St. Mary’s, Ohio (July 16, 2003) – Facing an employee revolt against their mandatory union dues requirement, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199 officials this week abandoned all claims to represent workers at the St. Mary’s Living Center and stated that it “no longer wishes to be a party” to the collective bargaining agreement they signed last year.
After having successfully fought for monopoly bargaining power from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the union signed a collective bargaining agreement last summer which included a mandatory dues requirement. Once in power, the union proved to be highly unpopular with rank-and-file employees.
Led by Judy Cooper, an employee at the St. Mary’s Living Center owned by Essex Healthcare Corporation, at least 30 percent of the workforce signed a petition to obtain an official deauthorization election, supervised by NLRB officials. If SEIU District 1199 union officials had lost the election, they would have been stripped of the power to seize compulsory dues. In that case they would only have been able to collect dues from employees who voluntarily chose to join the union.
Cooper first sought the deauthorization election when the union hierarchy showed that it was unresponsive to employee concerns, such as ignoring worker grievances. Cooper learned of her rights and received free legal assistance from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. According to Cooper, the union hierarchy would have lost the election overwhelmingly.
“The actions of SEIU officials show they are more concerned with being able to seize money from workers than actually earning their support,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Since workers in Ohio do not yet enjoy the protections of a Right to Work law, a deauthorization election is the only way they can break the grip of compulsory unionism.”
In order to win a deauthorization election, employees need “yes” votes from an absolute majority of workers in the bargaining unit. The requirement for an absolute majority, set by the National Labor Relations Act, makes it more difficult for employees to prevail than under the requirement for certifying or decertifying a union, which requires only a majority of those voting.