UAW officials finally follow law after federal charges are filed
Grand Rapids, MI (August 19, 2016) – With free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, two Grand Rapids Blue Cross & Blue Shield employees have received refunds for illegally seized dues from United Automobile Workers (UAW) Local 2145 union officials. The refund comes in response to federal unfair labor practice charges that were filed by Rayonne Brown and Jennifer Smith against UAW and their employer. According to Brown and Smith, union officials had continued to collect money from their paychecks after they had formally notified the union of their decision to opt out of further dues payments.
In December 2015, the contract between Blue Cross & Blue Shield and UAW Local 2145 expired. The contract included a provision that required all employees to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Once the contract expired, however, Brown and Smith notified the union and their employer that they were revoking their dues authorization and opting out of paying union dues.
Under Michigan’s recently-enacted Right to Work law, no employee can be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Forced-dues contracts between unions and employers that were agreed to before the law was passed continue in force, but once those contracts expire, nonunion employees in the bargaining unit can no longer be required to pay union dues to keep their jobs.
Despite these legal protections, Blue Cross & Blue Shield deducted union dues from Brown and Smith’s January and March paychecks, which were then given to UAW officials. Brown and Smith’s charges, which asked for the return of all illegally-seized union dues with interest, were withdrawn as a result of the refund.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, commented, “Unfortunately, the legal hoops that Rayonne Brown and Jennifer Smith have had to jump through just to get union bosses to recognize their rights are all too common in states with recently passed Right to Work laws. The law has to be enforced if employees are to benefit from these new legal protections. With this being an election year, union bosses are desperate to get their hands on as many forced dues as possible”.
“Any Michigan employees seeking to assert their newly-enshrined rights should contact the National Right to Work Foundation immediately for free legal aid,” Mix added.
The charges were among the over 30 legal cases that have been filed so far by Foundation staff attorneys to enforce Michigan’s Right to Work law, which ensures that union membership and the payment of union dues are strictly voluntary. Michigan became the 24th state to pass a Right to Work law in 2012. Wisconsin and West Virginia have subsequently passed Right to Work laws in 2015 and 2016 respectively.