Union Hit with Federal Charges for Illegal Retaliation Against Non-Striking Yale-New Haven Hospital Workers
New Haven, Conn. (November 5, 2003) — With free legal aid from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a group of food service workers at the Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH) filed federal charges today against local union officials for illegal retaliation after employees honored their commitments to their employer and refused to walk off the job during a strike that began in August.
Thirteen YNHH food service employees, led by Arleen DeMaio, filed the unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, SEIU/AFL-CIO (NEHCU). The workers allege that union officials illegally refused to honor resignations from formal union membership and then illegally ordered them to appear before a union tribunal to accept formal discipline – possibly including monetary fines – for exercising their legally protected right to go to work during a strike.
“Employees should not be punished for disagreeing with a union’s self-serving strike and for continuing to do their jobs,” said Stefan Gleason, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “These union officials have demanded that employees march in lock step with the union – or else.”
Union officials also are maintaining an illegal resignation scheme in the union’s bylaws in which workers wishing to resign must appear before a “chapter hearing board” to gain formal permission to resign their union memberships. The employees also allege that the union hierarchy has failed to inform all employees of their right to resign full membership and instead pay a reduced fee to the union.
The actions of NEHCU union officials violated workers’ protections recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court cases of Patternmakers v. NLRB and Communications Workers v. Beck. Under Patternmakers, union officials must allow employees to resign from formal union membership, at any time and without restriction. Union officials have no legal right to enforce internal union rules – including rules that require union members to strike – against nonunion members. Meanwhile, Beck requires union officials to specifically inform employees of their right to refrain from formal, full dues-paying union membership and their right to pay a reduced fee to cover only the union’s proven collective bargaining costs.
The charges seek an order that the union hierarchy drop all disciplinary proceedings, rescind its illegal resignation policies, as well as inform all workers represented by the union of their unqualified right to resign their full union membership at any time and to pay only a reduced fee.