El Monte, Calif. (July 23, 2003) — A local Rite-Aid Corporation pharmacy intern has filed federal charges against a local affiliate of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union for failing to inform him of his right to refrain from formal union membership, disregarding his objection to paying full dues, having him suspended, and threatening to have him fired for failure to pay full dues.
With free legal assistance from attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, intern Olaf Dominguez filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) when UFCW Local 1428 union officials pressured his employer to suspend him for a week without pay for refusing to pay full union dues.
Though Dominguez never joined the UFCW union or received any information about it, he received a letter after working for Rite-Aid for three months “welcoming” him to the union and demanding that he pay $280 in initiation fees and dues. Dominguez paid that amount under protest to save his job, but he is now seeking reimbursement for his lost wages and illegally seized dues.
“Union officials want professionals like Olaf Dominguez to simply shut up and pay up,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This shows that union bosses are more concerned with using workers as their personal ATMs rather than standing up for the interests of those whom they supposedly represent.”
By failing to notify Dominguez and his fellow workers of their right to refrain from union membership, UFCW union officials violated worker protections recognized by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Communications Workers of America v. Beck, a case Foundation attorneys argued and won. Under Beck, workers have the option to refrain from formal union membership and may be forced only to pay an agency fee to cover the union’s collective bargaining costs.
Furthermore, under U.S. Supreme Court precedents, union officials must provide non-member workers an independent audit of union expenditures to ensure they are not funding activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as politics. UFCW union officials never provided Dominguez or his fellow workers with such an audit.
“No one should be forced to pay dues to an unwanted union just to get or keep their job,” stated Gleason. “This is especially true when union officials don’t even bother to observe workers’ limited due process protections.”