Ryerson Employees Force Teamsters Union to Back Off Unlawful Retaliatory Strike Fines of Up to $1,000 per Worker
**Chicago, IL (February 21, 2007)** – A wave of federal unfair labor practice charges filed against the Teamsters Local 714 union by ten Joseph T. Ryerson & Son, Inc. employees has forced Teamsters officials to stop attempting to collect unlawful retaliatory fines against the workers for continuing to do their jobs during a union-ordered strike.
The metal processing workers obtained free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation to file the unfair labor practice charges at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in December 2006. The workers charged that Teamsters officials illegally failed to notify the workers of their right to refrain from formal union membership and then hit them with retaliatory fines – up to $1,000 apiece – for refusing to walk off the job during the strike in March 2006.
Because the Teamsters hierarchy unlawfully failed to inform the workers of their right to refrain from formal union membership and to object to paying for the union’s nonrepresentational activities, such as politics, the employees thus cannot be considered voluntary members – and could not legally be subjected to internal union disciplinary measures, such as the strike fines.
Facing a potential embarrassing prosecution by the NLRB, Teamsters union lawyers sent letters to the ten Ryerson employees stating that the union would not attempt to collect the fines, and Right to Work Foundation attorneys subsequently withdrew the NLRB unfair labor practice charges for the workers. Only in the unlikely event that the workers want formal union membership with the union that trampled on their rights, could the Teamsters officials attempt to collect the fines.
“Teamsters officials went to great lengths to intimidate workers and stifle dissent,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This case shows the contempt that union officials often have for employees who exercise independent judgment and who work to support their families during an unpopular strike.”
The actions of Teamsters union officials violate employee rights recognized under the Foundation-won U.S. Supreme Court *Communications Workers v. Beck* decision. Under *Beck* and subsequent NLRB rulings, union officials must inform employees of their right to refrain from formal union membership and honor their right not to pay for costs unrelated to collective bargaining, such as union political activities.