California Labor Board Orders UFW to Stop Trying to Get Workers Fired for Refusal to Pay Full Union Dues
**Ventura, CA (February 21, 2007)** – California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) prosecutors have issued a decision and order that United Farm Workers (UFW) union officials must end its misrepresentations, illegal threats of firings, and unlawful dues demands against California Mushroom employees. The ALRB ruling contradicts earlier knee jerk UFW statements to the media denying any wrongdoing and that: “We give workers a clear choice and show them how to exercise their options.”
The ruling stems from unfair labor practice charges brought by a pair of California Mushroom (formerly PictSweet Mushroom Farms) workers in early March 2004 alleging that UFW union officials unlawfully demanded and/or collected full union dues from their paychecks, and threatened to order dissenting workers fired.
With free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, Guillermo Virgen and Gerardo Mendoza filed the class-action charges on behalf of roughly 400 workers employed by California Mushroom Farm. Aside from unlawful dues seizures and threats, the union hierarchy also failed to inform thousands of laborers statewide that they have the right to certain procedural protections to assure that their forced union dues do not finance activities unrelated to collective bargaining, such as union political activities.
Though many workers previously contested the amount of forced dues deducted from their paychecks, UFW officials simply ignored their objections.
The ALRB is ordering that UFW union officials inform California Mushroom employees of their right to refrain from paying full union dues, provide workers with an audit of the union’s books, and establish and provide procedures by which the employees can challenge the amount of forced dues the union deducts from their paychecks. UFW officials also must refund with interest any unlawfully seized dues, as well as post notices and inform employees both orally and through the mail that they have the right to withhold forced dues unrelated to collective bargaining.
UFW officials must also provide the ALRB with all related documents in order to “facilitate the calculation of refunds,” as well as process any languishing objections to paying full dues by employees.
“UFW union officials have repeatedly run roughshod over the rights of workers at California Mushroom Farm,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “The union hierarchy’s refusal to respect the workers’ basic freedoms shows a clear disdain, not only for the employees that they claim to represent, but also for the rule of law.”
Not only did UFW officials violate the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, but they also infringed on rights recognized in several Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court decisions.