Teamsters bosses used fines to retaliate against employees who exercised their right to continue working during a union-ordered ‘sympathy strike’
Chicago, IL (January 5, 2009) –The National Labor Relations Board has announced that it will prosecute International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 731 union officials for illegally imposing exorbitant retaliatory fines on several hard-working employees at a local company.
In September of 2008, nine employees at Lechner and Sons filed unfair labor practice charges against Local 731 with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation. The charges requested the prosecution of the union for imposing fines ranging from $13,946 to $40,000 on employees for working during a strike, despite the fact that none of the employees were voluntary union members. Union officials never informed any of the employees of their rights to refrain from formal union membership and to pay a reduced amount of compulsory dues. Instead, union officials misled employees into believing that formal, full dues-paying membership was a condition of employment.
Under the Foundation-won precedent Communication Workers v. Beck, employees have the right to refrain from funding union activities unrelated to collective bargaining. Union officials are also required to inform employees of their right to refrain from full dues-paying membership. Unless informed of these rights, workers cannot be considered “voluntary members” of a union and therefore cannot be subjected to internal union discipline.
In July 2006, union bosses decided that the employees, all truck drivers, should abandon their jobs during a so-called “sympathy strike” on behalf of a different bargaining unit at the plant. After the strike ended in June 2007, union brass attempted to discipline non-striking employees by levying several fines.
The workers whom union bosses attempted to discipline included two nonunion employees who worked during the strike. Union officials also illegally threatened to bar one employee from ever working at a “union shop” again if he refused to pay the assigned penalty. All of the employees misled into membership have now resigned from the union.
“Union bosses tricked employees into joining their union and then used their position to exact outrageous and devastating financial penalties,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Without a Right to Work law, workers in states like Illinois are all too vulnerable to this type of employee intimidation.”
A Right to Work law would allow employees to decide individually whether or not to join a union and pay union dues. The NLRB agreed to prosecute seven of the charges filed for fined Lechner and Sons workers by the Foundation. Foundation attorneys plan on appealing the NLRB’s decision not to pursue similar charges filed by two additional employees.