning his membership and invoking his U.S Supreme Court-won Beck right to pay reduced union fees. The union admitted that more than one of every three dollars it collects were spent on political and nonrepresentational activities, but failed to inform him and others that, due to a contract hiatus then in effect, nonmember employees actually owed no dues or fees at all because no forced union fee contract was in effect.
White filed charges in April, asserting SEIU officials violated the National Labor Relations act by not informing him he was not required to pay any union fees during a contract hiatus.
After the Seattle NLRB Regional Director brushed aside SEIU officials’ obligation to inform White that he could not legally be required to pay any union fees, Foundation attorneys filed an appeal to the Board’s General Counsel, arguing the union owed White a “duty of truth and honesty” and should have made it clear he had no obligation to pay.
In response to the appeal, the General Counsel agreed with the Foundation staff attorneys’ arguments, saying union officials violated the National Labor Relations Act by keeping White in the dark about his rights during the contract hiatus.
The General Counsel further found that the union had maintained a “confusing and ambiguous Membership Application, Voluntary Check-Off Authorization and Payroll Deduction document.” These documents, which employees are pushed to sign to allow dues deductions, did not provide enough information to make an informed decision about union membership.
Finally, the General Counsel found that the SEIU’s dues check-off authorization form “may be interpreted to preclude employees from revoking their authorization upon expiration of the contract.” Authorizing dues payments is not a permanent decision, but SEIU’s contract does not make that clear.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW has faced repeated legal challenges to its membership practices. Two other Swedish Medical Center employees, Daniel Dalison and NancyEllen Elster, filed charges against the SEIU local for failing to respect the rights guaranteed to them by Beck. Elster won a unit-wide settlement in October 2019 after NLRB Region 19 found merit to her charges that union officials had failed to give a proper Beck notice to employees, and had denied her request to pay the reduced dues amount under Beck.
Following the General Council’s ruling, the case is back with the Regional Director for further action. If a settlement is not reached between the SEIU and White, the Regional Director will issue a complaint against the SEIU for violating the law in preparation for a trial before an NLRB administrative law judge.
“Once again, Seattle SEIU bosses’ have used unfair and deceptive tactics to violate workers’ rights,” said National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Despite repeated legal challenges, SEIU officials have demonstrated their determination to keep workers in the dark about their legal rights, rather than give workers all the facts before making a decision regarding union membership and financial support.”
Allegiant Air Flight Attendant Sues Transport Workers Union for Religious Discrimination, Forced Union Fee Demands
Despite objecting to union membership and dues on religious grounds, flight attendant was forced to pay union fees or lose input into work schedule
Knoxville, Tennessee (November 6, 2020) – Allegiant Air Flight attendant Annlee Post has filed a federal lawsuit against Transport Workers Union of America Local 577 (TWU) for violating her rights under the First Amendment, Railway Labor Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The complaint was filed with free legal aid from staff attorneys at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
As the lawsuit explains, Post sent two letters informing TWU officials of her religious objections and offering to redirect her dues payments to a charity. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers and union officials are required to accommodate sincere religious beliefs. Courts have consistently ruled that employers and unions must allow religious objectors to redirect their compulsory union payments to charity.
In the 2015 EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch decision, the Supreme Court unanimously held that employees do not need to satisfy any requirements to merit accommodation. Thus, it did not matter in Abercrombie that the prospective employee never informed her prospective employer that she wore a headscarf for religious reasons. An employer or union’s belief that an employee might need accommodation is enough to trigger its duty to accommodate.
Post exceeded her legal requirements. She informed union officials in writing that her religious beliefs prevent her from associating with or supporting the union. Therefore, she requested accommodation. She sent two letters explaining her religious objections. TWU officials, however, refused to accommodate her.
With free legal aid from the Foundation, Post filed a charge in May 2019 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the union. The EEOC was ultimately unable to successfully resolve her charge, and in August 2020 issued a “Right to Sue” letter, at her request, allowing her to file a federal lawsuit to protect her rights.
Post initiated her lawsuit by filing a complaint last week in federal court. The complaint alleges TWU officials illegally discriminated against her by refusing to accommodate her and threatening to revoke her bidding privileges. Bidding privileges control a flight attendant’s ability to schedule trips, work, vacations, and nonworking days. Post asks the court to prevent TWU officials from discriminating against her, and other employees with religious objections, by requiring her to pay union fees that violate her sincere religious beliefs.
Post’s lawsuit also states that union officials violated the United States Constitution and the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The First and Fourteenth Amendments require unions to follow specific procedures to demand forced dues payments. The union did not follow those procedures here. Union officials did not provide notice of how the forced fee amount was calculated, an audit of the union’s financial records, nor did they provide notice of the procedure to challenge the fee amount.
The complaint also cites the Foundation’s Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME which held that unions and public employers cannot require employees to pay union dues or fees to get or keep a job. The complaint states that Ms. Post does not have to pay any fees to the union because of Janus. The Janus case is a monumental decision that protects employees’ free choice.
State Right to Work laws also protect employees and allow them to decide for themselves if they want to support a union with their money. Although Post lives and works in a Right to Work state – Tennessee – the RLA overrides state Right to Work laws and allows union officials to force union fees as a job condition.
The RLA allows employers and unions to require forced dues payments, but only “as a condition of continued employment.” The RLA does not permit forced dues payments based on any other condition – such as bidding privileges. Post’s Foundation staff attorneys argue that TWU’s monopoly bargaining agreement with Allegiant is invalid because it requires dues payments to maintain bidding privileges, whereas payment “as a condition of continued employment” is the only legal forced unionism agreement under the RLA.
“Annlee Post and others like her should not have to choose between privileges at work and their religious beliefs,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “TWU bosses knew about Ms. Post’s objections, but refused to accommodate them under longstanding EEOC law, instead threatening to take away her bidding privileges, simply because she would not fund their organization in violation of her religious faith.”
“This case is a reminder why no worker should be forced to fund a union with which they disagree, no matter whether their objection is religious or for any other reason.”